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tv   Wolf  CNN  March 24, 2015 10:00am-11:01am PDT

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ing over and over and over. and you know what i concluded? it appears that we have an agency at war against itself. we're better than that! and some kind of way, we have to take advantage of this transformative moment. if we don't, it can only get worse. >> reporter: cummings' frustration palpable there. and it was shared by a lot of other members on that committee this morning. >> wow, even after they cleared up that it wasn't a barricade that was smashed. it was barrels that were nudged. chris, thank you for that. i'll pass the baton now to wolf blitzer picking up our special coverage now. hello. i'm wolf blitzer. it's 1:00 p.m. here in washington. 6:00 p.m. in barcelona. 6:00 p.m. at dusseldorf. wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.
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let's begin with the breaking news. we're getting new details about the crash of a germanwings passenger plane in southeastern france. an official in the area where the plane went down says it was obliterated and describes a horrific crash scene. according to reuters, a french official says a black box from the plane has been recovered. the airline says there were 150 people on board the plane, 144 passengers and six crew members. the french president, francois hollande says it's unlikely anyone survived. there are 350 firefighters more than 300 police taking part in the operation of the crash zone right now. but the terrain and the weather are making it extremely difficult. a mountain guide says helicopters are the only way to get there at least right now. a french aviation official says it was air traffic control, yes, air traffic control, not the plane, that initiated the distress call after they lost radio contact.
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the plane dropped from 38,000 feet to 24,000 feet in just six minutes. but the ceo of the airline says the plane went into a steep descent for about eight minutes. the airline says this is a sad, tragic day for germanwings and lufthansa, the parent company. let's get the latest on the crash from our correspondent, our senior international correspondent, jim bittermann who's joining us right now. jim, you have new details about the crash site. what can you tell us? >> reporter: well wolf for one thing, the interior minister has now confirmed that information about the black box. one of the two black boxes has been recovered. it's not clear what's happened to the other one. but when you see the still photos that we've been seeing in the last hour or so of this crash site you can understand why it might take them some time to find it. basically this is a crash site where debris is scattered over about a five-acre area. and the area is full of ravines and very steep crevasses.
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helicopters are the only way in there directly. but then the helicopters can't land. they have to lower the investigators and rescuers and whatnot by rope. so it's a very difficult area. the closest road comes to a halt about a 45-minute hike from this scene. and for the still photos we've seen the debris is down to bits and pieces -- one witness described the largest debris piece as being no bigger than the size of a small car. and from one of the photos we can see a section of maybe three or four passenger windows, sections of the fuselage but no bigger than that. so it looks as if the plane hit the peak and then disintegrated in the fall down the various ravines in the area. so it's a horrendous scene. and the remains of the victims of course scattered over hundreds of yards. they're going to have to be very carefully searching for those victims over probably what will be the next few days.
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it will take some time for all this to take place. and as you mentioned, the weather is getting worse, there's a front moving through. they're expecting snow there tonight and snow tomorrow. it could be a really complicated mission for the people involved in the investigation. >> and very quickly, jim, when you said they found one of the black boxes, there are usually two on board, as we know a cockpit voice recorder, a flight data recorder. do you know which one they found? >> reporter: no no word of which one they found. they're probably looking for the other one at this hour. it's starting to get dark down there. i'm sure they'll try to get both recovered as soon as possible. >> that's a high priority right now. thanks very much, jim bittermann. just a little while ago, we learned that president obama has been briefed about the crash of the german airliner. the white house issued this statement, u.s. officials have been in touch with french german and spanish authorities and have offered assistance.
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our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families and loves ones. we refer you to french authorities for an update on the investigation. there is no indication of a nexus to terrorism at this time. that statement from the white house. the germanwings plane was in the air for about an hour or so before it lost contact with controllers and crashed. now it's up to the investigators to try to figure out what went wrong. let's bring in mary schiavo here in washington and les amand is joining us. he's a 777 captain. the air traffic controllers sent out the distress signal not from the cockpit, not from the plane. what does that suggest? >> to me that's a really important clue because the plane was descending and you just don't descend. as a pilot, you have to request the descent, you have to request to change altitudes. since we know they didn't do
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that because air traffic control did not know and had not communicated with them if they were talking to air traffic control, they could have told them about any problem they had on board. so whatever caused this caused the pilots to be unable to communicate or have no time to communicate. i suspect that as time goes on we'll find they were not able to communicate for one of many reasons. it could be equipment, it could be that they were incapacitated, et cetera. but i think they would have tried to communicate that they were descending in a mountainous region. >> the online flight tracker says the plane dropped from 38,000 to 24,000 feet in six minutes. the airline ceo says there was this steep descent that lasted about eight minutes. explain what possibly could have happened as this plane begin this is descent in only a few minutes. >> well wolf i'd like to stay away from the terminology "drop" if possible because it seemed to me -- i believe it was a six-minute period -- correct me
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if i'm wrong -- that's about a 2,500 feet a minute rate of descent, which isn't a terribly a lot. we start to do that if we have a crossing restriction out of cruising altitude. so sounds like that's a controlled descent situation. but it was definitely an expedited situation that they realized they had a problem, mechanical problem, something that consumed them enough that they were taken away from the aspect of communication. why that happened, i don't know. that is a little disturbing to me from the standpoint of did their communication equipment break down for the reason that they were starting the descent? in other words, was there a possible fire situation in their electronics bay? these are things to consider. but once again, this is all speculation at this point in time. >> but under normal circumstances, the pilot or the co-pilot would ask for permission to start a descent like that. >> absolutely.
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but if it was a dire situation, whatever they had enunciated on their panels they may not have had time to get it out or it was attempted and they weren't able to communicate because of the situation itself. absolutely that is a great radar environment there. they have all the sophistication that we have here in the states. i've flown out of barcelona. you're always in radar contact for the most part. and there should have been some ability to communicate with somebody on the ground. >> les abend, mary schiavo, stand by. much more coming up on the breaking news. when we come back it's very mountainous, this area it's snow-covered, extremely dangerous. that's what emergency crews now face as they make their way to the crash site. and later, israel is accused of spying on those u.s./iranian nuclear talks. we'll tell you what the israeli
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response is the allegations. we'll have a joint interview with the chairman of the ranking member of the house intelligence committee.
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let's get back to the breaking news. a passenger plane carrying 150 people on board has crashed in southern france. germanwings airbus flight 9525 was traveling from barcelona, spain, to dusseldorf germany, when it went down over the french alps. we're just getting a statement in from the state department here in washington. the spokesperson general psaki -- we are saddened by the news that germanwings flight 9525 crashed in southern france on from barcelona to dusseldorf.
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we express our deepest condolences to the victims and their families. the united states stands ready to offer assistance and support to the governments of france germany and spain as they investigate this tragedy. that statement from the state department here in washington. let's turn to cnn's tom foreman. he's over at the magic wall with more on what's going on. the terrain over there is 6,000 feet elevation in that part of france. it's pretty rough. >> very rough. if you take a look at it as we fly into the terrain here and take a look at it we'll bring up some of the mountains of the french alps here. you can see as this changes angles these are serious mountains out here. they're not as tall as the colorado rockies but are still way up there. and this plane went down in an area that would be about a mile high in the area. if you look at the flight track of this -- if this is true -- i say it because there could be artifacts in the way this is recorded that do not indicate
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exactly what happened to the plane. but during this descent, it was up here at about 38,000 feet. and then it started dropping. the blue line is the plane's altitude. the red line is the speed. the speed was relatively constant somewhere around 500 miles an hour dropped down to 400 miles an hour over here. but as this plane came down right about here it crossed the threshold of the highest of the alps. and then down here it's deep in the area of where it would be among the alps. a lot of strange things happened in this, particularly right here, this descent. the fact that it looks like a controlled descent. we've talked to a pilot of one of these planes and to ntsb investigators and a lot of aviation analysts who all say this is part of the mystery, the fact that this looks so controlled here. that would suggest either they were doing it on purpose and somehow the end of it did not play out as planned. they were planning to deal with the problem as they got lower, restart engines or whatever might be wrong with the plane and somehow they couldn't get it done or that something happened
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up here that was catastrophic enough that they got the plane pointed down but after that there was either no control of it or they were simply situationally unaware of what was whaphappening to them. >> maybe they were on autopilot or the pilot or co-pilot didn't have control of it for whatever reason so it had that relatively smooth descent before it crashed which raises the question did anyone on board know this plane was heading towards a crash. >> they would not necessarily know. that's really interesting because if you think about this this is just a sense of what it would look like inside this plane. i don't have my interior shot anymore. but if you look at the outside of this plane, you are on planes many times that are descending at the rate that this plane was descending when you're landing or flying any place and you do not notice it. this was not dramatic. no reason why anybody on board the plane would necessarily say, we have a problem unless there is something obvious going on.
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the descent might have looked normal. obviously when you get among the mountains, people may have thought something. but at 400 miles an hour it may be too late for anyone to do anything. >> a tragic story. tom, thanks very much. we'll have a lot more on the breaking news coverage of this plane crash in france. stand by for that. but there's other news we're following, including allegations that israel was spying on those u.s.-led nuclear negotiations with iran. we'll get reaction from the chairman and the ranking member of the house intelligence committee, a rare joint interview, that's coming up.
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we'll have a lot more on the breaking news conch of that plane crash in france coming up in a few moments. but first, strong denials coming from the government of israel over a report in "the wall street journal" accusing israel of spying on those nuclear negotiations the u.s. and other members of the u.n. security council in germany have been having with iran and disclosing some of the secrets, "the wall street journal" says to key members of congress in an effort to try to derail any emerging agreement. "the wall street journal" says israel collected information on those talks by eavesdropping, using surveillance of iranian leaders, talking to european officials as well. israel denies allegations it was spying on the united states. a quote from the israeli government these allegations are utterly false, the state of israel does not conduct espionage against the united states or israel's other allies. the false allegations the israeli statement continues, are clearly intended to undermine
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the strong ties between the united states and israel and the security and intelligence relationship we share. israel clearly is against the apparently emerging nuclear deal with iran the prime minister benjamin netanyahu, made israel's case against the deal during his controversial address before a joint meeting of the u.s. congress earlier in the month. let's talk about all this and a whole lot more with two special guests. joining us right now from capitol hill the chairman and the ranking member of the house intelligence committee, republican congressman devin nunez from california and the ranking democrat adam schiff. thank you for joining us, gentlemen. this is a rare interview. you're cooperating on cyber warfare. mr. chairman what do you make of this "wall street journal" report and specifically did israeli officials brief you on sensitive classified shall we say, information about what was going on information that you weren't receiving from the obama administration?
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>> well i saw the report last night and i was actually shocked by it. i had not been briefed, the committee has not been briefed. and even this morning, the speaker of the house, john boehner, said that he had not been briefed. so if they were sharing information, it wasn't on our side of the aisle that i'm aware of. >> you're talking about the israelis had not briefed you on any of these information they supposedly were collecting through their intelligence is that what you're saying mr. chairman? >> that's correct. we have not been briefed by the israelis on anything that's in "the wall street journal" article as well. >> congressman schiff what about you? >> without commenting on the allegations, i've had a number of meetings with israeli officials over the months that these negotiations have been going on and in none of those cases have the israelis discussed with me anything that i would consider classified or even all that sensitive. so certainly not in my presence and beyond that i really couldn't say. >> are you satisfied, mr. chairman with the briefings you've been receiving from the
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obama administration on the way these negotiations have been going? >> well i think they have done a good job of briefing members of congress at least on the intelligence committee. we've been kept informed. now, look i don't agree with the administration's take on this and where the negotiations are. i do agree that the negotiations are being conducted in good faith. but i don't think at the end of the day the iranians are going to make a deal the american people want to be a part of. >> congressman schiff i believe you and the chairman were among the letter democrats and republicans, that you sent to president obama underlining concerns about what's going on. congressman schiff what's your biggest concern? >> probably the factor i'll look at most closely is what's the duration of the agreement, what is the number of centrifuges and the generation of centrifuges that's allowed?
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ten years to me seems to be a short window. i'm hoping there's something beyond that. but that's a key concern of mine. ten years goes by in the blink of an eye. so the staying power of any kind of a negotiating deal is going to be very important. but i'm going to keep my powder dry and i think all members would be wise to see what comes out of this if there is an agreement. there will be plenty of time for us to weigh in thereafter. >> did you sign that letter mr. chairman? >> yes, i did. >> and your biggest concern is? >> i just don't believe when you start negotiating -- the point of this has all been if the iranians want to have a nuclear power like they say they want to have look, there's plenty of countries and plenty of agreements that could be made to make sure they could have atomic energy. but the fact of the matter is one centrifuge is too many from my perspective. and so i just don't see the iranians making a deal with us that's going to actually limit
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their ability to get a nuclear weapon. and in fact -- look, as good as our intelligence community is a lot of times we don't even know what the iranians are up to. so we were shocked, like many were at the disclosures that have come forward about the size and scope of the iranians' nuclear program even in the most recent years. so i'm very concerned. >> i want to move on and talk about cyber security. but very quickly, congressman schiff that year-long secret negotiations that the u.s. was having with iranian officials, i believe in oman to try to set the stage for these full-scale negotiations was your committee briefed on those discussions that were going on? >> we were briefed although i don't know that i can say we were briefed contemporaneous with some fof those early negotiations and that was an issue that came up in the committee in terms of when we were brought up to speed and what the circumstances there were. but i feel also as the chairman mentioned that we have been kept
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up to speed with frequent briefings, both in the committee as well as at the white house, on how the negotiations are proceeding. so i don't feel like i've been left in the dark as all. >> let's talk about cyber security and it's a rare moment that we're seeing a republican and a democrat -- you guys are working together right now. mr. chairman tell us the gist of what you have in mind to try to fight this enormous threat that the u.s. and so many other countries clearly are facing right now. >> well the committee has actually been working on this for five years. under the previous leadership we worked on this both adam and i were on the committee. we had a good legislation last year the legislation i think this year is even better. we've worked with our senate colleagues both republicans and democrats. we're almost on the same page in terms of allowing american companies and the american people to share openly with the united states government threats that they're seeing. because of this we need this because of the threats that are
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getting bigger and bigger as every day goes by specifically just in recent months we've had two american health care companies that have been compromised. >> is there a privacy concern, congressman schiff, some privatecy advocates are always nervous when you start talking about this kind of stuff. what's your answer? >> there are legitimate privacy concerns. but i think we have addressed most of those -- i'm sorry i'm losing my voice a moment -- >> clear your throat congressman, and you'll feel a little better. i'll ask a question to congressman nunes, then you can respond. the house homeland security is also pushing forward, similar cyber security bills, which is it? is it your committee, chairman mccall's homelad security committee? what's the difference between these respective pieces of legislation? >> well i see them as a parallel track, clearly what our
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concern is to make sure that the intelligence community, the interface that we have with the american public that we are able to keep sources and methods confidential and that we make sure that the department of defense and the nsa are not getting private information. that's been one of the key hang-ups from last year's bill. that's a concern of ours. when we start to talk about what does the portal look like with the american people, like where are they going to put their information into the government? where are they going to share it at that actually comes under the jurisdiction or could come under the jurisdiction of the homeland security committee. i see these as parallel tracks. we're working closely with chairman mccall and the senate intelligence committee. at the end of the day, we want to get an agreement and get this to the president's desk to be signed to protect the cyber networks for the american people. >> congressman schiff, if your voice is still holding up i'll give you the final word. >> i think we've made a lot of
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progress since last year in addressing the concerns the privacy community raised. our bill ensures the information first has to go through a civilian portal like the department of homeland security that all personal information has to be stripped out before being shared with the government that it can only be limited use of this information it can't be used for broad law enforcement purposes. and finally that there aren't countermeasures permitted to private companies. those were four key privacy concerns with the bill last year which i didn't support. i think we've addressed all four of these. so i'm very optimistic about the prospect for passage. >> adam schiff, devin nunes, good to see bipartisan from the this committee. thank you both very much. >> thanks, wolf. coming up we're getting some pictures -- the first pictures of the crash site now coming in to cnn. we're following the breaking news out of southern france a plane goes down with 150 people
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welcome back to our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer reporting from washington. we're following the breaking news a horrible plane crash, the germanwings airbus a320 went down in the french alps earlier this morning. take a look at these pictures, new pictures we're getting. this is the area where this plane went down. the elevation around 6,000 feet.
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the french interior minister says the flight data recorder has been found at the crash site. they're still looking for the cockpit voice recorder those two so-called black boxes. meanwhile, officials are telling us the plane is obliterated and there is no sign of life. 144 passengers six crew members were on board. helicopters have been flying over the crash site but they have not been able, we're told, to land. crews are in this zone of the crash. but the terrain, as you can see from these pictures extremely difficult to reach. some of the searchers may have to ski to the site we're told. let's go to cnn's hala gorani. she's in london and watching what's going on. hala, i understand you've spoken to officials in france. what are you learning, first of all, about the recovery effort? >> reporter: i spoke to a very high-level french official in the region who is being briefed on the rescue operation. he was with the interior minister.
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essentially he told me the plane has been obliterated, there's no piece of the debris larger than a small car, there's no sign of life that all 148 people on board, crew and passengers, are feared dead. he also told me that at this stage -- this was about 45 minutes ago -- that no helicopters have been able to land. this is important because it is very difficult terrain. you can't drive to this. you can't drive ambulances. you can't drive rescue vehicles to this site. so really you can only chopper there. we saw some rescue workers there on the side of one of those mountainous areas there. and the deduction there and the implication is they may have been lowered. there's no way at this stage we're being told that helicopters have been able to land. also importantly, i was told that human remains are scattered as far as 100 meters from the wreckage. you can imagine just the grim task now of having to go through hundreds and hundreds of yards
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of wreckage and try to gather as much as they can right now of some of those bodies those unfortunate passengers that lost their lives. and complicating the rescue effort is the fact that the ground is frozen. this means that rescue workers are going to have to wear special gear and snow is forecast for tomorrow. this is making it all the harder for the operation that is high up in the mountain about 2,000 meters we're told wolf. >> 6,000 feet or so. it's a real disaster. hala gorani reporting for us, thank you very much. the flight data recorders, the cockpit voice recorders, those black boxes, will likely hold the key to what happened. let's bring in our aviation correspondent, rene marsh, she's here with me watching what's going on. tell us a little bit about what we know. first of all, about the aircraft. >> we know this is an airbus a320 very very good safety record. we know more than 6,000 of them off the assembly line. but just to put this all in
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context of what happened here is still a mystery. remains a mystery. that's why it's a breakthrough that they found at least one of the black boxes. when you look at what we know so far, we know this aircraft did go through its last routine maintenance check just yesterday. we know it had its last big check just last summer of 2013. we also know a bit about the captain. the captain at the controls had over ten years of experience with lufthansa and germanwings. so not by any means a rookie here. but still, though we know that something went terribly wrong, something happened so fast that these pilots did not have a chance to communicate with air traffic control before this plane went down. a little bit about the path of the plane that we know it did take off, it was able to get to more than 30,000 feet. flight tracking websites are saying about 38,000 feet. and it was at that cruising altitude i would say for
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roughly, based on the flight tracking websites about three minutes before it started to make a rather rapid but steady descent. you're looking at that, that's the blue line which is the altitude. so at this point, wolf, the cockpit voice recorder which is still missing, that's going to be critical because we will be able to hear on that recording what were the pilots saying were they saying anything was it total silence? that could be an indication of something as well if they were incapacitated or were they discussing with each other difficulties that were happening in the cockpit at that moment. >> the last six, seven minutes, there was no communication coming from the cockpit to ground control. >> absolutely. what we know from officials is that they did not make a distress call. the emergency call came from air traffic control because they were not able to reach the pilots on the radio. so we do know -- in talking with a lot of pilots and unfortunately we've covered a lot of these instances.
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but their focus is on getting control of the aircraft aviating navigating and then communicating. so communicating is their last option. and one pilot told me today, the fact that they did not speak to air traffic control may indicate again, we say may indicate that they were still struggling to get control of the aircraft until the very end. >> a mystery. huge mystery. rene, thanks very much. rene marsh reporting. just ahead, we know when the germanwings plane started to descend descend. but that's raising a lot of questions about why it crashed. we have expert analysis coming up. janet? cough if you can hear me. don't even think about it. i took mucinex dm for my phlegmy cough. yeah...but what about mike? (cough!) it works on his cough too. mucinex dm relieves wet and dry coughs for 12 hours. let's end this.
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crews have recovered one of those so-called black boxes from the germanwings passenger plane that crashed in the french alps. 150 people were on board. officials say it's unlikely anyone survived. let's bring in david soucie and
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cnn meteorologist chad myers. david, does it help the investigation that they've found at least one of those black boxes, the flight data recorder we're told, not the cockpit voice recorder? >> the flight data recorder is going to tell you exactly what the position of the aircraft controls were and whether or not the engines were producing full power or not. there's a lot of information in that. what it won't tell you is what was going on in the cockpit, which is the cockpit voice recorder as opposed to the flight data recorder. so that is very useful of course. but it's going to be a challenge going forward just trying to figure out what happened to this airplane in that area. >> and the fact that the last several minutes as it was descending it was relatively smooth descent, david. there was no communication coming from that cockpit to ground control. what does that say to you? >> it's very perplexing wolf because the other thing that's a critical factor in this is that it continued to maintain that
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26-degree flight path. it didn't try to vary or look for an area. earlier i had thought that perhaps that indicated that he had identified an area to land. but obviously at this point looking at that terrain that you see there, there was not a lot of choices for him. he probably just kept going forward and tried to keep as much altitude and air speed as long as he could. >> chad you've been taking a closer look at when the plane started to descend. what stands out as you investigate? >> equally curious that the pilots had they known they had a problem, had plenty of time in my opinion, to get to marseilles, only 32 miles away. wolf the plane continued to fly for 102 miles after the dip right there, after the plane left 38,000 feet and started to come back down. marseilles the airport, 11,000 feet long plenty of distance not that far away as the plane continued to go down and down and downhill. here's what it looks like minute by minute from our friends at
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up here straight and level flight for about three or four minutes. and then all of a sudden the drop-off and the steady decline and the steady amount of air speed as well until the very last and final minutes, just very curious as to why something else didn't take place, especially a mayday call or something. and i know it's -- i get it. but you get on the radio and say something, don't you? what we could see is the cloud cover covering the ground they honestly had no idea where the ground was. and i just don't understand how this doesn't go out -- david, tell me if the plane's engines are out and they don't have any power, can this plane fly for 102 miles? >> well actually it can. but i don't think that's the situation here. as you pointed out, the air speed continued to maintain the same. you can do that by putting the nose down and continuing that descent and controlling that descent. it's a very controlled descent. but it has a good glide ratio,
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this airplane. but it's very curious like you said about this marseilles airport that was nearby. if he recognized that he was in imminent danger of crash, most certainly he would have turned around and gone back that way. and the fact that there wasn't an emergency radio call until the last seconds of the flight is very confusing to me. as you said it's a controlled flight it's a controlled descent, it's not these radical ones we've seen in previous accidents where they're panicking literally trying to just control that aircraft. this is a controlled descent. there's something going on here. i'm very anxious to find out exactly what certainly. >> when you say, david, there was an emergency communication at the very very end, was that coming from the cockpit or from ground control? >> that was coming from the cockpit from what we understand from the president of spain. he made a statement earlier that they said "emergency, emergency" towards the end of the flight. of course there's some confusion as to when that actually occurred because he said it was at 10:45 which was
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after the aircraft reportedly had already crashed. >> hold on for a moment guys. the ceo of germanwings, the operator is speaking now. i want to listen in. >> translator: as soon as possible about the next steps, thank you very much. we will now try to get more details and information and we'll then update you tomorrow morning. thank you. >> he was speaking. but that's it. very quickly, david soucie this investigation, i guess it's going to be not only french german spanish, but the u.s. is now volunteering to cooperate. i assume others will as well. this could take a while to figure out, though, what happened. >> it very well could. especially this time of year there. i've done a lot of accidents in the middle of the winter and some in the summer. but this is right between where there's some snow but there's not enough. so you can't just take snow cats
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out there and try to get to the aircraft accident. this is going to be a very very difficult recovery and trying to analyze what happened. >> a huge mystery still continuing. david soucie chad myers, guys, thanks very much. to our viewers for a list of ways to help those affected by this plane crash, visit our website, you can impact your world. we'll have much more ahead on the breaking news, the plane crash in france. also coming up the new afghan president, he's here in washington over at the white house, meeting with president obama today. why he wants the president to reconsider the u.s. timetable for pulling out american troops from afghanistan. i accept that i'm not 21. i accept i'm not the sprinter
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we'll get back to the plane crash, breaking news coverage shortly. also happening right now, over at the white house, the afghan president ashraf ghani is continuing his first official visit to washington since taking office in january. he's having a series of meetings with the president, the vice president. yesterday he met with the secretary of state. but president ghani began the day at the tomb of the unknown soldier. >> present! >> present. >> this marks real foreign relations with afghanistan. president ghani has already signed a security agreement with the united states something his predecessor refused to do. let's go to our senior white
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house correspondent jim acosta joining us from the white house. president ghani no stranger to the u.s. he studied and was taught here. he was even a u.s. citizen until running for office. is that being reflected in the tone we're seeing in the new conversations between the u.s. and afghani leaders? >> i think that's part of it wolf. he knows washington. washington knows ashraf ghani. he worked at the world bank a couple blocks from the white house, where we're standing now. the people at the white house here know him well. they have high hopes for him. obviously the relationship was very different with former afghan president hamid karzai who would not sign that bilateral security agreement. ashraf ghani comes in he signs that security agreement. the question is whether or not, woman wolf he gets something in return. one thing he wants is a slow down in this reduction of u.s. forces in afghanistan. there are roughly 10,000 right now. the president announced a plan to have that by the end of this year. now that is on the negotiating
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table. the president may decide and we may hear about this coming up at this news conference within the next hour that he has decided to slow down that withdraw of u.s. forces. one thing that has been made clear to me wolf is by the end of his presidency by the end of 2016 heading into 2017 the president still does intend to pretty much pull all u.s. forces out of afghanistan with the exception of a small residual force of around 1,000 to 2,000 troops that would be there for diplomatic security and provide security for other counterterrorism missions but the combat mission would end. i think it will be interesting to watch how well verseding ashraf ghani is. he speaks very good english. i think we'll hear that at this news conference. >> so basically what we're going to be standing by for, the news conference starting in 20 25 minutes. we'll have live coverage on cnn. they'll both make opening
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statements. i just want to be precise. what you're hearing is the possibility that the president of the united states and the president of afghanistan may announce that they're expanding the u.s. troop commitment presence in afghanistan beyond earlier agreements. is that right? >> i think, wolf what we're going to hear -- and that is what ashraf ghani has been pushing for. instead of the president trying to cut by half by the end of 2015 the number of u.s. troops in afghanistan from 10,000 to roughly 5,500, that may be slowed down a bit. it won't go down to one half of where they are right now by the end of this year and that process will be slowed down a touch and that will continue over 2016. that's something the white house has been indicating in terms of something we'll hear from the president today. it's something they've been talking about behind the scenes. keep in mind there's a political context for all of this. remember that the president -- and you know this all too well. the president decided on a full pullout of u.s. forces from iraq
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three years ago. a lot of people in this town believe the president is paying the price with what is happening with isis. does all of that weigh on the president and his deliberations, his considerations as to whether or not he should do the same thing in afghanistan? there's a lot of people who think he should be taking that under consideration. >> yeah they certainly are. all right. we'll have live coverage coming up. jim acosta will be with me. our special coverage of president obama and the afghan president ghani's joint news conference scheduled for about 2:20 p.m. eastern, about 20 25 minutes from now. there's other breaking news we're following here in washington right now. the head of the u.s. secret service has been getting grilled on capitol hill today. the director jim clancy is being asked to explain what happened about three weeks ago involving two allegedly intoxicated agents driving into a barrier outside the white house. we're also getting the first look at a video of the incident today. it appears to show the car making its way into the white
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house grounds by going around what turned out to be a bomb threat investigation. it's pretty dramatic, the latest news coming out of capitol hill. >> real dramatic. this says the two agents drove around an active bomb scene. it gives us our first look at the allegations that drinking was involved. the e-mail says quote, officers at the scene said they were both extremely intoxicated. officers were going to arrest both of them but the watch commander said not to. so i want to take a listen to elijah cummings the top democrat on this committee. here's what he had to say after he read this e-mail at the committee this morning. >> but you know what really bothers me? i read this. i kept reading this e-mail this morning over and over and over. and you know what i concluded? it appears that we have an agency at war against itself.
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we're better than that. in some kind of way, we have to take advantage of this transformative moment. if we don't, it could only get worse. >> so cummin' frustration palpable there wolf. it was shared by a lot of other people on the committee as well. >> they're concerned. all the members of that committee overseaing ingoverseeing the u.s. secret service, they're concerned that security could be undermined. >> that's exactly right. they asked him, they said what are you going to do? what changes are you going to make? clancy said one of the changes he's going to make is he's going to change the -- how they keep the video. right now, as you know they keep video around the white house grounds for about three days. then it gets overwritten. he says he's going to extend that to seven days look at keeping it even longer. because in this incident what we had was video that was
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overwritten. they're unsure if there's anymore angles to what happened that night. that has lawmakers very very upset. and he's already making changes based on what he's learned in this incident. >> they know they only keep the video for three days. then it disappears as they roll over that video. but here's a case that was controversial. there was a bomb investigation. you would think they would make an exception and say, you know what we're going to keep this video to make sure we learn lessons from this. >> that's exactly right. lawmakers asked clancy that exact question. why did you not keep this video? he did not have an answer at this point. he said that's something the independent inspector general at the department of homeland security is looking into. however, i'm trying to get back as much of that video and work with forensics experts and computers to do it. >> chris, shocking stuff coming out of that hearing on capitol hill. thanks very, very much. that's it for me. i'll be back in about 15 minutes or so for cnn's special coverage
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of president obama's joint news conference with the visiting president of afghanistan, ashraf ghani. supposed to start around 2:15 p.m. eastern. in the meantime thanks very much for watching. "news "newsroom" with brooke baldwin starts right now. here we go top of the hour. you're watching cnn. i'm brooke baldwin. i want to thank all of our viewers in the united states and all around the world. we have huge huge developments to report at this hour on that absolutely devastating plane crash in the french alps. so stand by for much more coverage on that. also just a heads up. we were following other news. minutes from now, we're waiting to hear from the president of the united states, from president barack obama. he's due to speak after this crucial meeting with afghanistan's new president, ashraf ghani. the afghani leader is in washington with a warning, as we've been reporting, with isis on the move pulling all american