Meet the Press   |  March 23, 2014

Missing Malaysian Flight Still a Mystery

A fourth day of searching for a missing Malaysian still leaves investigators stumped, but scattered debris may hold a clue.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> the first this morning, we're going to get the latest on the certainly for the missing malaysian airlines plane 370. i'm joined by bill neely , still in perth australia, the base for this is search mission. bill, good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning, david. a fourth day of searching has ended here. a fleet of planes from the u.s., from australia and new zealand out today, four military, four civilian. the focus of their search is really twofold. first of all, big debris and the breaking news is that a french satellite has picked up images of objects in the southern search area. now, it's still not clear what those objects are, but this is the second day that we've had a new satellite image . that's three satellite images overall. but the crews are also looking for something very small, specifically a wooden cargo pallet and some straps or belts, multicolored. those two things seen by a civilian aircraft. now, the problem is, for these crews flying at 200 miles an hour just a few hundred feet above the water, trying to find a wooden cargo pallet in choppy seas is difficult. secondly, it could just have easily have come from a passing ship as from a crashing plane. the crews, their morale is good, they're optiinistic. the problem is that the mystery of this missing plane remains even, as all those crews, all this hi-tech be machinery is focused on trying to find it. david?

>> bill kneeingy for us in australia. thank thanks so much. i'm joined by michael chertoff , also by bob haiger, long-time aviation correspondent for nbc. great to have both of you. the fact that there's debris that's scattered around, if you put it together, do you think that's significant?

>> yes. they're starting to get a lot of satellite photos of this. i wonder if they're all seeing the same pieces of debris. you've got to the hope it's from this plane.

>> of course. and perhaps it is, perhaps it's not. but about that is, we have the currents to worry about. you've got bad weather and wind. it's all about finding the black box which is actually not black but you've got an example of one.

>> here's the box. these pieces wouldn't tell you anything about the crash if they find them. if you can trace them back through the currents, this would be the prize, these twos black boxes . this is a flight today recorder. this is the important thing, the pinger, sends out an underwater pink for a month, month and a half after the crash. then you can zero in if you're near the pinger in the water.

>> that's the thing, getting near enough to it. this is a huge search area right now. how close do have to be?

>> about five, six miles. maybe even ten at the outside. you've got to have a a pretty good idea where it is. if they don't get a pinger, boy.

>> it could be lost. it's a race against time . how much time have they got?

>> well, on the pinger i'd say maybe another month before it runs out. then they found objects in the water mile, a couple miles down years later. but they always had a better idea where to look. in this case, if we don't hear the pinger, i'm wondering if they'll ever find any of it.

>> mike chertoff , this is a primal fear anybody has, you're on an airplane that goes down on vein issues. it may sound like a ni sieve question. in this age when we can find our iphone with gps, how do we lose sight after aircraft?

>> one of the questions is whether the malaysians were forthcoming what they saw in terms of radar or whether they held back information. so part of the problem is i think there was a scarcity of information at the beginning. and there may have been some misinformation, perhaps inadvertent. that's made it more difficult.

>> what do you worry about now? there's a scenario that took place we're trying to piece together. after 9/11 when we thought so much about aviation security , are there any things we need to learn.

>> i think there are. one of the theories is one or more of the pilots may have been involved in this. much of our screening has been focused on passengers. increasingly we face the question of inside threats. what do you do when people who are working in an organization or an enterprise become a problem. it could be pilots, it could be members of a crew. we've seen a variation of that with snowden. so i think the issue of screening and understanding when people are going off the rails inside the enterprise is going to become more of an issue.

>> as we look to this week upcoming, bob, in the certainly, in the investigation, what are the key milestones you want to look for this week?

>> you want to find wreckage. that's the big thing. you want to hear more about this investigation into the private lives of the cockpit crew. but if neither of those things, you know, reveals anything, we've got a case we may never know.

>> the current. the issue oshgraphers look at, how formidable is that? if you're finding some wreckage even now, the way this thing could be moving, how big a pieces?

>> they've got elaborate schemes on the computer where they can trace back currents in the ocean. even the best of hem in air france , that was five years ago off brazil. when the computer calculated it, they were about 40 miles off or something like that. computer calculations only get you so far. that's a really tough task to figure out where the main body of wreckage is.

>> but you've been doing for decades. we may never know.

>> that's my concern here. maybe already know enough to learn some lessons from what we know about not being able to trace things better and so forth. but we may never know what happened on this deal.

>> what do you look for this week on the investigation piece of it?

>> i think one of the key issues will be what did they find in the background of the pilots. i don't want to accuse them of anything. clearly, if there were something there.

>> blanking ot his flight demo machine at home?

>> again, you can speculate. there can be a motive that's benign or a more sinister motive. that's a key issue this week.

>> mike, bob haiger, thank you for your perspective as the mystery continues as the search effort does. we'll keep tabs