'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, July 17th, 2014
Read the transcript to the Thursday show
THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
July 17, 2014
Guest: Barry McCaffrey, Anthony Roman, Michael Weiss; Adrian Karatnycky;
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. Thank you.
RACHEL MADDOW, TRMS HOST: Absolutely.
O`DONNELL: Today, the two hot spots in the world gave us a full day of
very bad breaking news.
ANNUONCER: NBC News special report.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are following some breaking news.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A plane has crashed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A Malaysian airlines passenger plane crashing in the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As many as 295 people onboard.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This happened somewhere near the Ukrainian-Russian
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The scene of a great deal of military conflict.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s been cross border, there was violence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Ukrainians are blaming separatists.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hit by a missile.
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Shot down, blown out of
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was it intentional?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In these systems, what you`re looking at is simply a
blip on the radar.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It has the earmarks of a tragic mistake.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States will offer
any assistance we can to help determine what happened and why.
MADDOW: This is one of those historic days.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: We move to our other major story.
MADDOW: When newspapers need two front pages.
UIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Israel has officially become a ground offensive in
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They wanted to take out a network of tunnels Hamas has
been use to go infiltrate the Gaza Strip.
WILLIAMS: Hamas said the infiltration would have dreadful consequences.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just seems like we`ve seen this movie before.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HARDBALL HOST: The shooting down of that Malaysian
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: If evidence emerges that Russia was
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This could really be a game changer.
O`DONNELL: The United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization
warns commercial airlines about routes that could be unsafe to fly. The
route taken by Malaysian Airlines today from Kuala Lumpur had been declared
safe by that United Nations group.
The only warning issued to commercial airliners in that region was from
United States which warned American airliners to avoid flying over Crimea.
The United States intelligence community says it has evidence that
Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was brought down by a surface-to-air missile,
about 15 miles from the southern border, in a region heavily occupied by
pro-Russia Ukrainian separatists.
We cannot yet confirm who fired that missile. The Boeing 777 with 280
passengers and 15 crew was flying at 33,000 feet when it fell from the sky.
The airlines says the pilots did not make a distress call. Witnesses saw a
plume of smoke and debris falling across a 10-mile area.
A "New York Times" reporter in Ukraine describes the debris field like
this. Many of the victims were still in their seat belts attached to
pieces of the plane, one man still in his socks but without pants lay
akimbo on the field, his right arm placed on his stomach, as if in repose.
Others had personal belongings nearby. A young man in a blue shirts
wearing red Nike sneakers but no pants, lay with his arms and legs splayed
outward, his iPhone by his side.
President Barack Obama called Ukraine`s president and the Malaysian prime
minister tonight and offered help to determine what happened. The
president of Ukraine calls it a terrorist attack and blames pro-Russian
militants fighting to unite eastern Ukraine with Russia, but Vladimir Putin
responded, "I would like to point out in this regard that this tragedy
would not have occurred if there was peace in that land, at least, if
hostilities had not resumed in the southeast of Ukraine and without
question, the state over whose territory this took place bears
responsibility for this awful tragedy.
This is what Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Diane Feinstein said after
a top secret briefing today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FEINSTEIN: Russian-based separatists have shot down more than a dozen
planes, helicopters in Ukraine over the past few months. It`s too soon to
make any conclusion about the Malaysian Airlines crash right now. We hope
to have more information within the next day or so. If evidence emerges
that Russia was involved, that would obviously be extremely concerning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now is NBC aviation and transportation correspondent
Tom, has the FAA or any other organization now indicated that it is not
safe to fly those routes over Ukraine?
TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS AVIATION AND TRANSPORTATION: Yes. Moments ago, in
fact, the FAA put out a new NOTAM, that`s notice to airmen, that the FAA is
now prohibiting U.S. flights from operating until further notice, it says,
in the airspace over eastern Ukraine due to the recent events and the
potential for continuous hazardous activities.
This is an expansion of the notice to airmen and the prohibition you
mentioned earlier prohibiting U.S. airliners to fly over crime a and that
portion of the Black Sea in which we saw the Russians and Ukrainians go toe
to toe several months ago. The FAA stresses that U.S. airliners have not
and do not fly over this region, but we have seen throughout the day now
foreign carriers, whether they are Lufthansa or British Airways or several
Russian carriers and Emirates Air, a variety of airlines skirting Ukrainian
airspace and saying they will no longer use it as a transit route to get
from Europe, for example, into Asia. It`s a very common route to go from
Amsterdam or Frankfurt or to London, into the Middle East, or into Asia.
But tonight, Ukrainian airspace is virtually empty of anything except
The issue here from an investigative standpoint, Lawrence, is if, in fact,
rebels shot this plane down, this plane is now resting in rebel-controlled
territory, and by one report, they actually have the black boxes. It would
seem that it would not be in their interest for them to turn this
investigation over to an outside independent body as the Ukrainian
government is asking and as the prime minister of Malaysia is asking. By
one account, they have the black boxes. We don`t know what condition those
black boxes are in.
But again, U.S. intelligence and military sources say there is conclusive
evidence that this plane was, in fact, shot out of the sky. If that`s the
case, there may not be a need for U.S. crash investigators, for example,
from the NTSB to show up on the scene and do much of a forensic analysis.
The cause of this disaster is already known, and according to the former
head of the NTSB, Debbie Hersman, who left just a few weeks ago, she said
if she were still on the job, she would have gray reservations about
sending any of her staff into that area.
O`DONNELL: Tom, is there any precedent for the NTSB or the American
government getting cooperation when these kinds of things happen in
COSTELLO: Yes. Although going into a war zone is a different matter. But
absolutely, because this is a U.S.-built airplane, a Boeing 777, it is very
common for U.S. investigators, who are widely viewed around the world as
being the best in the business, that they would go in and assist local
authorities in trying to piece together what happened at an accident.
But again, this doesn`t look like an accident. This looks like a military
action. And in that case, determining who fired the missile is really the
bottom line. That`s going to be done by either a forensic analysis of the
missile itself if they can find any remnants of it. Again, I stress this
as being in rebel-controlled territory already. Or an analysis of the
satellite images that the U.S. intelligence and military say point
conclusively to a missile launch.
O`DONNELL: NBC`s Tom Costello, thanks very much for joining us, Tom.
COSTELLO: You bet.
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, retired four-star Army General Barry McCaffrey,
and Anthony Roman, a former commercial airline pilot and security expert.
Anthony, I just want to go to you as a pilot. What do you make of the
evidence that we`re picking up so far in the debris pattern we`ve seen?
ANTHONY ROMAN, FORMER COMMERCIAL PILOT: Well, it`s clear that a
catastrophic midair event occurred, and in this case the intelligence
officials are pointing to the probability of a surface-to-air missile.
That particular missile was in range of this aircraft based on the
information we have, has a range of about 19 miles and can travel about
mach 3 to 46,000 feet.
So, it appears this airliner was shot down.
O`DONNELL: But what about the fact that so much of the debris is close
together, and it`s not as scattered, as wildly scattered as you might
expect, because it seems like this was not necessarily the total
disintegration of the aircraft in the air.
ROMAN: Well, when you have a catastrophic event like this, the aircraft
manipulates itself in a particular way that the aerodynamics at the high
speed it`s traveling will rip the airplane apart. So it`s not uncommon to
find a debris field that`s compacted like this after a series of events
O`DONNELL: Barry McCaffrey, it seems like maybe we don`t need the NTSB on
this. Maybe that`s not the most valuable evidence we can get. It seems
like the American officials have already determined what happened here.
GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, UNITED STATES ARMY (RET): Well, I think before we`re
done with this, we`re going to end up knowing that our satellite IR system,
infrared systems saw the launch of a missile, followed its trajectory.
Normally these are target acquisition radars that pick up and guide these
missiles. They`re very easy to see, it`s like a flashlight in the dark.
And then finally, I think, we will want to get on the ground and actually
see conclusive evidence of an external explosion that brought down the
aircraft, but I don`t think the rebels are going to be able to freeze us
out of there. There are a dozen nation that`s have people who are
tragically murdered by this event. People are going to get on the ground
sooner or later. They won`t be able to cover this up.
And I`m sure within a week we`ll publicly, conclusively know this is
probably a shoot down by the separatists with sophisticated equipment
provided by the Russians and the separatists who didn`t know what they were
O`DONNELL: General, when you hear Senator Feinstein referring to about a
dozen of these takedowns that they`ve already engaged in, does this sound
like it could easily be the next step they were going to and they`re, at
this point, getting a little -- obviously a lot less precise than what it
is they were targeting?
MCCAFFREY: Well, you know, a lot of these systems, Lawrence, work
extremely well and they`re part of an air defense battalion, an air defense
brigade. They`re tied into commercial radar network. Because a commercial
airliner flying at a known route at a known altitude, a giant transponder
pulse coming out of it, it`s not flashing interrogation friend or foe from
a military aircraft.
So, these people didn`t know what they were doing. It may well have been
engaged and literally fired upon by a crew off a self-propelled armor
vehicle with these very high-velocity missiles. This missile brings down
smart bombs, it shoots down cruise missiles, it brings down enemy aircraft
that trying to evade -- military aircraft trying to evade detection. So
they didn`t know what they were doing to down an airliner in this manner.
O`DONNELL: Anthony Roman, it seems that our warnings about where the safe
routes are, are not adequate. As we sit here tonight, it doesn`t seem
difficult, especially with the number of incidents that Senator Feinstein
was talking about recently, to realize that, hey, this should have been a
warning about flying over this region.
ROMAN: Yes. We`ve had, since 1960, about 18 commercial airliners shot
down, most of them in areas of hostilities.
There were warnings. The European authorities, aviation authorities,
reported and recommended that this area be avoided by its member states
back in April. As recent as May, the FAA issued similar warnings.
So, why anyone was flying over this area that`s hotly contested now makes
no sense to any airline pilot I know.
O`DONNELL: Is it a timing issue? Obviously it`s the chosen route. It`s
the one they save the most time, right?
ROMAN: Well, they save the most time, they save the most fuel. Airlines -
O`DONNELL: There is a cost issue in these routes.
ROMAN: There is no question about it, yes.
O`DONNELL: And, General McCaffrey, do you think what`s happened today
should be helpful in using new criteria for deciding where the safe flying
routes are in the future?
MCCAFFREY: Well, one hopes so. I mean, it`s always, by the way, a
national indemnity problem where nations don`t want to declare that they
were in a public air zone. So, both the Russian, the separatists, and
Ukrainians would not really magnify the degree of the problem.
This is a huge localized conflict. It`s going to get worse, not better.
The ground flight to retake Donetsk could be severe. It`s a real question
why any airline would have flown within reach of these kind of missile
You don`t talk about enemy intentions, you talk about enemy capabilities.
And this was clearly an ongoing air defense combat zone.
O`DONNELL: General Barry McCaffrey and Anthony Roman, thank you both for
joining me tonight.
Coming up, more details about the rebels who at first today took credit for
downing that plane and then went quiet.
O`DONNELL: It`s 5:16 a.m. in Gaza. Up next, Steve Clemons and Ambassador
Marc Ginsberg will join me in the situation there with Israel raising the
stakes with ground troops.
And later, more about the rebels where the Malaysian airliner was shot
O`DONNELL: Just hours after news broke of the plane shot down in Ukraine,
Israel invaded the Gaza Strip following Hamas` rejection of a cease fire
plan earlier this week.
NBC`s Richard Engel is in Gaza City with the latest -- Richard.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Lawrence, this ground
offensive is under way. For the last several hours, we`ve seen Israeli
strikes from the sea, we`ve seen tracer fire over Gaza City, we`ve been
hearing frequent loud explosions, seen illumination rounds hanging in the
sky. These are rounds that Israel fires so that its drones and fighters
can see better what`s been going on in Gaza.
This is just the early stages of this operation. And we`ve been given
pretty specific explanations of what Israel hopes to achieve with this
ground offensive. Israel says it`s focusing on tunnels. These are tunnels
being dug by Hamas, not to import goods like the tunnels they have had here
for many years from Egypt, these are infiltration tunnels that Hamas
militants specifically use to burrow under the border, between Gaza and
Israel. Enter Israel and try to carry out attacks against Israeli towns or
kidnap Israeli settlers or Israeli soldiers.
These tunnels by definition are located right around the border area
between Gaza and Israel, and Israel is now telling the people of Gaza to
stay away from these border towns, to stay away from the border entirely.
It could be a kind of limited ground invasion. It doesn`t seem that Israel
wants to enter the built-up areas, doesn`t want to take over Gaza, doesn`t
want to take responsibility for the roughly 2 million Palestinians who live
here in the Gaza Strip.
The problem is whenever you launch a war, whenever you launch a ground
invasion, things rarely, if ever, go to plan. We`re not sure how long this
is going to last. Israeli officials have talked about two weeks, perhaps,
to destroy most of these tunnels. But already, there has been fighting.
Hamas says it is sending commandos to confront the Israeli tanks and
artillery, and make no mistake. This is a big invasion force. Israel says
a large incursion force is involved with infantry, tanks, artillery, field
engineers backed up by the Navy, backed up by the air force.
Lawrence, this could be just early days.
O`DONNELL: NBC`s Richard Engel in Gaza, thank you very much.
And joining me now, Steve Clemons, Washington editor at large for "The
Atlantic" and MSNBC contributor, and former U.S. ambassador to Morocco,
Marc Ginsberg. He`s a former White House adviser on the Middle East.
Marc, what is the Israeli calculation with ground troops now? Especially
at the end of what`s been a few days of the world`s perception of what`s
going on there has not been in Israel`s favor.
MARC GINSBERG, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO MOROCCO: Agreed, Lawrence. There
is no doubt that right now, as Richard just said, it`s conceivable that
this is a limited military engagement to basically not only destroy
tunnels, but also deplete Hamas` capacity to launch missiles into Israel.
But there may be more here. There is no doubt that what Israel would like
to do see an end to Hamas` political and military rule over Gaza. Israel
would like to see the Palestinian Authority back in control of Gaza.
We have to wait and see yet, and it remains to be seen whether, indeed,
this is a few weeks or it could turn out to be several months. The more
Israel gets deeper into Gaza, the deeper it is basically to try to rule out
The Israeli cabinet, just a few hours ago, and I just read this off the
Hebrew text that just came out of that cabinet meeting. There are
ministers who are saying that our goal is to rid Gaza of Hamas` political
control. And that is going to be a far deeper incursion than maybe perhaps
Richard is suggesting.
O`DONNELL: Steve Clemons, is that possible?
STEVE CLEMONS, THE ATLANTIC: No, it`s not, and I think Marc Ginsberg is
absolutely right in reading what they would like to do. But what we`ve
seen from Palestinians who feel as if they`ve been occupied, humiliated in
a very long process where their rights have not been upheld or paid any
attention, Hamas looks to them or any groups that are extreme as their
rights of interest in this complicated region.
So, in my view the notion that Israel could go into Palestinians, any part
of Palestinian, including Gaza, and make -- impose a political choice and
political options upon the Palestinians ensures, in fact, that they
continue with an extreme route. It`s very worrisome what Israel is doing.
O`DONNELL: Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to Benjamin Netanyahu.
Here`s the State Department`s readout of what happened in that
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: We have been heartbroken by the
high civilian death toll in Gaza, including the death of four innocent
Palestinian children as they were playing on a beach in Gaza just
yesterday. It was -- the reports were horrifying, the photos were
horrifying, the video was horrifying.
The tragic event makes it clear that Israel must take every possible step
to meet its standards to keep civilians from being killed. We will
continue to underscore that point to Israel. The secretary has made that
point directly as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Marc Ginsberg, it seems Israel has moved beyond the killing of
GINSBERG: Yes, there`s no doubt that the civilian casualties, and the
Palestinians, it`s terrible to see them suffering because they`re caught,
for all intents and purposes, in prison.
O`DONNELL: They have no way to run.
GINSBERG: There`s nowhere to run. But before this incursion, Hamas had
lost such political support inside Gaza. I spent a lot of time just came
back from there just three days ago. And we have an office in Gaza, the
foundation that I run. There is no doubt the incursion has to deal with
not only Hamas` continued use of missiles but a more inflamed population
And the fact there is no way to avoid what the Israelis wish to avoid,
which is civilian casualties. There is inevitably going to be civilian
casualties as well as civilian troops who will be injured or killed.
O`DONNELL: Steve Clemons, it seems Israel was eager to step in the
direction of the cease fire that Hamas then rejected, and oftentimes in
these kinds of situations, the weaker organization can win by losing, since
what they`re in is not so much a tactical battle to win today but the
winning of hearts and minds longer term.
CLEMONS: Well, I think that Israel had a suspicion that Hamas would not
accept. I mean, Israel may have been genuine and sincere about the support
of a cease-fire, but Hamas has no back door right now. Egypt has shut
itself off. It sees Hamas as an extension and part of the Muslim
Brotherhood which it has basically outlawed and sent underground in Egypt.
And so, in that particular case, Hamas was not going to exceed to a cease-
fire because they feel as if they are being caught in a vise. And
simultaneously, they`re in a political pressure. The failure of the peace
talks have consequences. So, when John Kerry went home and said, "We`re
done", everyone has to move to a new political posture.
In that case, Hamas was being looked at as an entity by many Palestinians
that was tipping in the direct of Fatah. Too much complacency, too little
effort to basically deal with the contending issues of Israel, and other
more radical groups were trying to grab the ring of being the genuine
opponent to Israel.
So, Hamas in a very odd way, even though we see a lot of destruction, we
see a very intent Israel, is the one that may feel that it`s benefiting
more than any other party from this conflict.
O`DONNELL: Mr. Ginsberg, you have an advantage that many other officials
don`t, of actually being in Gaza and having the feel of what`s going on
there. What would you advise the Israelis to do next?
GINSBERG: I think what`s clear is Israel cannot accept continued from Gaza
against its population, no matter what maybe any justification.
Hamas is a terrorist organization. Let`s make sure everybody understands
that. They were the ones who started launching these missiles into Israel.
It`s not the first time, and Israel has to end the constant harassment of
its population, notwithstanding the fact that Israel has not had to deal
with the consequences of a lot of civilian casualties because it has the
Iron Dome system.
So I think what Israel has to do is be able -- and its leadership has to be
able to say to the Israeli population, we stopped it. They will no longer
be able to launch missiles into Israel and we`re going to stop the
infiltration and the terrorist support that it receives from Iran.
O`DONNELL: Steve, quickly, what would your advice to Israel be?
CLEMONS: Well, I agree with Marc about the missiles. At the same time, I
would say get on a genuine path to talking about borders and security and
set up something aspirational so that the majorities of both sides of
Israel and Palestine, which have largely supported a deal, can see some
positive road down the road. Otherwise, folks go violent.
And on top of what Marc said, I think the other thing is you`ve got an
institutionalized harassment of Palestinians that are under occupation.
Anyone that goes through checkpoints in Israel see this regularly. The
taunting and humiliation of Palestinians is actually unforgivable and it
creates the very problem and support for the sort of terrorism Marc is
talking about that we`re seeing unfold. They must pull that plug and they
just don`t do it.
O`DONNELL: Steve Clemons and former Ambassador Marc Ginsberg, thank you
both for joining me tonight.
Coming up, more on what kind of missile was fired at the plane and who
could be behind that attack. It`s a very short list of suspects.
O`DONNELL: As we`ve been reporting tonight, senior U.S. officials told NBC
News Malaysian airlines flight 17 was shot down today by a surfaced to air
missile earlier today. While U.S. intelligence analysts are still trying
to determine exactly who is responsible, today`s news comes after the
Ukrainian government accused Russia of shooting down an SU-25 attack jet on
Wednesday. And earlier this week, a Ukrainian cargo plane was also shot
down amid reports that rebels had seized soviet Euro missile systems
capable of bringing down aircraft.
Although no group has claimed responsibility for today`s tragedy, the
investigation of what type of weapon was used and by whom has just begun.
Joining me now is editor of The Interpreter and columnist for foreign
policy, , Michael Weiss.
Michael, there was a claim of credit earlier in the day and what happened
MICHAEL WEISS, EDITOR, THE INTERPRETER: So the claim was made by
(INAUDIBLE) who is a -- he is the self-styled commander in chief of the
separatist movement. He`s also a European Union and Ukrainian security
services, a member of the GRU, which is to say Russia`s military
He posted to a social media platform called V-Contacta, which is Russia`s
version of facebook. The page that -- this has been used by him for months
to put out his press statements and messages. He posted that today we have
successfully down the Ukrainian cargo plane. And he mentioned the city or
the neighborhood, the region where the Malaysian airline had crashed. And
then he said, we warned them not to fly in our skies. That was the first
piece of evidence.
The second piece of evidence I will point to is the official twitter
account of the Peoples Republic of Donetsk, which is the name of the
administrative government of the separatists. Posted several days ago, a
photo of the Buk anti-aircraft missile systems and they said, look at the
new toys that we`ve got. Well, both Colonel (INAUDIBLE) statement and that
tweet were deleted within hours of the system.
O`DONNELL: And the colonel who did this posted is a serious player in
this, he`s not some fringe guy?
O`DONNELL: This is someone who knows --
WEISS: If he is a GRU agent, he is essentially -- Well, he is a Russian
O`DONNELL: Now, that same page where that was posted, that has just been
posted, apparently, a statement saying there will be no truce.
Also today, Michael, I want to get your view of this intercept -- there is
some intercepted conversations, allegedly, that the Ukrainian government
has put out transcripts of indicating, basically, conversations about this
kind of panicky conversations indicating it looks like maybe we made a big
mistake. What is your reading of those?
WEISS: Well, the Ukrainian security services, the SBU, claims to have
intercepted these communications. There are two separate ones. The first
one that was released today features a man called Eco Bezler. His nickname
is Demon on the ground. This man, his voice is very distinct.
O`DONNELL: Did they release the audio tapes?
WEISS: They did, yes. And that my team has interpreted, translate it.
O`DONNELL: They`ve listened to it?
WEISS: Yes. And what`s interesting about this is, Bezler last week
participated in a quote, unquote, "press conference" in Donetsk, presided
over by a Russian theater director, claiming to the for the Russia civil
society, but clearly representative over the Kremlin.
And this was a very interesting thing. It has the aura of theater,
something that was staged for propaganda value. But essentially it was the
Russian theater director accusing Bezler and not even seeming to know that
he was talking to a leading Ukrainian or pro-Russian separatist of
cowardice because the separatist had just lost the city of Slavyansk in
And Bezler, for the first time on record and in a recorded press
conference, admitted that Russia had sent tanks and armored vehicles to
Slavyansk. And he said, well, you only gave us three tanks. That wasn`t
anything. And then this Russian representative said more help is on the
way. You`ll get heavy material, you will get tanks and armored personal
carriers and anti-aircraft missile systems.
O`DONNELL: What is your judgment about these intercepted conversation that
have been released today. Do you think they`re credible?
WEISS: The SBU is very, very good about playing information warfare with
the Russians. I mean, you`ll recall, you know, there were mysterious lead
conversations and Victoria (INAUDIBLE). Very clearly well done by the
Russians intelligence. The Ukrainians, I mean, the SBU, it was essentially
created by the soviets. So, it`s a hangover of the soviet regime.
So they want to be very clear, like we know exactly who did this. And my
guess is look, you had Vice President Biden today come out and say in no
uncertain terms this plane was shot down out of the sky. U.S. intelligence
confirmed it was a surfaced air missile. There`s been coordination between
Ukraine and the United States. Petroshank, the new Ukraine president, said
immediately we welcome U.S. assistance and investigation to find out what
My guess is the SBU are releasing this knowing that the United States knows
for sure that this was done a separatists. The N.S.A., I`m sure, have
intercepted communications between Moscow and these guys on the ground
probably along the lines of what in the hell did you guys just do?
And you`ll recall the way the U.S. is absolutely 100 percent sure that
Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons in Syria last summer, and this
according to "the Wall Street Journal" which reported several months ago,
communications intercepted between Moscow and Damascus, again, what in the
hell did you guys just do?
So the United States knew within probably minutes of what really happened.
And my guess is there is a level of coordination. We are using the
Ukrainian security services and the Ukrainian government to essentially
leak the stuff that we do not feel comfortable doing.
O`DONNELL: The Russian side of this conversations is clearly, this is a
real bad thing they`ve done. What do you expect the Russian reaction in
term -- we may not necessarily see it, but what is Russia saying to these
people right now behind the scenes?
WEISS: My guess would be, OK, amateur hour is over, Colonel Strokoff,
there is a new sheriff in town. And actually, I wrote a piece for Foreign
Policy last week talking about what seems to be some very clear cleavages
or skims within the separatists movement.
There is another group on the ground called (INAUDIBLE). What`s
interesting about this is that`s the exact name of a Russian military unit,
of also run by the GRU, that is Russia`s military intelligence. Largely
consistent of Chechen-Dagestan`s people from the caucuses. It was
supposedly disbanded in 2008, but suddenly it`s reconstituted under the
same name in Ukraine. The man heading battalion is actually a defector
from the SBU. So he used to work for the Ukrainian security service in
Donetsk, part of the Alpha division. And all of a sudden he appears
leading this Russian military intelligence run will stop battalion,
probably indicating he was always a Russian spy. And then the Ukrainians
will say, we have a big problem with infiltration and this has been the
case since you are my down and beyond.
So this guy and this battalion, the clearest evidence yet that the Kremlin
wants professionals or whatever they call ii, adult supervision. And Mr.
Strokoff `s (ph) currency seem to be dropping somewhat amongst mainstream
Russians and within the Kremlin.
It`s been rising, however, in Russia among ultra nationalists who
essentially think that Putin is whipped. They want him to invade and in
next is east Ukraine such as he did in Crimea.
O`DONNELL: Michael Weiss, columnist for Foreign Policy. Thank you very
WEISS: Sure, my pleasure.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Coming up, the downing of that Malaysian jet in Ukraine comes one day after
President Obama announced new sanctions against Russia. The political
ramifications for Putin and president Obama and Europe, coming up.
O`DONNELL: You are watching a live shot of the door of Air Force One,
which has just taken the President from New York City to Andrews air force
base. What is unusual about it is that the plane has been there for about
30 minutes now, and the President has not emerged. That usually means that
the President is engaged in an uninterruptible telephone call, which would
have to be of the utmost importance at this stage to keep him in the plane
that length of time. And we will keep an eye on what`s going on there.
At the top of the hour, we reported that the United States has told U.S.
carriers that they should not be flying over Ukraine. Other airlines
tonight are making exactly the same decision. Russia`s airlines, Turkish
airlines, Lufthansa, Singapore airlines, Taiwan`s, Viva Air and China
airlines, all said they will not be flying over Ukraine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`ve repeatedly made it
clear that Russia must halt the flow of weapons and fighters across the
border into Ukraine, that Russia must urge separatists to release their
hostages and support a cease fire. I made this clear directly to Mr.
Putin. So far Russia has failed to take any of the steps that I mentioned.
In fact, Russia`s support for the separatists and violations of Ukraine`s
sovereignty has continued.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Today`s tragic event came only one day after President Obama
announced tougher sanctions on Putin and Russia for their continued
interference in the conflict in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin is blaming Ukraine
saying this tragedy would not have occurred if there was peace in that land
without question. The state over whose territory this took place bears
responsibility for this awful tragedy. The Ukraine president referred to
the downed plane as a terrorist act.
Joining me now is Adrian Karatnycky, a senior fellow at the Atlantic
Adrian, the President has just emerged from air force one. We had just --
we previously showed a live picture of the door. He is now in marine one
helicopter taking him to the White House. But he sat in that plane for
half an hour at Andrews air force base before getting out. And it strikes
me there are only two people in the world at this moment who could keep him
on the phone that long, if that`s what it was, an uninterrupted phone call.
That would be Benjamin Netanyahu or Vladimir Putin. If it was Vladimir
Putin, what would they have been discussing tonight?
ADRIAN KARATNYCKY, SENIOR FELLOW, ATLANTIC COUNCIL: Well, I think there
are two alternatives. One is that the president tried to place the call
and the other is that Putin placed the call. If Putin placed the call, I
would say that that would be a sign that Putin is looking for some wiggle
room to walk this back. This is in some ways and not without exact
parallels, Putin`s Lockerbie. That is to say, a movement he has financed
and supported, weapons that he has provided and skilled operatives that he
has infiltrated into Ukraine who were responsible, most likely, for a
terrible tragedy and for the widening of this conflict and the making of an
international conflict from what had been an internal scene, a local one.
And so, I think that if Putin wants to walk it back, this is the time, at
breakfast time very early in the morning, to have that conversation with
If it`s the president calling him, it`s another sign. It`s a sign that the
president is ratcheting up or trying to send additional strong signals to
him about the evidence that they may have and trying to force him to walk
back his rather bold and brazen claims that it`s the Ukrainians who are
behind shooting in their own air space.
O`DONNELL: His phrasing, of course, Putin`s phrasing is always stilted and
leaves room for certain things. You could read it as not necessarily a
denial about who did it, but the reason any of this kind of thing is
happening, of course, is because Ukraine has lost control of itself and the
government has lost control of the country.
Your reference to Lockerbie is apt, I think. I hadn`t really considered
that, but just for the younger members of the audience, that`s when Muammar
Gadhafi from Libya was in effect financing the people who took down the Pan
Am 747 that went down in Scotland and Lockerbie with a huge loss.
KARATNYCKY: Exactly. And more importantly, it was the moment where he
became something more than a quirky north African leader or Arab leader and
became a worldwide menace. And I think that that is sort of the danger of
Putin`s game in Ukraine. He has thrown so much lethality into this local
struggle. And he has put in so many 40s from Russia and Russian weapons
and Russian financing that it is now, you know, cresting outside of Ukraine
and engaging the outside world.
O`DONNELL: I don`t want to lose sight of the fact that the real tragedy
and the important story today is what happened when that plane was hit and
the lives that were lost when that plane was hit. But it does happen in a
geopolitical hot spot, and we have to discuss what the policy implications
of that are. And it seems that, Adrian, the last two days have been very
bad ones for Vladimir Putin in relations with the United States, first the
president amping up the sanctions and then this, which clearly is something
Putin has to know is going to have a very bad effect on his ability to deal
with the United States.
KARATNYCKY: Absolutely, and I think that`s really the great mystery. The
mystery is that originally it was clear that Putin had that easy takeover
of Crimea. And then he felt that he could walk in through surrogates and
through proxies and through some local disgruntled portion of Ukraine
society. And to try to create a broader split in Ukrainian territory.
He met with a lot of resistance. He didn`t meet with a lot of public
support. And yet he insists now in transforming a strategy to say break a
wave part of Ukraine and (INAUDIBLE) to create a kind of ongoing zone of
conflict in Ukraine.
And I think that is not a strategy at all, it`s sort of -- it is kind of a
failure -- the failure of his original attempt, his vision that there was a
pro-Russian part of the Ukraine population that really wanted to be with
Russia has really been shown to be a complete fraud.
O`DONNELL: Adrian Karatnycky, thank you for joining me tonight.
KARATNYCKY: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, who should take charge of that investigation in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NAJIB RAZAK, MALAYSIAN PRIME MINISTER: We must and we will find out
precisely what happened to this flight. No stone will be left unturned.
If it conspires that the plane was indeed shot down, we insist that the
perpetrators must swiftly be brought to justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was the prime minister of Malaysia today asking for a full
investigation into what happened with Malaysian flight 17. The president
of Ukraine has established a commission to investigate the crash and asked
for the involvement of experts from the United Nations international civil
aviation association representative from the Netherlands and Malaysia.
The last time commercial plane was shot down by military forces was in July
3rd 1998, when the U.S. navy mistakenly shot down Iran air flight 655
killing 290 people, the same day both President Reagan and the chairman of
the joint chiefs of staff William Crowe expressed regret over the incident.
In a statement President Reagan called it a proper defensive action after
the U.S. Navy mistook the commercial plane for an Iranian jet fighter.
Iran eventually asked the United Nations to help investigate the crash, and
ultimately Iranian authorities sued the United States through a court of
justice winning $61.8 million for the victims and their families.
Joining me now by phone is Alan Diehl, a former investigator for the NTSB
and the United States air force. He is author of a book called "Air Safety
Alan, on the black boxes, there are reports tonight indicating that the
black box has been found. We can`t confirm this, but it has been found and
it is probably in the hands of the separatists rebels there. Can those --
can the black box be tampered with?
ALAN DIEHL, FORMER NTSB INVESTIGATOR (via phone): I don`t think they would
have the sophistication to do anything to change the recordings, Lawrence.
But obviously, they could destroy them or withhold them, and I think that
would be certainly a crime against humanity if they did that.
O`DONNELL: So if we were eventually able to get the black box, it is very
unlikely that they would have been able to change the information on them
or destroy some of the information and leave some of the information?
DIEHL: I don`t think they could go and selectively eliminate information.
That takes a very high level of technology. And there`s only a handful of
countries in the world that have laboratories that can do that. I don`t
think they could do that. Obviously, they could withhold them or destroy
them. But those black boxes should have survived the fall, if you will,
the impact, and we`ve all seen the horrific pictures of the wreckage on the
O`DONNELL: There are some military authorities here in the states
suggesting that we don`t really need an NTSB style investigation because
they already know exactly what caused this. They know that there was a
missile fired and that`s what brought it down. What`s your reaction to
that? Is that enough?
DIEHL: Well, I have to agree that it would be pretty well -- at least, we
think we know what caused this particular incident on the Malaysia 17. But
the NTSB brings a lot of capability to the table in terms of whether or not
this aircraft could have been flown.
Now, we saw the pictures, I guess there were cell phone pictures of it,
falling out of the sky. This was a very robust soviet-made radar guided
missile. But still, I think the NTSB could add something to this.
Obviously, the U.S. air force state this that are can be valuable. So I
hope the Ukrainians will ask the American government for their help and we
all know that the U.S. has got a lot of satellites that`s been aimed at
this border area around the Ukrainian-Russian. So we - I think the
satellite images from the American assets would be helpful also.
O`DONNELL: Alan Diehl, thank you very much for joining me today.
DIEHL: You`re welcome.
O`DONNELL: Ari Melber continues our live coverage.
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