EgyptAir Flight 804 Wreckage Found; Terrorism Believed Responsible for EgyptAir Flight 804 Crash. Aired 2:30-3p ET

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Responsible for EgyptAir Flight 804 Crash. Aired 2:30-3p ET>

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[14:30:06] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me.

We're watching CNN's special breaking coverage of what brought down EgyptAir flight 804. There's a lot to get into. We can tell you that the families have just been told that the plane has crashed. The question at the moment, was it terror? The jet vanishing with 66 people on board more than 16 hours ago now. It traveled from Paris en route to Cairo. We know radar contact lost two minutes after crossing into Egyptian air space and this frantic search launched over the Mediterranean Sea.

Just a short time ago, we had a huge announcement from the vice president of EgyptAir right here on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AHMED ABDEL, VICE PRESIDENT, EGYPTAIR: First of all, our heart goes out for all the families and friends of all involved in this terrible incident. As I can tell you now that we have found the wreckage. We confirmed that the wreckage has been found and the search and rescue teams are now -- it's turning into a search and recovery.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Egypt says chances are the plane was brought down by terrorists and not a mechanical issue. And we now know the weather was clear at the time. Greece saying the plane swerved before it plunged from 37,000 feet, the safest of cruising altitudes. And we are now also getting word from U.S. officials saying that early theory is that the bomb, indeed, took the plane down.

For more on this revelation, let's go to our justice correspondent, Evan Perez.

Tell me why, Evan, U.S. Intel believes that was likely an act of terror.

EVEN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, it's -- partly because of things they're not seeing. You know? This is one of a theory that's based really right now on a lack of information. They don't have a lot of information to go on. But I can tell you this. They've looked at the idea of perhaps some kind of mechanical failure and given the fact this is a fairly new aircraft, it appears very well maintained. The fact there was no SOS. No call for help from the aircraft this is a very sophisticated aircraft, very difficult I'm told by authorities that it's even difficult for someone to intentionally try to ditch it. The plane is designed to keep flying. Certainly, 37,000 feet there's the expectation. There's suspicion because of the circumstances we're talking about. Not only the security situation in e gyp but the rise of an ISIS affiliate there. But also, the increased security concern in Western Europe. We have had multimillion terrorist attacks there and Paris airport and it's viewed as a secure place but that is most likely where investigators are going to start. They'll start looking at the people who had access to this aircraft, people who are working on the ground there. And, frankly, the Egyptians will have to take a closer look at the crew, the 10 crew members who were on the plane, and the three security officers and the two pilots on board as well reviewing the flight manifest.

We are told, Jim Sciutto told by one of his security source, that the U.S. has begun looking at the flight manifest and, so far, they have seen no red flags running the names against U.S. terror watch lists. And so one of the things now that has to happen is we have to recover the wreckage and begin searching for signs of perhaps a bomb, or if they can find the black boxes, then they can perhaps hear conversations and see what might have been going on in that cockpit before this plane went down -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: Yeah. According to the V.P. of EgyptAir, he believes they will pretty quickly find the flight data recorders, which gets to the crux of the issue --

PEREZ: That's right.

BALDWIN: -- what brought this plane down.

Evan Perez, thank you so much.

Let's bring in the panel of experts here. Les Abend, CNN aviation analyst; Michael Weiss, CNN contributor; and Tim Taylor, sea operations and emersion specialist, president and CEO of Tiburon Subsea; and Mary Schiavo, CNN aviation analyst and former inspector general for the Department of Transportation; Shawn Pruchnicki, flight 5191 accident investigator, air safety expert, Ohio University; Juliette Kayyem, CNN national security analyst and co-author of "ISIS; Inside the Army of Terror, and senior editor of "The Daily Beast."

Mega panel, but need you all on a day like this. We'll talk with you, take a commercial break and then we'll continue the conversation.

Shawn Pruchnicki, to you, first.

I want to post the same question I posed to Evan, which is, you know, if there's not a smoking gun here with U.S. intel, why would the U.S. come out and say they believe it is likely a trough attack? They believe it is likely there was a bomb on the plane? [14:35:10] SHAWN PRUCHNICKI, AIR SAFETY EXPERT, OHIO UNIVERSITY: Well, you know, I think the reason somebody, you know, any government or any group would say that is because they have information that they're not sharing with us yet. That's a bold step to make that declaration and we are interested the see what they say to back that up.

BALDWIN: Mary Schiavo, to you.

Let's take this all back five steps. Right? So we know this plane took off from Paris en route to Cairo. Before then, this was in Africa. 24 hours before, Tunisia. And then according to the vice president of EgyptAir, a full sweep at Charles de Gaulle involving personnel on board, involving maintenance crews. What would the sweeps have entailed to make sure the plane was clean and good to go?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, you know, I just had one of my staff who's fluent in French translate the reports on the sweep and here's what happened. So after the attacks and about the time of the attacks in Paris and Brussels last year, they went into the airport and they searched the lockers, and they searched the lockers looking for terrorist-related materials. Of course, the airport, they had a background check. The background check consisted of them checking with local or provincial, local authorities. It doesn't say they ever did a background check, for example, using Interpol or any checking against any international lists of suspected terrorists, et cetera. So they looked and searched in the airport lockers to see if anyone brought terrorist materials to the airport. And those people were stripped of their security badges, but if they worked for a subcontract -- and the airport is run by a subcontractor, I think it's ADP. It's not our agency but a different, a French company. And if the company, the subcontractors had jobs outside the secure areas, these workers had to be given jobs in the non-secure areas. So they weren't all first, which is a shocking development.

BALDWIN: Wow.

Let's come back to that. I remember being in Paris last fall and this was an issue. Fears of radicalization within some of these, you know, airport and public transportation personnel. That's been an issue for a couple of years.

Juliette, let me pick up off of something that Shawn mentioned off the top. If we're talking terrorism and a possible bomb, according to the U.S., you know, he made the point that the U.S. authorities must have some kind of information that the rest of us don't have to make such a bold declaration. What kind of information could that be?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I'm not convinced that they have new information but let's -- there's a world of the obvious explanation and there's only a limited number of explanations for why a plane falls out of the sky, mechanical failure, pilot error or a disruption. And so, given that a lot of the data suggests something very catastrophic happened, there's no SOS, no bad weather, the plane is erratic at last moments, that suggests something purposeful happened. And given the threat environment we are in, it is not a huge jump to say it might be terrorism. But what we have to be clear is whatever we're hearing all pieces of that investigation are going forward equally. In other words, we don't want to close off anything because we may miss something. The most important thing is picking up on what Mary said, the planes have to keep flying. Right in they have to be safe and can't close airport, all these airplanes and while you figure this out. That's what's going on right now in terms of the three piece of that investigation.

BALDWIN: All right. Let's bring in our 777 pilot.

I'm turning to you, Les Abend. As we talk about the twists and turns, right, so the flight appeared normal as it was cleaving Greek air space and Athens trying to communicate with the pilots before switching to Cairo and went fro 37,0 some point and then 15,000 to 10,000. Planes don't just drop out of the air. Made twists and turns. 90 one way, 360 the other. How do you read owl that have?

LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Gut reaction, Brooke, is not -- something catastrophic happened. What caused it? I'm not ready to say terrorism. But I mean, there's a lot that leads to that. By virtue of the fact, yes, not a lot of other information out there and seemed like a normal flight, communications and so on and so forth. An Airbus, I'm not sure where the data is coming from. Is it radar data from the last minute or pieces of that airplane coming down? But if it was a whole, intact airplanes making the turns, very erratic, and very difficult for an Airbus to do. The systems are designed in the airplane to prevent the pilot from for instance overbanking the aircraft.

[14:40:04] BALDWIN: If you look at the tick tock, 1:48 in the morning, the pilot checked in with Greece and described as cheerful. Fast forward, Athens contacted the pilots, didn't respond. What would protocol be in that time and that time is significant?

ABEND: Well, it's significant -- I mean, it may or may not be from the standpoint of there was nothing else going on. They knew they would go to the next boundary.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Cruising along presumably fine.

ABEND: Until -- until whatever happened. We had an Air Asia flight and weather had a lot to do with it, but the crew reacted, unfortunately, not appropriately to what the airplane was doing and the airplane fell out of the sky because of a stall as a result of a mechanical issue. We don't know yet. We are trying to draw parallels and let's take it a step at a time. Even if this is a potential explosive device, there's got to be something different about how did it get there and where did it get on the airplane, if that occurred. But, you know, that drop in altitude plus that -- the turn, the 360 and so on --

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Suspicious? ABEND: Well, I mean, that's pretty radical. Pretty radical for an airliner.

BALDWIN: Charles de Gaulle. Many of us have flown in and out of Paris. In the wake of what happened in Paris last fall, and then Brussels this year, and also to Mary's point about -- I think like 4,000 lockers looked into within personnel.

MICHAEL WEISS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right.

BALDWIN: Tell me more about the airport.

WEISS: Security amplified, particularly after the Paris airport. My colleague lives in Paris and flew out of there very recently to come to New York and said the security protocols like never before.

BALDWIN: Really?

WEISS: So, look, again. This is all speculation and let's not jump to conclusions but if it was an act of terrorism, a bomb, chances are strong it was placed from Charles de Gaulle Airport, and in that instance, look, what are we talking about here? A passenger through the security checkpoints? Possibly with a clothing. Remember the Khorasan group in Syria? The U.S. going after them saying these guys were trying to smuggle clothing, shirts, doused in an explosive chemical about commercial airliners and get them on board? Could it have been a device, like this soda can IED that ISIS put into --

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Sharm el Shaikh.

WEISS: -- MetroJet at Sharm el Shaikh. If that's the case, then Charles de Gaulle is infiltrated by terrorists. There are people working in the airport as flight crew or I think the pilot, but is unlikely given the cheerful mood as they say. But this is a dreadful state of affairs.

And I have to say I reported a few weeks ago the new head of is' foreign intelligence -- there are four branches they use like security service modeled on Arab totalitarian regimes. The new head is a French national. He was born in Paris. He's of North African descent. This comes from a guy who defected from ISIS via informants currently in the organization. What does this tell us? ISIS is leaning heavy on the Europization of their foreign operations. They are not just looking to attack the West, but to make native sons of the West, people in Belgium and France, Great Britain, and Germany, senior ranking officials in their security apparatus to perpetrate and plan these kinds of attacks. So it is not implausible to me, Brooke, this could well have been somebody born in France and working for the airline or the airport and then some way managed to do this, assuming this was an act of terror.

BALDWIN: We'll come back to that point.

We have a correspondent at Charles de Gaulle. Atika Shubert is standing by.

Atika, can you talk about the current state of security with the plane disappearance and crash? And also, to the point of radicalization of, you know, airport personnel over the years there.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. This is a problem that the Paris investigators have been looking at now for years. But more recently in December. They actually released dozens of people from their jobs both here at the Charles de Gaulle Airport and at another airport for fears that they may be linked to radical Islamists, took away their security access. That is concern and since the terror attacks in November and the Brussels attacks, they stepped up security quite a bit even today now we have seen armed security patrolling the airport, making spot checks o4 passengers. So the airport is at its highest state of alert. Operating as normal and absolutely a security concern here and Charles de Gaulle with some of the tightest security in western Europe but, you know, short of sealing, you know, sealing off the airport and doing security checks a mile away there is no way to 100 percent secure an airport -- Brooke?

[14:45:00] BALDWIN: Atika Shubert, thank you so much. We'll check back with you.

We're continuing the breaking covering of the disappearance, the crash of EgyptAir flight 804 in the Mediterranean Sea in just a moment.

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BALDWIN: We're back with our breaking news. This is all just so entirely still a tragic mystery here. What has happened, why did this plane, EgyptAir flight 804, from Paris to Cairo, about 16, 17 hours ago, why did it go missing and crash ultimately just off of one of the Greek islands in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea?

Couple of headlines before I bring my panel back in. One, the headline from the vice president of EgyptAir himself saying, and I quote, "We have found the wreckage," describing it now as search and recovery. Clear, not to say rescue and recovery.

And also, from our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, so far, no watch list hits as they're looking through the manifests, the passenger review.

66 people on board, all of them gone, presumably here.

Tim Taylor is here with us, sea operations and submersible specialist, Tiburon Subsea; and Mary Schiavo, Shawn Pruchnicki; Juliette Kayyem and Les Abend and Michael Weiss.

Tim, to you first.

Just when we talk about -- we hear wreckage is found off of this Greek island, what are the first few steps for these folks who are in the waters recovering whatever the wreckage is?

[14:50:41] TIM TAYLOR, PRESIDENT AND CEO, TIBURON SUBSEA SERVICES: Well, looking at the water in an area, it's extremely deep, feet, 3,000 meters of water. I'm assuming it's floating wreckage and haven't deployed any vehicles or equipment to search for the wreckage, which would most likely contain the pingers, the black boxes, that type of thing. So wreckage on the surface is just that. Collect as much as you can. Obviously, human remains are the priority. But every piece of a -- of wreckage that you can find is a key to the puzzle. And where it's found, how it's found is logged and recorded and all a real part of the forensic process.

BALDWIN: Let's be specific on some of the wreckage here. Again, the U.S. is saying they believe it's likely it was terrorism. They believe it was a bomb on board the plane.

When you are an investigator and looking very, very closely at wreckage, what are you looking for? What hints are you looking for? What pieces of evidence to determine it was, in fact, a bomb?

TAYLOR: Well, I'll speak from my point because I'm not a forensic investigator and doing searches for equipment and assets on the bottom for the military and civilian. And when you do that, every, everywhere that equipment lays and how it lays is a part of the clue. That is reverse process of what went wrong and from a forensic standpoint, blew up and the edges and those are all important but how they land and where they land and how far away dispersed and is all part of the -- it's an archaeological dig. You're taking all these parts and reconstructing back to what we know was the known form of the plane before something happened to it.

BALDWIN: Shawn, same question to you on the forensics here.

PRUCHNICKI: Yeah. So, you know, obviously all the explanations are still on the table, all the possibilities. But when's going to happen early on is we need to recover as much wreckage as we can off the surface. Just because it's floating now doesn't mean it's floating in a day. The priority is to unfortunately, you know, retrieve any human remains that are found but get that wreckage on board before we lose it and from that one of the first things they'll do especially with the whole explosive device theory leading the way at the moment is swabbing and sampling that wreckage to look for trace residue of explosive material. But it's more than just looking at -- for the explosive residue, but also, the wreckage tells a story. The parts of the airplane, sometimes you can on the surface find parts of the airplane that show bomb damage quite directly and answer that question fairly early on. Start testing for the materials.

BALDWIN: So that's the forensics part.

Juliette, what about, you know, when we're talking about who was on board, all kinds of different nationalities. Majority, I want to say, 30 Egyptians, 50 French and then others. We know that the vice president of EgyptAir said they would likely release the names of the passengers by the end of the night tonight, once the family is notified. And we know that they have -- U.S. is working with other countries to figure out the hits with the terror watch list. That's come up clean. What do you make of that? KAYYEM: Well, passenger -- the passengers on this flight, what we knew about them would suggest is innocent, or they didn't bring anything on at least knowingly. And, look, this process of passenger manifest sharing of information is very quick. Over the course of several hours everyone, every country will be able to figure it out. Who's on the flight and whether there's background, known background or nefarious activity against them. There's also, of course, the employees of the EgyptAir on the flight. There's been discussion about these three security officials. Based on my experience, my guess is one, if not two of them, may have been getting a ride back from Paris to Cairo.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: I was wondering. You hear three of them with 60. I didn't know if that was a high number.

KAYYEM: No, no. They say it was just a way that Arab airlines throughout the world move people around. Pilots will get stuck in a city and need to go to another city. And we'll find out whether they were on duty or not in due time.

One thing is because there's no U.S. citizen, the United States would have no legal or even moral jurisdiction at this stage. We can offer assistance in terms of intelligence and our assets at least in the Mediterranean Sea but this is Egypt, essentially, Egypt's and then Paris' alone.

[14:55:43] BALDWIN: We know that the U.S. Navy is offering -- I believe, they're sending in an Orion to help, as well.

Let me ask all of you to stand by.

We'll take a quick break. Our special breaking news coverage on this EgyptAir flight 804 next.

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(Byline: Brooke Baldwin, Evan Perez, Mary Schiavo, Juliette Kayyem, Les Abend, Michael Weiss, Atika Shubert)

(Guest: Shawn Pruchnicki, Tim Taylor)

(High: A huge announcement from Ahmed Abdel, the vice president of EgyptAir, right here on CNN, that the wreckage from EgyptAir flight 804 has been found, and Egypt says chances are the plane was brought down by terrorists and not a mechanical issue. The initial theory from U.S. officials is that the disappearance of EgyptAir flight 804 is due to terrorism and that their working theory is that this was a bomb that brought down this plane, although, they say it's not based on concrete evidence, but just looking at the circumstantial evidence of what is known right now, and the U.S. is now offering to join the investigation, and if this is found to have been an act of terrorism, it would be the fourth commercial plane intentionally downed in the past two years, and French investigators have launched an investigation.)

(Spec: Aviation; EgyptAir; Mediterranean Sea; Cairo, Egypt; Paris, France; Greece; Terrorism; ISIS; Islamic State; al Qaeda; Europe; Middle East; Government)

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