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Debris and Bodies Found; Studying Wreckage; Recovering Wreckage; Sony Hack

Aired December 30, 2014 - 14:00   ET


ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Ana Cabrera. Thanks for being here. And I want to welcome our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. This is CNN's special breaking news coverage as Flight 8501 has been found. Alongside the wreckage, luggage and bodies spotted floating in the Java Sea just six miles from the plane's last location.

Now, below the surface, a dark shadow. That could be the plane. The discovery confirming the worst fears of the families. Only the 162 people aboard AirAsia Flight 8501 know what really happened in those final moments. And now it seems they may have all perished. For crash investigators, any hope of answers now lies beneath the sea's surface in the plane's black boxes. And when the sun rises over the Java Sea in just a few hours, search planes, submersibles, divers will all be back out on the water searching for more wreckage and more victims.

Now, for the families, the agony continues after the bodies are retrieved comes the painful task of identification. The heartbroken wife of the captain speaking to CNN Indonesia in the moments before finding out that the wreckage had been found. Listen.


RR. WIDIYA SUKATI PUTRI, WIFE OF FLIGHT 8501 CAPTAIN (through translator): I would like to know where my husband is. I wish my husband was found immediately. I hope as his wife he'll be back well and alive. The children still need a father. I still also need a guidance from a husband. He's a good husband in my eyes, and he's a faithful husband, a great husband. I can't name all his qualities. He's a great husband for me.


CABRERA: Joining me now, CNN's David Molko, who is at Indonesia's Surabaya Airport.

David, we know at least three bodies have been found. We had heard that crews had some trouble getting to at least one body. Have there been any more sightings? Can you explain the conditions for us there?

DAVID MOLKO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. Well, it's about 2:00 in the morning here at Surabaya International Airport. And, you know, a few hundred miles from now out in the Java Sea is where that search is going on. It's a very active search at this point. Different from the past

couple of nights where things were ramped down. Now that they have found the aircraft, have found the debris, the president, Joko Widodo, known here as Jokowi, has made it a priority to get as many assets into that area, ships, aircraft and on land as possible in these hours.

Now, we're talking about the potential human remains, or the human remains that have been recovered. We heard from the head of Indonesia's search and rescue agency saying they had recovered three bodies. We also heard from an Indonesian navy official who's saying they had spotted two but only recovered one because of the waves.

That's part of it, the weather in this area creating fairly difficult conditions for the search teams. You know, waves up to 10 feet high. It's also dark. You know, the sun's going to come up in about three hours here. That's when we're expecting daybreak. That will make things a little bit easier for search teams out there. Local media also reporting that a team of Indonesian navy divers will enter the water at about 6:00 a.m. and begin to look for other human remains. And, of course, pieces of the missing -- pieces of the aircraft which has gone down and also beginning that search for the black boxes, which will help answer the question of what may have happened to the AirAsia flight.

CABRERA: And you are there where many of the families are also waiting for more answers at Surabaya Airport. How have the dynamics changed since they got word that the wreckage was found?

MOLKO: Ana, this is a nation in mourning. One hundred and sixty-two passengers and crew onboard. That's 162 families who are facing the very certain possibility that their loved ones will not be coming back. We've seen an incredible outpouring of grief over the hours in the afternoon when families first learned of the crash and saw images of human remains in the water with their own eyes.

But there's also some resilience and some hope. We spoke to a couple here who's from outside Surabaya. They had four family members onboard. Their daughter, son-in-law, two young granddaughters traveling on holiday to Singapore and Malaysia. And the grandfather said, you know, I'm relieved that they found the plane, that they know what's happened or at least where it is, but I'm very, very sad. But I'm still hoping for a miracle. I'm still hoping that a member of my family, that somebody may have survived.

And, Ana, I have to tell you that based on the pictures we've seen and the report coming out, that looks quite unlikely at this time. So, again, a nation in mourning tonight here in Indonesia.

CABRERA: All right. Oh, it is so sad. David Molko, thank you. We all hope for a miracle, that's for sure.

It is still early on in this investigation and a lot can be learned from the debris field alone. So we want to talk more about that with Christine Dennison, a logistics specialist at her own company, Mad Dog Expeditions. Also with us, Jeff Wise, science writer and author of "Extreme Fear."

Jeff, I want you to take a look at the pictures that we're going to put up just behind me. This is some of the debris that has been found and pulled out of the water. Tough for me to make out exactly what we're seeing here. Do you see anything that could provide some clues here as to what happened?

JEFF WISE, SCIENCE WRITER AND AUTHOR, "EXTREME FEAR": I can't identify any of these objects in particular.


WISE: I think what's going to happen with the passage of time is a couple of things. One, they're going to find the black boxes, the cockpit voice recorder. This will tell them a lot about what happened. And another thing that they can do is collect enough debris, enough wreckage, enough pieces of this airplane to put it together. And, for example, in the case of Air France 447, before they found the black boxes, which parenthetically will be much easier in this case since it's much shallower ocean and much smaller area. But in the case of Air France 447, they found how certain parts of the plane had been deformed. That gave clues to how the - how the plane impacted.

Now, at this point, we don't know what happened. Why -- why the thunderstorm caused problems. If the thunderstorm, in fact, caused problems. And we don't know if the plane broke apart at altitude, if it struck the ocean and broke apart or what have you. So that could ultimately provide clues.

CABRERA: And, again, these are just a few of the objects. We've also seen a full suitcase. A blue suitcase that was pulled out that they presented at one of the press conferences. And it was completely intact. There was what appeared to be a life raft that had been pulled out of the water, but not inflated. Does that give us any more guidance as to what happened, do you think, Christine?

CHRISTINE DENNISON, EXPEDITION LOGISTICS SPECIALIST: I think it's still very early on in the investigation. I think the bodies, unfortunately, will also give us a better idea of how this plane came down. Did it --

CABRERA: Explain that.

DENNISON: Well, there's an unfortunate, you know, situation in that you're finding bodies floating. And that will happen even if they're -- at death, bodies will float over the course of two or three days. That that is just natural process. Some of them won't because they're either strapped in or they're - they're just in positions where they wouldn't easily be accessible, which is all horrendous to really -- and gruesome.


DENNISON: But it is a fact of crashes. And this situation in particular is something where they're still working on the surface. They are still trying to pick up as much debris as they can. They're taking into account the sensitivity of this type of recovery, which is, I think, of utmost importance because it's - it's a very bittersweet situation, I think, that the families have closure to some degree. But it's such a horrific end for their loved ones that the closure is sort of in between. I don't know that that helps that much at this point.

CABRERA: No kidding.

Jeff, we do know that the debris that they've spotted so far was found about six miles from the last known location of where the plane was in the air. Does that tell us something about how quickly maybe the pilot had to react to whatever was happening inside the cockpit?

WISE: It's difficult to really piece it together because, remember, the waters here are subject to a current. And compared to the middle of the ocean, the currents are generally stronger. And from what I've been able to gather, just in the last few hours, the current is generally, this time of year, from west to east. So if the plane had say had lost contact at a certain point, continued to fly further to the northwest, then come down, then the debris was carried back in the direction it had come on the current, then you might see something like what we're seeing here. However, I should caution that in the past experience of accident investigators, it can be very difficult to accurately predict how currents are going to carry debris. I think Christine could probably speak (INAUDIBLE).

CABRERA: Right, that's a little bit of your expertise.

DENNISON: I completely agree with you. I think, at this point, because the one thing I always say is, you can't fight mother nature. These are elements that they are working with and against. The currents, at this point, we still don't have a point of impact. They're still trying to piece together how far this wreckage, this debris has floated over the course of three days. So they're going to go back and take into account weather conditions from that time that they can best and most accurately decipher that we lost this plane and what were - what was going on in the ocean, the currents, the wind speeds, all that and try and piece together --

CABRERA: Is the search area at least narrowed now?

DENNISON: I don't know at this point. I think they are - they have a point of reference. So they are working within a certain search field and they can eliminate some other areas on that initial grid. But there's still so much work to be done as far as, really, you can't rule anything out at this point because we don't know until -- and they're not releasing a lot of information yet as to where this, how this could have traveled over the course of three, four days almost now.

CABRERA: And that tells us it could be several more days or weeks before we have more of the pieces to put this puzzle together.


CABRERA: Christine Dennison and Jeff Wise, thank you both for being here. We appreciate it.

DENNISON: Thank you.

WISE: My pleasure.

CABRERA: And up next I'll speak with someone who searches for ships under water about the difficult task that divers face.

Plus, how exactly will crews pull up the plane once the pieces are ready. This is CNN's special live coverage as the sun gets ready to rise over the crash site.


CABRERA: Welcome back.

Finding Flight 8501 is one challenge. Finding out what brought it down is another. And in a moment we'll discuss how hard it could be to bring that wreckage to the surface.

But first, if they find it for sure, what clues will the wreckage hold? CNN's Casey Wian visited a lab at the University of Southern California to see how accident investigators learn to study that twisted wreckage of planes.


THOMAS ANTHONY, USC AVIATION SAFETY AND SECURITY PROGRAM: What you see around here is a safety system that has failed.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Instructors took me through part of the training.

ANTHONY: What strikes you with this debris?

WIAN (on camera): Well, what strikes me is that there was a big fire here and it doesn't look like anyone could have survive this.

ANTHONY: And then you look over there. What do you see on that left wing?

WIAN: Well, I see twisted metal. It looks like some sort of significant trauma happened to that wing, crashed into something, hit something. I don't know, a pole.

ANTHONY: We teach the discipline of accident investigation. Namely, to observe the fact, to document the fact and then let the facts take you by the hand and lead you to the next fact. And the discipline not to conclude, not to summarize, and not to think too far ahead, but to stick with the facts.

WIAN: And so how wrong am I?

ANTHONY: You're right.

WIAN (voice-over): But minutes later, I jump to a faulty conclusion looking at different wreckage.

ANTHONY: It almost looks like a crumpled beer can. And what we see here is the power of a thunderstorm.

If we can teach one thing, it is never one thing. It's always a chain of interrelated causes. The reason it's safe is this, is that the lessons that we have learned through accident investigation and through investigating the procedures, they're the ones that have changed this and made it such a safe form of transportation.

WIAN: Casey Wian, CNN, Los Angeles.


CABRERA: And that last picture there was from this wreckage that was pulled out of the water. And, of course, before they can piece the plane back together, they'll need to recover as much of it as possible. So how hard will that be if it is, indeed, sitting on the bottom of the Java Sea in up to 100 feet of water right now? Here to discuss that is Ric Gillespie, the executive director of the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery and author of "Finding Amelia: The True Story of the Earhart Disappearance."

Ric, thanks so much for joining us.

If the plane is there, we know they believe they've seen a shadow of a plane at least, how hard do you think will it be to bring it to the surface?

RIC GILLESPIE, INTERNATIONAL GROUP FOR HISTORIC AIRCRAFT RECOVERY: The water is shallow enough, so that eliminates a lot of problems. If you can get divers down to the wreck, you can do things much more efficiently than if you have to use remote vehicles. The most important thing is to do nothing at first. To be sure you've collected all the information from whatever is there while it is (INAUDIBLE), undisturbed. And that way modern crash investigation is very similar to what we do at Tiger (ph) is archaeology.

You know, the archaeologists or the investigator has the first chance to mess it up and move things before all the information is collected. Once you're confident that you've collected all the data that you need to from the wreck, then it's a question of how best to bring it to the surface without creating any more damage than is already there. The tricky part there is making the transition from the water to the air.

For example, if you're lifting wreckage on to a barge, the barge is going to be moving, the crane is going to be moving up and down, airplanes are not designed to hold water. So if the crane moves at the wrong time and the aircraft is yanked up out of the water, it'll come apart and sink back to the bottom. So it can be very tricky to recover a wreckage.

CABRERA: It sounds tricky for sure. And that there are a lot of moving parts involved in this whole process. You talked about the divers and this place being a real advantage, being able to go down there and see. And, I guess, in effect, to document what they're witnessing before move anything. How do they do that? Are they able to take pictures? Is it making notes on some device?

GILLESPIE: Well, it depends - it depends a little bit on the clarity of the water. If you have good visibility under water, then it's a simple matter of taking good, high-definition pictures of the wreckage. If you've got a murky situation, that's a lot trickier. You may very well want to get side scan sonar down there to document pictures. But it just depends on the situation you have. But how intact this wreckage is will be absolutely essential in figuring out, along with the flight data recorders, what happened to the airplane.

CABRERA: Right. And, Ric, is it a race against time because the plane is submerged in salt water?

GILLESPIE: Yes and no. It's not going to deteriorate quickly, that quickly. If you're talking about an aircraft that's been under water for many decades, such as the Amelia Earhart aircraft, yes, that's a huge concern. This aircraft, if it can be found in the next few days, not a huge issue.

CABRERA: All right. Ric Gillespie, thank you so much for your expertise in explaining that to us.

Just ahead, they were supposed to be on the AirAsia flight that crashed, but a big family missed it. You'll hear their story and new information about the passengers who were onboard.

Plus, developing right now, a cyber security firm says the Sony hack was not North Korea, instead it was an inside job and that a former employee could be to blame. The brand new reporting from CNN says, not so fast. We'll have details, next.


CABRERA: Yet another twist in the cyber attack that exposed Hollywood in many more ways than just one. The mega hack on Sony is what we're talking about. And now one cyber security pro says it came from not a dictator but a disgruntled ex-employee. Sam Glines from Norse Security says an ex-worker with the code name "Lena" had worked security for several years and that this person had access to I.P. addresses, user names, passwords and would be able to take the vast amounts of data.


SAM GLINES, CEO, NORSE SECURITY: We're in the business of security intelligence. And I think one needs to take a step back and just look at what actually happened with respect to the timeline. And if the movie "The Interview" was the driver for this hack, why wasn't it what - why wasn't it part of the initial demand from the attackers? Why was the initial demand money?


CABRERA: And Norse's CEO says North Korea came into the picture only after this data was stolen. But how does that jibe with President Obama? He is one of several administration voices confident that North Korea is indeed behind this attack. Listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The FBI announced today that -- and we can confirm that North Korea engaged in this attack.

MARIE HARF, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: As the FBI and the president and everyone has now made clear, we are confident the North Korean government is responsible for this destructive attack. We stand by this conclusion.

SAMANTHA POWER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: In the most recent example of its recklessness, the DPRK carried out a significant cyber attack on the United States in response to a Hollywood comedy portraying a farcical assassination plot.

HARF: The government of North Korea has a long history of denying responsibility for destructive and provocative actions. And if they want to help here, they can admit their culpability and compensate Sony for the damages that they caused.

OBAMA: I think it says something interesting about North Korea, that they decided to have the state mount an all-out assault on a movie studio because of a satirical movie.


CABRERA: Let's bring in chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto, here with me now.

Jim, we just heard over and over again, Obama administration officials saying it's definitely North Korea or at least confident it's North Korea. How are they reacting now or responding to this new news?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Their confidence hasn't wavered. The FBI saying today they stand by their assessment. I was in touch with the National Security Council. They say as well, they stand by the FBI's assessment. They continue to have no doubt that North Korea's responsible. So their message is not changing from the administration.

CABRERA: But yet we have somebody who is a cyber security professional -


CABRERA: With these details about this ex-employee, pointing fingers, it makes sense that this person would be to blame.

SCIUTTO: Yes, no question. And they did their homework, this group, Norse Group. And private sector security investigation groups, they have a decent track record on this. There's another group called the Mandient (ph) Group, which had success that -- and work that the U.S. government relied on, tracing cyber attacks to China, to a particular military unit outside of Shanghai, a particular military group, including individuals involved with hacks on U.S. companies. And that was information that the U.S. benefitted from and used to blame China for those kinds of attacks. So you have a history here of companies like this, you know, having some success and the government using that success or relying on it to some degree.

You look at the work that the Norse Group does. This is what they said, that they have 50 million censors - or 6 million censors in 50 countries around the world and that they watch attacks like this happen in real time. And they say they traced it back to these employees. You know, this is -- now, on the flip side, you have the FBI saying they did their own homework, not just the FBI, but the U.S. intelligence community, the Department of Homeland Security, foreign partners and other groups in the private sector. So they say, they've done their homework.

Listen, you know, the administration did not take this blame game lightly. But, and this is a criticism coming from the Norse Group and it has come from others, a question raised, they did move pretty quickly on this, right? I mean it took months, years, arguably, to build the case to say that China was behind cyber attacks on U.S. companies. This one was days or a couple of weeks, right? It was moving pretty quickly.

CABRERA: December 22nd, I think, is when they came out and said it was North Korea.

SCIUTTO: Exactly. So, you know, and that's something that the Norse Group says. That said, the U.S. government, as we know, has tremendous resources at its disposal to track these kinds of things, particularly when you're talking about the NSA, which was involved in tracing this back.


SCIUTTO: We know the NSA's capability. So, you know, you don't want to underestimate the -- why they have that confidence. And the administration saying that, you know, they haven't changed their minds.

CABRERA: And yet North Korea continues to deny, so we'll see.

SCIUTTO: Absolutely. Yes.

CABRERA: Jim Sciutto, thank you.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

CABRERA: Just ahead, New York police turning their backs at the mayor at the fallen officers' funeral. They're trying to make a point here, but now they're being called disgraceful. More on that just ahead.

Plus, we're hearing now from a couple who lost four relatives on that AirAsia Flight 8501. A daughter, a son-in-law and two granddaughters. The couple's heartbreaking reaction coming up.

We're back in 90 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CABRERA: A quick reminder, if you're at home counting down to the new year, don't forget to catch Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin live in Times Square. You never know what they're going to do or say tomorrow night, New Year's Eve.

And also on this show, we're going to run the best of 2014 special counting down the top 10 moments in every walk of life tomorrow 3:00 p.m. Eastern hour right here on CNN.

We're back in 60 seconds.