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Ukraine: Photos Show Undercover Russian Troops; Source: 'Unprecedented' Attack Targets al Qaeda; Families Wail as Ferry Victims Identified; Teen Survives Flight to Hawaii in Landing Gear?

Aired April 21, 2014 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Jake, thanks very much.

Happening now, photographic evidence. Ukraine says these pictures show Russian forces operating inside Ukraine, provoking unrest. Has Moscow conducted a covert invasion? I'll talk about it with the former national security advisor to the president, Tom Donilon.

The bomb maker. Is this man the target of a massive, unprecedented strike against al Qaeda? Drones have helped take out dozens of militants. We're now learning new details.

Critical juncture. Search officials are now talking about long-term plans for efforts to find Malaysia Flight 370. Will it include new equipment?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're following critical developing stories on four continents this hour, with teams dispatched around the world to bring you the kind of coverage that only the resources of CNN can. We'll get to Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 in a few moments. But first, dramatic new details emerging in the escalating Ukraine crisis.

Ukrainian officials now saying they have photographic proof, proof they say, that Russian forces are operating in the eastern part of their country, something Russia has denied from the start.

All of this as the vice president, Joe Biden, touched down in Kiev earlier today.

Let's get straight to our senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon. She's in Ukraine. She's also getting exclusive information on this story. Arwa, what are you learning?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Ukrainian authorities are greatly concerned that Russia is trying to lay the framework for a Crimea-like annexation of eastern Ukraine, and they say they have growing evidence.


DAMON: These photos obtained by CNN show men in green uniforms, supposedly operating in eastern Ukraine. Images Ukrainian officials say proves organized Russian activity in the region.

Example, this bearded man is said to have been photographed in Kramatorsk and Slovyansk in Eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainians say he's been seen before, working for the Russians in 2008 in the Republic of Georgia, wearing an elite Russian special forces patch. They are part of a dossier compiled by the Ukrainian government and endorsed by the U.S. administration.

CNN's first encounter with the bearded man is Slovyansk more than a week ago, but CNN can't confirm the authenticity of the images. Some are poor quality.

But CNN has been given exclusive access to other evidence Ukraine says it has. The Ukrainians say the Russian involvement in the east is widespread.

CNN's team have heard Russian accents among the men in green, as they are known. Well-armed and uniform groups, who have appeared in towns like Slovyansk and Kramatorsk.

One told us said he had come up from Simferopol in Crimea. But CNN has not seen any evidence that these men are operating under orders from the Kremlin.

Russia's foreign minister scoffed at the accusations, saying that Kiev and its patrons, the U.S. and the E.U., are trying to blame his country for everything.

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): They are saying that the proof of Russian interference is the existence in the conflict area of the great amount of Russian weapons. This is hilarious, because there are no other weapons.

DAMON: Slovyansk's mayor, a former military man himself, says the explanation is simple. He put out an appeal to his old comrades: "So when I called on my friends, practically all of whom are ex-military, they came to our rescue, not only from Russia but also from Belarus, Uzbekistan and Moldova," but on Monday insisted there are no active- duty Russian soldiers in the town.


DAMON: Wolf, there's absolutely no sign that the situation on the ground is de-escalating. A few hours ago, the police station and security services building in Kramatorsk was taken over by pro-Russian demonstrators. The police chief was seen in videos. He was being led away.

BLITZER: How tense, Arwa, is it on the streets of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine where you are right now?

DAMON: Well, it's one of those interesting scenarios, where when you move away from the various locations, that these pro-Russian protestors have taken over, things appear on the surface, at the very least, to be fairly normal. In fact, even around the buildings that are under the control of the pro-Russian protesters, you see families, you see children.

But then when you speak to people, they'll tell you that they're absolutely terrified, because they've never been through anything like this before. Ukraine has never faced this kind of a crisis since it was established as an independent nation, and no one at this stage really knows what's going to happen next -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Arwa Damon reporting from Eastern Ukraine for us. Arwa, thank you.

Joining us now to talk more about these dramatic new developments, President Obama's former national security advisor, Tom Donilon.

Tom, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: So these photographs, is this definitive proof, from your perspective, that the Russians are responsible for the unrest in Eastern Ukraine right now?

DONILON: I don't think there's any doubt that the Russians engaged in a destabilization effort in Eastern Ukraine. Indeed, this was the assessment of our supreme allied commander, General Breedlove, last week, that, in fact, that all of the evidence, when you put it together, really pointed to a well-organized campaign to destabilize Eastern Ukraine. And he and NATO assessed that it was being directed by the Russians.

BLITZER: So when Putin, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, or Sergey Lavrov, the foreign minister, you met with both of them many times during your five years as the president's national security adviser, were they -- are they lying when they deny any direct Russian involvement in fomenting this unrest?

DONILON: Well, let's go through the history of this, because it's instructive, I think. With respect to Crimea, for days and weeks, the Russians said that there were not any Russian military actors and service people in Crimea, that, in fact, it was an indigenous uprising there, an effort to separate from Ukraine. And now in the telethon that President Putin had the other day, he admitted, that, in fact, that Russian troops were, in fact, in Crimea and have participated in their -- in their breaking away.

This was a covert operation. And I think that that's the way the Russians are treating it, is a covert operation, which in their view, is deniable.

BLITZER: So these individuals with the masks, the ones who went into Eastern Ukraine, they're Russian citizens, Russian Special Forces, intelligence operatives, whatever you want to call them, they came in there and they did what they're doing.

There's no doubt, from your perspective...

DONILON: I think... BLITZER: ... that they're responsible for this?

DONILON: ... I don't think so. I think that, you know, now, there will be a mix of actors in the course of this thing. But in terms of the initial actions, where you had a coordinated takeover of public buildings in nine or 10 cities, very well-coordinated, and put together in a very careful way, a quick way, I don't think there's any doubt that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that that was -- that that was done at the direction of Russian operatives.

Now, there are -- I think there are probably other folks, indigenous Ukrainians, who are operating as well in these -- in this. But I don't think there's any doubt that this has been organized by the Russians as part of a destabilizing campaign.

BLITZER: You know Putin. You've met with him on many occasions.

What is his end game here?

What does he want?

DONILON: Yes. I think that, in fact, what happened here is that Putin, when Yanukovych was forced or left the country, that he saw a piece of his sphere of influence threatened, and he acted to try to get leverage in that situation.

What I think is -- and that was why I think the Russians acted the way they did in Crimea.

What I think is going on here is that Russia's assessment is that they'd rather have a destabilized failing Ukraine and play for some influence in part of a Ukraine that may be in some respects even separated, rather than have a successful stable Ukraine oriented to the West. I think that's the initial -- that's the fundamental assessment, Wolf, is that they'd rather see destabilization here than a stable, successful Ukraine oriented to the West and they're prepared to do whatever they have to do to see that happen.

BLITZER: Even if it means a tightening of U.S. and international economic, diplomatic, political sanctions, which, at some point, presumably will really bite?

DONILON: Yes, let's think about that for a second. I think that's the -- I think that's exactly right. Which is why I think you see the effort underway here is this kind of multi-dimensional covert operation with covert players, information warfare, political action, as opposed to kind of coming across in a classical sense, coming across the border and taking over the -- and taking over territory.

That would, of course, in a -- endanger the most significant sanctions by Europe and the United States. But I think in this case, we have to see that they're trying to accomplish essentially the same aims here. And I do think that we have leverage in this situation with respect to increasing the costs.

BLITZER: If the Europeans go along in terms of the sanctions. There are still, what, 40,000 Russian troops right on the border there, right?

DONILON: There are Russian troops on the border, right. I think it's kind of in an intimidation mode. But we are carrying on, I think, in the West and the United States, a multi-dimensional effort, which makes a lot of sense, a political effort to support the Ukraine government. That's why Vice President Biden is there today -- tonight. An economic effort to support Ukraine. That's why we put together this very large economic package from the IMF, the Europeans and the United States. And Vice President Biden will talk about that while he's there.

We're reassuring our NATO allies with respect to our commitments to them. And we're working on increasing the costs.

I think that that's the Achilles' heel at the end of the day here. And I think that's the balance that Putin's trying to -- trying to strike here, which is not to go so far that he gets maximum sanctions, but to try to accomplish his goals through these more subversive means.

BLITZER: Does it make sense to provide weapons from the United States to European allies to Ukraine?

DONILON: I think we should look very carefully at providing military assistance for the Ukrainian government, whether it be intelligence or defensive weapons or other kinds of support. I think we should look at their requests very carefully in terms of providing for their ability to defend themselves and to deal with this disorder in Eastern Ukraine as far as the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BLITZER: Now, you won't be surprised that a bunch of Republicans and others are very critical of the president's handling of this crisis in Ukraine.

Listen to what the former House speaker, Newt Gingrich, now one of the cohosts of "CROSSFIRE" here on CNN, told me earlier today.

Listen to this.



NEWT GINGRICH, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Are we serious about trying to help Ukraine, or, in fact, is the Pentagon analysis saying to us that this is a government so penetrated by pro-Russian forces that we can't help them, in which case, why is the vice president taking them a billion dollars?

I mean you can't have it both ways.


BLITZER: He was referring to this notion that if the U.S. were to provide offensive weapons to Ukraine, that Ukraine military intelligence service is so penetrated by pro-Russian sympathizers or Russians themselves that those weapons could wind up in the wrong hands.

DONILON: Yes, those assessments...


DONILON: ... have to be done. But I think that the speaker is wrong with respect to the overall assessment of support for Ukraine. There's a big, I think, a very significant strategy here. As I said, political support with a visit by the vice president, a very significant economic package, including, as the speaker said, a billion dollars from the United States. And I think we should look at -- providing military and other kinds of assistance.

We are undertaking, as you know, Wolf, a lot of reassurance efforts with respect to those NATO members that are on the Russian -- that are right on the Russian border, and we're looking at additional sanctions. And I believe that we'll get to additional sanctions here, because I don't think that the Russians are going to back off on this effort. And we'll implement those, and they will bite.

BLITZER: And when you say a billion dollars in U.S. aid, those are U.S. loan guarantees...

DONILON: Those would be loans.

BLITZER: ... that the Ukrainians can go to banks, borrow the money but the U.S. will guarantee the repayment...

DONILON: Yes, that's exactly right.

BLITZER: ... if they default.

DONILON: That's exactly right.


DONILON: And the IMF has a 20-something billion-dollar package of a combination of loan guarantees and grants...

BLITZER: All right, Tom...

DONILON: ... and could this (ph).

BLITZER: ... Tom Donilon, I want you to stand by, because there's other stuff we need to discuss. We need to come back.

When we come back, just days after CNN first brought you video of an al Qaeda affiliate and its leadership meeting in broad daylight, the so-called massive and unprecedented attack against an al Qaeda affiliate is underway.

Plus, the search for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, now at what officials are calling a critical juncture. With the Bluefin sub about two-thirds of the way through its mission, what happens next? We have new details. That's ahead, as well.


BLITZER: A large attack underway against an al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen, just days after CNN first aired this video showing the group and its leadership meeting up in the open for everyone to see.

Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is working the story for us. He's got new details. What are you learning, Jim?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The rules of engagement for U.S. drone strikes in Yemen are very clear: Targets have to pose a threat to the U.S. So the extent of these drone strikes, combined with this unusually large ground operation by the Yemenis does indicate that these are high-value targets that they were after and the Yemenis are claiming some success, even as the operations are still underway. They say some two dozen mid-to-high- ranking militants have been killed.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): Yemeni officials are calling the operation massive and unprecedented, killing at least 65 militants tied to the feared al Qaeda affiliate al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, with more raids still underway.

Elite Yemeni units on the ground backed by drones from the skies. Two separate strikes this weekend targeted senior members of the group.

Though American officials have refused to comment, the U.S. is the only country known to operate drones in Yemen.

JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: We don't comment on the character of the cooperation with our foreign partners. Sorry I don't have more to share with you. But of course, as I noted, we have a strong working relationship.

SCIUTTO: Terror analysts tell CNN that an operation of this scope would be unlikely without high-ranking terror leaders on the target list. Believed to be among them, Ibrahim al-Asiri, master bomb maker, known for designing the 2009 Christmas day underwear bomb and, more recently, suspected of refining the design for shoe bombs to get them past airport security. No identities of those killed have yet been confirmed.

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX), HOMELAND SECURITY CHAIRMAN: They're the ones who create "Inspire" magazine that inspired the Boston bombers. The fact that the administration now is going aggressively against these terrorists, I think it's a very positive sign, given the prior narrative that al Qaeda is on the run and this was all over.

SCIUTTO: The drone strikes come just a week after CNN aired this video, showing a large and bold gathering of AQAP in broad daylight near to where the current operations are underway. U.S. intelligence officials consider the group a direct and growing threat to Americans.

SETH JONES, RAND CORPORATION: This is the one al Qaeda affiliate which has time and again been interested, willing, and able to try to strike the U.S. homeland. Drone strikes may disrupt the group's ability to conduct attacks both in Yemen and overseas, but if you don't control this territory, and right now the Yemeni government doesn't, nor does the U.S., the group will still pose a major, major threat.


SCIUTTO: Yemen central government is generally weak, faces a real existential challenge from this group, and many analysts I speak to are calling this a good sign, an encouraging sign that they have a commitment, the wherewithal to carry out such a large operation, but large operations carry dangers, including civilian casualties. We know of at least three civilians killed in a drone strike on Saturday. In previous strikes, they have killed civilians, Wolf. There was one in December that killed 13 at a wedding party that sparked real anger against the U.S. in the Yemeni government. It's always a danger to strike like this.

BLITZER: This time, the Yemeni government seems totally on board with what these U.S. drone strikes are doing. Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.

The former national security adviser to President Obama, Tom Donilon, is still with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Do you believe there was a connection between the airing of the videotape, this high-level al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula meeting the other day? CNN first aired those pictures. We're showing them once again right now -- and the decision right now to launch this drone/ground strike? A combination U.S.-Yemeni operation?

DONILON: I don't know -- I don't know of a direct connection, although the video that you aired, this March 29th video of a large group of al Qaeda, including the al-Wuhayshi, the leader of...

BLITZER: The No. 2 al Qaeda leader?

DONILON: The leader of AQAP, al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula, and the No. 2 overall leader...


DONILON: ... of the managing director, if you will, general manager of al Qaeda globally.

It was a significant event.

I think what we're seeing here, though, Wolf, it really underscores this. That this group, AQAP, al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula, is the group most -- closest to al Qaeda core. And it is the most lethal offshoot, if you will, the most lethal franchise that's developed coming out of al Qaeda. And as your report said, they've been a source of a number of potential plots and efforts to strike the United States.

BLITZER: Do you know if any high-level leaders of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula were killed in this most recent operation?

DONILON: I don't know. I don't know the answer to that question. But what I can tell you again is this the most lethal group that we face outside core al Qaeda. It's a group that obviously, as pointed out in your piece here as fighting a civil war, a regional war against the Yemeni government. But it also -- and including in the video that you aired, they repeated their intent to strike the United States.

It's also important, I think -- just one second -- to point out something that you referenced, Wolf, which is we work very closely with the Yemeni government with respect to the effort against AQAP. It's a real partnership.

BLITZER: There is a real coordination in this kind of operation. Ibrahim al-Asiri, the master bomb maker, was -- presumably the U.S. would like to kill him if they could. Do you believe he was there? Is he likely in Yemen? Was he likely in that videotape?

DONILON: I don't know the answer to that question, but I can tell you this: he's an important threat to the United States, and one that -- one that we'd certainly like to take action against.

BLITZER: All right, so walk us through the president -- you're no longer the president's national security adviser, but you were for several years. You're in his Situation Room, not our SITUATION ROOM -- and they come to you and say there's 20 or 30 or 50 al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula guys who are walking around. We can send in some drones with Hellfire missiles and effectively assassinate them, kill them. Walk us through how that process goes. He personally has to authorize it, right?

DONILON: I don't want to go through the process in detail. I don't think -- I don't think that's appropriate. But what I can say is this: the United States has said publicly that it reserves the right and will act against those groups associated with al Qaeda and al Qaeda core that pose and are a continuing imminent threat against the United States. And that would include the leadership of this group in Yemen.

BLITZER: So he would authorize it even if there was a possibility some innocent civilians, what they call collateral damage, could be struck in the process? He knows the risks?

DONILON: There are very strict rules that have been laid out here, and it's very important, I think, to go through this. And with respect to the death or harm to noncombatants, civilians, it's very, very high thresholds. And indeed, the threshold has been articulated with near certainty that you're not going to harm a noncombatant or a civilian in one of these efforts.

BLITZER: And the president remains, as far as you know, as determined as ever to continue these drone strikes. And I asked the question of Peter Bergen, our national security analyst here at CNN, an expert on terrorism. He's called this President Obama's war, this drone war, as it is. DONILON: I think it's fair to say -- again, without getting into details of these kinds of thing -- I think it's fair to say this. That the United States remains committed to defending the country. It remains committed to degrading and defeating al Qaeda and those groups around al Qaeda that would do harm to the United States, Wolf.

And it has been, from the outset of this administration, a determined and focused effort against those individuals and groups who pose a threat to the United States and would do harm to the United States. And those who are authorized, by the way, to carry out these kinds of operations, because we're at war.

BLITZER: And the president remains as committed to launching these drone strikes today as he was three, four years ago?

DONILON: Well, again, I don't want to get into details of the techniques that are used here. What I can say is that the United States remains committed to defending the country. The United States remains committed to doing what it has to do to keep these groups from acting against the United States.

And in this case, you have a group. And indeed, in that March 29th video that you all aired, a group that has said expressly that it intends to, that the intention -- and we've seen it have the capability to act against the United States.

BLITZER: Tom Donilon, the president's former national security adviser, thanks for joining us.

Coming up, the search for Malaysia Flight 370 nearing a critical point where officials are about to reset everything. We're going live to Australia for the very latest.

Plus, a stowaway's odyssey. How did he really get from California to Hawaii? We have details of why the story may just not add up.

And you're being looking live at South Korea. CNN's Kyung Lah, there she is -- she's on the scene of that ferry disaster. She has the latest on the death toll and the search for hundreds still missing.


BLITZER: The search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 now at a critical juncture. The Bluefin sub is about two-thirds of the way through its mission, and now officials are talking about what happens next. CNN's Miguel Marquez is joining us live from Perth, Australia. He's following all the latest developments.

What is the latest, Miguel?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest is that that Bluefin is down for its latest dive. We will get a readout on that dive later in the day, in about probably four or five hours, we hope, as it typically happens.

As it goes through that last bit of this most promising area, though, if they can't find it there, they will have to go back to the drawing board, regroup, and figure out a new plan.


MARQUEZ (voice-over): New pictures show Bluefin-21 on the deck of Australia's Ocean Shield, the best hope for finding Malaysia Flight 370. It's prepped for another dive. The vessel has now searched around two-thirds of the most promising area to find the plane, 115- square-mile area around where the best ping was picked up on April 8.

DEBORAH HERSMAN, CHAIRWOMAN, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: I expected that I was going to get a lot of questions on Flight 370.

MARQUEZ: At a farewell speech for outgoing NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman, Flight 370 front and center.

HERSMAN: Certainly, if we find those recorders, we will have a lot better chance of finding out what happened.

MARQUEZ: The best lead of finding the flight data and cockpit voice recorder rests on the ability of Bluefin-21 and the location deciphered from satellite data where the plane went down and on four weak pings, just as the batteries in the black boxes were dying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is (INAUDIBLE). I'm a chief stewardess.

MARQUEZ: This as American Airlines releases on YouTube videos from three staff members speaking about the missing plane and their colleagues, the staffers forbidden to speak with the media. This is an effort by the embattled airline company to get its side on the record.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You cannot understand how this family of MH370 is experiencing now.

MARQUEZ: Families of those on board received a close-door briefing from Malaysian officials.

HAMID RAMLAN, FATHER OF MISSING PASSENGER: My wife cannot accept that. She still believes that the airplane has been hijacked. And she believes that my daughter is still alive.

MARQUEZ: All hope now focused on a small submersible in the Southern Indian Ocean.


MARQUEZ: Now, a U.S. Navy spokesperson saying that there are now ongoing discussions between the U.S. and all the stakeholders here in Australia talking about the way forward. If it is not found in this current round of searching, then they will have to go back and figure out how they go forward in the next several months.

That could mean bringing on more AUVs, more resources in order to look for that airliner -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Miguel Marquez reporting for us from Perth, thank you. Let's get some more now with CNN correspondent Richard Quest. He is now on the scene in Kuala Lumpur. Our law enforcement analyst, the former Assistant Director Tom Fuentes, our aviation analyst, the former NTSB Managing Director Peter Goelz, and our senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns, who is just back from Kuala Lumpur himself.

Peter, they are two-thirds of the way through this relatively modest search for the Bluefin-21. Let's say in the next few days, two or three days, it should be wrapped up. They come up with nothing, no piece of wreckage, no black box, nothing. What do they do then?

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, they go back to the drawing boards to see if their initial calculations identifying this area were correct, and secondly they start to reach out for different equipment, probably a towed array that will help them monitor and look at the ocean floor over great distances. They are in for a long haul if this turns out poorly.

BLITZER: Because we heard a Navy spokesperson tell Miguel Marquez, Tom, just a little while ago that they are beginning to think of some new strategies, some new plans through July if they come up with nothing right now.


Additionally, I think that part of the ocean has turned out to be a little deeper than they first thought, and the Bluefin is at the limit that it can go down. So they are going to need equipment that can give them more depth to go deeper.

BLITZER: Let's go to Kuala Lumpur. Richard Quest is on the scene for us.

What's the latest for you from your vantage point, Richard, over there? What are they saying?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, over here, they are very much looking at it from two prongs.

On the one hand, they continue to support the search environment in Perth, but, also, Malaysia Airlines and the Malaysian government are now looking at what the families are asking. And the families' questions, Wolf, really fall into three categories.

It's all about things like the emergency locator beacons. They want to know more details about frequencies. They want to know more details about the sort of assets. They want to know details the Inmarsat search area, why there is such credibility and confidence in those Inmarsat details.

And finally they are now asking about the rights of the next of kin because the right -- the next of kin, Wolf, have certain rights under the various treaties to be given certain certifiable information. And here in Malaysia, the next of kin are saying, are they being given all of the information to which they are entitled? BLITZER: Richard, hold on, because, Joe Johns, you're here back in Washington. Just spent several days over there in Kuala Lumpur.

You spoke with family members, you spoke with officials over there. Are they likely to given answers to some of these very technical questions that the families are seeking answers to?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It's been my experience that that's hard to do because they don't have all of the answers. And the families have been asking a number of tough questions throughout.

I mean, my first days on the ground there, the families were asking tough questions. Look, the Malaysian government doesn't like the scrutiny here. They're not accustomed to it. They want certainty about what has happened to this plane. They don't have it because they don't have the plane.

And they are defensive, quite frankly, defensive because people are saying, you haven't done such a good job with this investigation. They think they have done a good job, despite the questions the families are asking, and they are also concerned about their image in the world.

BLITZER: Peter, there's a lot of folks now who are saying the whole search right now is focusing on this relatively small area based on the pings that came from one of these so-called black boxes, which are really orange, as we all know by now, one two hours, a 15-minute one, a six-minute, a five-minute ping. It's all based on that, plus the Inmarsat handshakes, if you will, showing where the plane potentially could have gone.

But what if -- what if both of those assumptions prove out to be faulty, the pings weren't really pings, the handshakes weren't really handshakes? What happens if they just have bad information?

GOELZ: Well, if there's nothing in this 115-square-mile area, if they can't find a thing, they have to go back and retrace the arc and they have got to look at every inch from where the arc begins and where they thought it ended.

BLITZER: Assuming that arc is accurate, though.

GOELZ: And they need to go back.

BLITZER: That means the Inmarsat satellite was working with those pings they got, as well as handshakes, whatever you want to call them.

GOELZ: And I think a new team is needed to look at the Inmarsat data and to see that it's accurate. Is Inmarsat is not sharing it more fully with outsiders, that could be a problem.

BLITZER: Let me get Richard Quest to weigh in.

What do you think about all that, Richard? QUEST: I think he's right, in the sense that if you don't find what you are -- where you are looking at the moment, then you have to go back to square one.

And you have to start dissecting point by point, first of all the pings, then the Inmarsat data handshakes, and you are literally working your way up the arc towards the last known position, which, of course, was when the primary radar from the Malaysians lost contact at 2:22.

But I don't think you're going to get any disagreement or argument from those people involved on that, Wolf, because these men and women both of technology and of science. And they will recognize that if what they have done so far has failed to yield results, then there really is only one other thing.

You go back to your first and last verified fact, and you work forward again. One point to note tonight, Malaysia is sending a group of technical experts to Beijing. There was an extremely acrimonious meeting between the families and the authorities and the airline in Beijing. The families say their technical questions are not being answered. Malaysia is now sending technical experts in an attempt to answer those questions.

BLITZER: Joe, you flew Malaysia Airlines when you were there. What was it like?

JOHNS: The security was the thing that stood out for me. I flew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. And it was extraordinary right at the gate. Very unlike the video we saw with of sort of breezing through with a cursory pat-down, this was pretty intense.

It went all the way through the bags. I got the most complete pat- down I think I have ever gotten in an airport, sort of reminiscent of what happened in this country after 9/11. On the plane, it was interesting. We're used in this country to airlines overselling the flights and the seats.

There were a lot of empty seats. I think that's one of the things Malaysia Airlines is concerned about. They are concerned about tourism and the problems because of this plane disappearing.

BLITZER: All right, guys, I want you all to stand by. We will have much more on this story coming up.

We're also going live to South Korea for the very latest on efforts to find hundreds of people still missing in that ferry disaster. CNN's Kyung Lah, she is there. She's on the scene of the search.

Plus, a stowaway mystery, an incredible claim about how this teenager flew from California to Hawaii.


BLITZER: At least 87 bodies have now been recovered from the South Korean ferry that capsized and sank, but more than 200 people are still missing.

Wrenching scenes are being played out as the victims are being brought to shore.

CNN's Kyung Lah is in the water near the operation is taking place. She's joining us now live with the latest.

Kyung, tell us what you're seeing and what you're hearing.

KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Where we are, Wolf, is in a boat floating just outside the exclusion zone.

They're calling this an area. This exclusion zone is where all of the military, all of the private divers are heading in to see if they can find anyone alive or to pull bodies out of the sunken ferry. Take a look right behind me. You can see the various military vessels.

What you're also looking at are cranes in -- that will eventually be brought in to try to lift this vessel. But look further in -- and I know it's very difficult to see -- but you see all those small ships out there. Those are smaller ships. They are packed with divers.

We saw them actually zoom right by us. And those divers are going into this frigid Yellow Sea. They're using guidelines to go in, several pathways. We understand there are now 10 pathways into this vessel so they can do this difficult work of going cabin to cabin, each hallway, and try to find anybody.

So far, Wolf, we have not been able to see anybody pulled out alive. There have not been any survivors since that very first day. This is extraordinarily difficult work. The divers told us that if you put your hand in front of your face, you can't see anything between your palm and your face. So it's extremely difficult. It's extremely hard emotionally because a lot of times, Wolf, they are pulling out bodies of 15, 16, 17-year-old children.

So if I could give you one other thing. If you look at that crane right there, you see how large that is. It needs to be that large because we're dealing with a 6,000-ton vessel. There are several of those cranes positioned around it. That will be the next phase of recovery. It will be extraordinarily difficult to try to lift this vessel. We still do not know as of yet whether or not this investigation will lead to the knowledge of it tipping over because of cargo or because of some sort of human error by the crew -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And the notion that there might be an air pocket still on that sunken ferry, do the experts you're talking to believe that is still possible, that there may be some survivors inside?

LAH: Well, what the divers are telling us is that they are operating under the belief that there has to be an air pocket. But when you talk to these men and women, what they will tell you is we believe there's an air pocket but it's almost as if they are trying to convince themselves. Everyone here knows that the chances are extraordinarily slim but there are miracle cases that have happened before and that's what they are gunning for because we're talking about such a young population of victims -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kyung Lah, thank you.

Kyung will be back in our next hour for more on this really heartbreaking story.

Just ahead, a teenage stowaway in a story that simply doesn't add up. We have details of incredible claims about how he apparently snuck into Hawaii.

Plus, what's being called a massive attack on an al Qaeda affiliate. We'll talk about it with the former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Congressman Peter King.


BLITZER: A teenage stowaway is in the center of a story that defies belief. How exactly did he get from California to Hawaii?

CNN's Brian Todd is investigating an incredible claim.

All right, so, Brian, tell us what you learned.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the historical and scientific odds against his young man were stacked obviously not in his favor. Officials say he would have crawled into a tight, dangerous space, he would have flown about five hours at altitudes of around 3800 feet and he had other obstacles.


TODD (voice-over): The ground crew noticed him wandering the tarmac in Maui disoriented. FBI special agent Tom Simon says this 16-year- old boy claimed to have ridden to Maui in the wheel well of a Hawaiian Airline 767 all the way from San Jose, California. The airport spokeswoman in San Jose says --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's a very lucky boy today.

TODD: Officials have reviewed surveillance video and say the teenager was seen hopping the fence at the San Jose Airport and walking across the tarmac toward the Hawaiian Airlines plane. The Maui airport has footage of him crawling out of a wheel well. We went into the wheel well of a 707, smaller than the 767's wheel bay but security expert Rafi Ron was able to show us how he could have wedged in.

(On camera): In the wheel well, the center area here could be key, right?

RAFI RON, FORMER ISRAELI AVIATION SECURITY OFFICIAL: Yes. The setup that we have here, the 707, the -- this area here is probably the best location for him at this time because that is where the space between the wheels would later on be positioned. And that ensures that it would be slightly enough space for him to survive and then he can improve his position once the gear is in. TODD (voice-over): Experts say if he did successfully stow away, it's almost miraculous. The wheel wells of passenger jets aren't heated or pressurized, they say. At a cruising altitude of 30 to 38,000 feet, the cold air could have killed him.

LT. COL. MICHAEL KAY, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: At that height, you've got temperatures of around minus 45 to minus 55 degrees C. Just to put that into perspective, skin freezes almost instantaneously.

TODD: A loss of oxygen at that altitude could have killed him unless his metabolism slowed enough for him not to need much oxygen.

The lack of security in San Jose is also being question in this case. Rafi Ron says the boy took advantage of a gap in the system.

RON: Right now many of our airports are not protecting the perimeter well enough to prevent an incident like this one.

TODD: The airport spokeswoman in San Jose says that facility exceeds all security requirements and has an excellent track record. The TSA is assisting the airport in its investigation.


TODD: This young man would have beaten some pretty long odds in pulling this off if indeed he did this. According to the FAA since 1947, 105 people around the world have attempted to fly inside the wheel wells of planes. Only 25 survived. The other 80 died -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The 16-year-old, where is he now?

TODD: According to the FBI, he's in the custody of Child Protective Services in Hawaii. They says he has not been charged with any kind of federal crime in Hawaii. The FBI says that he ran away from home early Sunday morning and made his way to the airport.

BLITZER: Somehow he got from San Jose to Maui. A lot of people are doubtful that he was actually in that wheel well.

TODD: There is a lot of doubt --

BLITZER: Surviving at 35,000 feet without oxygen, 40 degrees below zero. Unlikely he's going to survive.

TODD: Unlikely. The odds are against him. They're investigating all of this. We'll know more later -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much for that.

Coming up, we have new details on what might happen next in the search for Malaysia Flight 370. We're going live to Australia with the new information.

Plus alleged evidence of Russian forces operating inside Ukraine. We're going to talk about it with the former chairman of House Homeland Security Committee, Congressman Peter King. Lots more news coming up right here in the SITUATION ROOM.