tv The Situation Room CNN April 22, 2014 3:00pm-4:01pm PDT
happening now, a cnn exclusive. new information about the next phase of the search for the flight 370. we could be only hours away from a critical turning point in the entire operation. plus, claims of terror and torture. ukraine launches a new crackdown against pro-russian forces after a shocking discovery, and now the u.s. is deploying hundreds of troops. and the first cry for help. we now know who placed the first distress call as a ferry was sinking, and it's raising more questions about the conduct of the crew. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room."
cnn is learning about a new agreement in the works right now to set critical guidelines in the search for flight 370. standby for exclusive new information. also this hour, the air search is expected to resume after being disrupted by a tropical cyclone. and the bluefin-21 is now on its tenth dive. it's almost finished scanning the current under water search area. cnn has a major presence in perth, australia, the base of the operations for the search, and we have our team of experts here in "the situation room" to break down all the new developments. let's bring in our justice correspondent pamela brown with the latest information. pamela? >> that's right. we're learning malaysian and australian officials are working together to come up with a long-term game plan if nothing turns occu s up in this targeteh area. the bluefin-21 is almost done
searching here. the underwater six-mile radius zone considered the most likely area where the plane went down. >> if they were thinking, if you remember, this was the bulls eye, they were going to through the one dart into the bulls eye, i think it might be time to make the bulls eye bigger and expand that area. >> crews could finish searching in the next day. if nothing is found, investigators will regroup, but it's not necessarily back to square one. >> we only have a specific amount of data, a certain amount of data that's led us to this part of the world. i think we have to be encouraged by the fact we've been led to this very specific and small part of the indian ocean. >> the bluefin has only searched around the second ping, which was thought to be the most likely area. now officials are working out an agreement for what comes next. it includes what happens to any debris when it is found. how human remains will be treated, and the undersea search. investigators could widen or ship the underwater search zone, perhaps to include more pings,
or change techniques, like using a towed underwater vehicle that could cover a larger area, but the passengers' families aren't convinced experts are doing everything they should. >> we'll keep going back to wanting to start over with the investigation. what they are doing now, searching in the ocean, is like continuing to try to bail out a boat when the hole in the boat hasn't even been found yet. >> meanwhile, surface ships continue scouring the seas for wreckage, search planes were curtailed today. it's the second time a major storm like this has torn through this area since the malaysian plane went missing. in beijing today, families of passengers on the plane hoping for a technical briefing were disappointed for a second day in a row. it comes after a briefing monday where expected technical experts did not arrive. >> there's nothing much i can tell you.
>> and, meanwhile, the head of the investigation's next of kin committee is traveling to beijing to meet with chinese officials and families. and one more note, wolf, we know experts are still examining the hard drives of the captain and copilot, but so far nothing too suspicious. >> fbi experts? >> malaysian officials, as well, poking around on the hard drives and following up on leads. >> the hard drives from the computers from the pilot and the copilot and the simulator that the pilot had in his home? >> they are still examining it as they have in the very beginning. not that they are going back to look at it, it's been an ongoing process since the fbi received those hard drives. >> stand by. let's go to perth, australia now. miguel marquez is our man on the scene for us. you've got more exclusive reporting on the next phase of the search, miguel. what can you tell us about a time table? >> reporter: well, look, there's two different time tables. one, they want to finish the search they are doing now and
looks like they are just about completed with that. if they do not find that airliner down there, they will regroup, go back to the drawing board, figure out whether or not they are going to search in that area or if they are going to broaden out that search in a much bigger fashion using different devices in order to scan larger parts of the ocean, or as in the case of 447, air france 447, use several underwater vehicles all at the same time, so they are on a 24/7 sort of basis looking at a wide swath of the ocean there. they know the plane is down there, it's just a matter of finding it. at the same time that is happening, malaysian officials talking to australian officials and others about the way forward once they find that wreckage, how that debris is processed, and most importantly, how the dead, the individuals who remain on that plane, how they are taken from that and how they are processed and identified once they are brought to the surface.
wolf? >> i take it the weather has improved the aerial search on this day at least will continue? >> reporter: yeah, we believe the aerial search will be back up. the cyclone has now turned into a low pressure system and it's rainy out there and there's lots of waves, so that tends to make the surface search very, very difficult. they've flown in worse conditions, but it is so many days on since that plane went down, it would be difficult in perfect conditions for them to find something, so they may let it go for another day. wolf? >> miguel marquez in perth, australia. thank you. if and when the plane's black boxes are found, experts in australia, they say they are ready to help analyze the data, a job that's a lot more complicated than you might think. michael holmes gives us an exclusive look into a lab where that investigation might play out. >> reporter: in a nondiscrypt government building, the secrets
of malaysia flight 370 might one day be unlocked. what's this room, neil? >> well, this is our audio laboratory. it's a specially designed screen room so it's shielded. >> electronics and audio? >> outside signals. as well, it's got very good soundproofing. >> reporter: inside the australian transport laboratory where neil and his team forensically examine recorders from planes, trains, even ships. there are very few countries in the world, just a handful of them, that have the technical know how to work out what's inside one of these things, and this lab is one of those places. boxes from other investigations torn apart, burned, damaged in many ways, suggest a tougher assignment, but here they say the story of what happened is usually found. >> a lot of our work is with undamaged recorders and it's easy to download. >> really with really damaged ones, your success rate in
getting the information off is good. >> yes, we've been able to recover the information from the recorders we've received. >> reporter: he's a measured, cautious man, prerequisites for a job that includes not just knowledge, but patience, lots of patience. >> we obtain a raw data file, which contains just ones and zeros. >> reporter: the boxes contain a wealth of information, up to 2,000 separate pieces from the data recorder alone. high technology built into a waterproof, fireproof, shockproof shell. at the end of this complex chain of information and analysis can be this, an animated representation of the tragedy. this one from a 2010 training flight, two dead after a simulated engine failure went wrong. >> a lot of the symmetry, which couldn't be controlled, and the aircraft ended up impacting the terrain, unfortunately. >> you were able to recreate this thing from the black boxes. >> that's right. this is based on flight data
recorder information. >> reporter: the size of the boxes is deceptive in some ways. the vast majority of it containing technology that supports the brain very deep within. surprisingly small, but containing everything neil campbell needs on a handful of computer chips. in a box this big, that's what you need? >> yep. that's the crucial bit. >> reporter: but they have to be found first. malaysia, not a country with the technical ability to decipher the boxes. nothing's been decided, but it is highly possible that if they are found, they will end up here, where neil campbell and his team say they are ready to attempt to unlock a mystery like no other. michael holmes, cnn, australia. >> let's bring in our panel of experts, our aviation expert, peter goelz, tom fuentes, and jeffrey thomas, editor and chief of airlineratings.com. the australians or the u.s., who
should take charge of investigating the so-called black box, the flight data recorder, if it's found? >> i think there's a good chance that if the australians get it, they've have some help from the ntsb when they go through the analysis, so i think it will be a joint effort, but from all accounts, both are the best. both are outstanding. >> i know your former colleagues at the ntsb, the national transportation safety board, they'd like to get the first crack at this. >> they certainly would, and they feel they have the most experience of any safety board in the world at taking down and getting the data out of a damaged fdr, but, you know, they've worked with the australians, they'll work with them again. this is going to be a joint effort and it's going to go to the lab that's got the right equipment to do the job right the first time. >> technically, jeffrey, the malaysians have control. supposedly authority to give this recovered flight data recorder, cockpit voice
recorder, to anyone they want to inspect it. i assume politically it might be more advantageous for malaysia to let the australians have a crack at it other than the u.s. what's your sense? >> well, that's an interesting observation, but possibly the thing that might govern this is the fact that the locality of australia with malaysia, it's much closer, obviously, and as has been suggested, i believe that if australia does get the boxes to examine and decode, they've got all the equipment necessary, the same as the united states, obviously, but the u.s. would work with australians on this, so it really would be a joint effort based possibly in cambra because of the geography of being so close to malaysia. >> what's the latest, jeffrey, you're hearing on the ground in perth about the search operation, the aerial search, the underwater search, what's going on? >> reporter: my sense on this
now is that there may be one or two more missions of the bluefin to cover this initial second ping area that they are looking at. this is where the strongest ping was. my understanding is, by then may move it to the first ping, which is further north, but i don't believe they'll then go to the third and the fourth ping, so that's what i believe they'll do with the bluefin-21, but there is serious consideration now to bring in other assets like the towed orion, which gives data in realtime. also able to go deeper. so i think the next phase will probably be a two-part situation, where we move to the first ping and possibly deploy the orion, as well. >> tom, there was an interesting tweet today from the acting transport minister of malaysia. i'll put it up on the screen. "i was told that the chinese
navy also has deep sea search capability. going to check with them tomorrow." the chinese are not going to be brought into the underwater search operations? >> good question. i don't know, you know, whether he's making that statement politically to, you know, show cooperation with china, you know, we don't know -- >> as far as you know, peter, do the chinese have an excellent underwater search capability that maybe the u.s. or the australians don't have? >> i would guess anyone that's got a serious submarine fleet has underwater search capable. i'm surprised this is the first time they've asked the chinese what their assets are. i would have asked within the first week or ten days all the countries involved would have let the malaysians know what assets they have. >> maybe you know more about this than i do, a couple weeks ago the chinese do have something, the blue dragon, something along those lines, that can go deep under water to incredible depths. do you know anything about this?
>> look, indeed, they do have that capability. i'm not exactly sure of the name, but it does end with dragon, i do know that, but they do have that capability. they've demonstrated it recently, and, in fact, wolf, as you suggested, it's pretty well common knowledge that they are one of the handful of countries that does have that capability. >> jeffrey thomas, peter goelz, tom fuentes, guys, thanks very much. more on this story later. but let's get to another major story we're following right now. u.s. troops, they are on the move to response to rising tensions with russia and ukraine. the pentagon announced it's expanding military exercises in poland and the baltic region. a total of 600 u.s. troops will be involved, all this as ukraine ordered a new antiterror crackdown, citing the recovery of two tortured bodies and claiming the crimes were
committed with pro-russian forces. daniel bayer, with the group trying to monitor this crisis in ukraine. ambassador, thanks very much for joining us. first of all, what do you make of the two bodies, one member of parliament who were apparently tortured and killed? >> well, obviously, wolf, there have been a series of very concerning human rights violations that have gone on, particularly since the russian incursion in crimea began. there's been many reports of torture in crimea since russian troops came in there, and these two latest incidents of torture are deeply concerning. in addition, we've seen journalists taken hostage in recent days. tonight there's a young american journalist reported to have been captured. we, obviously, have great concern about all of these human rights abuses and it's part of the reason we've been working so hard to bring a solution to the
instability. >> you're talking about the american journalist, is that who you're talking about? >> exactly. he's been really intrepid, wolf. he's been doing reporting on the ground for the last few weeks, and i think a lot of us who follow ukraine day by day, hour by hour, have depended on him and a bunch of other young independent journalists just like him who have been really getting information out in the midst of really, really tough circumstances. so certainly our thoughts are with him and his family tonight. >> so who's responsible, based on everything you know, ambassador, for the abduction of this american journalist? >> well, i don't think we know exactly who's responsible right now. we have heard reports that he's been taken. there have been some things on social media in the last hour. i was seeing reporting that he is not harmed, but, obviously, it's a very murky situation, and
this really underscores the need to de-escalate the situation. we've been making clear for weeks now that russia's participation in the instability is unhelpful, it's unjustified, it's not contributing to a de-escalation on the ground, and, obviously, after the talks last week in geneva on thursday, we had some hope that immediately steps could be taken to de-escalate the situation. unfortunately, russia has not taken the steps that it needs to take to implement that statement in geneva. >> these monitors who have been sent in from the organization for security and cooperation in europe, and you're the u.s. ambassador, how secure are they, how safe are they, when they go into these areas? >> well, obviously, they are intrepid and doing great work on
behalf of the whole international community. there are over 40 countries represented in the monitors on the ground right now, and we care a great deal about their safety and, in fact, today in a special permanent counsel meeting in vienna, i called on all 57 states in the osc to take steps to ensure the safety of those monitors, because we do depend on them, on the information they are providing, the independent assessment they are providing on the ground. today in vienna it was also decided we'd immediately take steps to raise the levels, number of monitors from 100 to 500, which is allowed in the mandate. >> those photos that the ukrainians released yesterday showing russian paramilitary forces being responsible for at least part of the takeover of eastern ukraine, those buildings of the ukrainian government, do
you have any doubt that this is an operation that's being undertaken by the russian government? >> i think there are more than just one set of photos. there's plenty of video evidence. all of the evidence that we've seen leads to the inevitable conclusion there's a russian hand behind what is going on in eastern ukraine. what is happening in eastern ukraine would not be happening without russia's engagement. that doesn't mean there aren't other actors engaged, but when we see these highly armed, highly professional paramilitaries taking over public buildings, it's clear they are being coordinated and organized and this is the reason we have called on russia to de-escalate, send the message to those illegally occupying these buildings that moscow does not support this illegal occupying of buildings.
moscow wants to take advantage of the amnesty and arms buyback that is available to them. that was what moscow committed to do through the foreign minister in geneva last thursday, to support that plan for those initial steps. we're still waiting for the russian federation to make good on its commitment. >> daniel baer, ambassador for the organization of security and cooperation in europe. thank you very much. the obama administration is struggling to handle the worst confrontation with russia since the cold war and is now facing similar challenges in response to the civil war in syria. our foreign affairs reporter is taking a closer look at all this for us. what are you seeing? >> the president has effectively taken the military option off the table. when the u.s. threats and consequences, do either president assad or putin find the "or else" threatening enough? horrific images of a possible chlorine attack in syria.
children gasping for breath, men choking and foaming at the mouth. even as inspectors on the ground rid syria of its most deadly chemical weapons, the regime continued to gas its own people. violating a deal which scrapped plans for u.s. military strikes. a deal held today by the secretary of state. >> we now have the majority percentage of chemical weapons moved out of syria, and we're moving on schedule to try to complete that task. >> reporter: critics say u.s. policy to contain president assad has been high on rhetoric. >> the syrian civil war is not solved. and yet syria has never been more isolated. >> reporter: but administration officials stress they are trying to change the military balance, sending american anti-tank missiles and other equipment to the opposition. yet assad seems unimpressed, even taunting the world this week of talk of re-election.
it's a similar u.s. playbook for dealing with ukraine and a similar problem. with no military threat, will other pressures work? >> we're united in our determinations to isolate russia and impose costs for russia's action. >> reporter: the white house says it wants to sever russia's political and economic ties to the world, suspending russia from the g8 and halting cooperations with nato. but putin has laughed off those costs. >> what you end up with is a big gap between western rhetoric and western action. >> reporter: joe biden warned moscow the price will go up if moscow reneges on a deal made last week to ease tensions. >> we have been clear that more provoktive behavior by russia will lead to more costs and greater isolation. >> and, wolf, u.s. officials can't point to any signs russia is holding up to its bargain
struck in geneva and warn a new round of sanctions could come as early this week, but analysts say there isn't a sense sanctions can change in moscow. putin has determined as long as he doesn't launch a full-on invasion of ukraine, he can live with the current costs. wolf? >> thank you, elise. still ahead, is an al qaeda bombmaker dead? could be one of the terror group's biggest losses since osama bin laden was killed. they reach a location where many teenage passengers may have been hunkered down. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪
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cross fire won't be seen tonight so we can bring you some new developments in some of the urgent stories we're following here in "the situation room." yemeni officials are now working to determine if this man, take a look, this man, al qaeda's chief bombmaker, was among those killed in a massive raid that targeted the group's branch in the arabian peninsula. our pentagon correspondent barbara starr is over at the pentagon working the story for us. barbara, what's the latest information you're getting about these very dramatic weekend raids? >> wolf, ebrahim al asiri, al qaeda's master bombmaker, was he there? right now u.s. officials are telling us they don't think so. they know dna is being tested and will await the results, but for now they don't think they got him in this raid. what is so interesting, wolf, we have learned yemeni commanders were flown into southern yemen on sunday in russian-made helicopters piloted by
americans. they are not saying whether they were cia, u.s. military, special forces, but it was americans that piloted those helicopters, russian-made helicopters, into southern yemen to carry the yemeni commandos in. they wanted to maintain a low profile and didn't want it to look like american helicopters were there, but they needed expert pilots to go after these targets, including a major terrorist training camp. wolf? >> i know the u.s. government has had some time now to digest the videotape. you showed it to our viewers, the first reporter to do so last week of that massive meeting that these al qaeda in the arabian peninsula militants had in yemen, what, in march. what are the latest thoughts you're hearing from u.s. government sources? >> well, look, there's a couple of things they are looking at there that have been quite unsettled, you know, obviously, 100 al qaeda fighters thought they could get away with meeting out in the open, but look at that. look at those terrained
features. they even went a step further, they allowed themselves to be filmed with mountains, shrubbery, terrain showing, pretty easy for the yemenis to understand exactly the region where this was taking place when they see those terrain features. this is an area in two provinces. it looks like this, so it began to provide the key intelligence to figure out perhaps where some of these people were. and the key question is, was that intelligence critical enough, was it crucial, did it lead to those raids we saw over the weekend? wolf? >> barbara, stand by. i want to bring in peter burrgen and one of the few western reporters reporting from yemen. what are you hearing about this military operation? >> wolf, it's fascinating how much the yemenis are talking about this now. they are clearly hopeful that
this was, in fact, ibrahim al asiri. there have been times in the past they've been premature announcing the death of a high valued target. yemenis are saying there's very credible evidence they did kill him. they know they got a saudi, believe it was a high value target. the intel led to this area and they believe there's a chance now that they got him. if they did, that is a huge victory for them, but the yemenis are also saying it's not enough to take out the high valued targets. they need to continue the massive operations they've been under going with the americans, and they need to really try to degrade the capabilities and go after the training camps and those recruitment camps. >> peter, remind our viewers who al asiri, the master bombmaker, is. >> this is somebody that's pretty cold-blooded, sent his own brother to kill then-minister of the interior in
saudi arabia. that was the first time he came to public notice. that attack didn't succeed, but killed his brother. somebody who would send their own brother on a suicide operation is somebody cold-blooded. he also has great skills. he's managed to get undetectable bombs on both american passenger planes and cargo planes bound to the united states. both of those were detected. >> what are you hearing, barbara, when you hear reports of u.s.-yemeni cooperations, drone strikes, helicopter strikes going out to the targets, is this a new phase for the united states? is the u.s. now engaged in what they call boots on the ground in yemen? >> not boots on the ground per se, wolf, we are told no u.s. combat forces on this mission over the weekend on the ground. they did pilot the helicopters. what the u.s. has been doing off and on very quietly, u.s. special forces had been
assisting in training the yemenis in counterterrorism. why might we be seeing so much progress now to get after aqap, al qaeda in the arabian peninsula after months of it seeming to be on the back burner, well, there's a new government in yemen. they want to get after this group, but the yemenis are also seeing al qaeda come after targets in their own country, so they now have a much more motivation, perhaps, to get after al qaeda in their country and willing to take the u.s. assistance to do it. what the u.s. is worried about is people like ibrahim al asiri plotting to attack u.s. targets. that's the big worry, wolf? >> i assume, say they got this master bombmaker, ibrahim al asiri, he has trained apprentices that can fill the
void. >> they think asiri has trained others. his techniques can certainly survive him. >> there will be others who can get the job done, because usually when the u.s. or others go ahead and kill al qaeda elements, there's others who fill that vacuum. >> absolutely. time and again, wolf, we've seen top-tiered leadership figures in yemen taken out, and yet al qaeda and the arabian peninsula is a resurgent organization, they are still recruiting people, they are still plotting terror attacks, not just in yemen, outside of yemen, as well. what i'm hearing is the fact there are yemeni boots on the ground in these areas. these are very scary, difficult places to enter. the yemeni military does not want to go into places like this, so unless they feel sure they can take out high valued targets, they are not going to make that attempt. this indicates how serious they are. >> mohammad, peter, barbara
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breaking news. another jump in the death toll in the vooes yan ferry disaster. 128 people are now confirmed dead. 174 are missing, many of them teenagers. we're also learning more about what went wrong and who made that first desperate call for help. cnn's kyung lah is on a boat off the coast of south korea, very close to the submerged ship. kyung, what is the latest you're seeing and hearing? >> reporter: there is a desperate search, wolf, happening right under the water, under this sea that you're seeing right here. divers are using their hands to feel around the sunken ferry, because they simply cannot see. that's how murky this water is, so it is very dangerous. if you look and scan across the horizon, you'll see all of these military vessels. the reason why there are so many is that they are worried that
bodies may drift out of the ferry and disappear. while all of this is happening, the investigation into why this accident happened continues. today we learned that the first call for help came not from the captain, but from a boy onboard. the south korean coast guard tells cnn that call happened a full three minutes before the ship's crew made its first distress call. more grim news from the search zone, as search and rescue divers plunge into the cold, murky water, hoping to find survivors nearly a week after the tragedy. the search here is dangerous. divers swim down more than 100 feet, following guide ropes that lead them into the submerged ferry, where they can barely see a foot in front of them. the low visibility and debris make it nearly impossible for them to find their way around. authorities say the efforts are still a search and rescue operation, but no survivors have
been found since 174 people were rescued last week soon after the ferry went down. divers entered the ship's cafeteria on the ship's third floor tuesday and continue their focus on the third and fourth level inside the lounge and cabin areas where they believe many of the students are located. the tough conditions and high body count are taking a toll on divers. >> translator: the conditions are so bad, my heart aches. we're going in thinking there may be survivors. when we have to come back with nothing, we can't even face the families. >> reporter: meanwhile, two more crew members were arrested tuesday, bringing the total of those facing charges to nine. their heads bowed and covered. they said they tried to reach the life boats as the ship was tilting over. >> translator: well, we slipped, so we could not do that. >> reporter: the ferry operator has posted an apology on its website. we prostrate ourselves before the victims' families and beg
for forgiveness and pray for the dead. small consolation to family members on the shore, called into white dome tents to identify the remans of their loved ones. what you're looking at live back here at the search site, that is a crane. there are five of these cranes that are dotting the area. they are not being used yet. they signal the next phase of recovery. they will head toward the ferry and attempt to lift this ferry, it is 6,000 tons, wolf. it will not be very easy. wolf? >> based on everything you're hearing, kyung, do they really believe there are air pockets left inside that sunken ship and they might find some survivors? >> reporter: the government isn't saying that this is a recovery. they are calling this a search for survivors, but what you say and what you believe, they are two different things.
everyone here is saying that they are going to try to find survivors, that there may be air pockets, but what they believe every time you ask them, is this even a possibility, a lot of these divers start to cry. even government officials, police, they start to break down, because the possibility is so slim. >> heartbreaking story, indeed. kyung lah, thank you very much. just ahead, the united states supreme court's historic ruling today. could it mean the end, yes, the end of affirmative action on college campuses? we'll explain. and president obama's visiting with the families hit hardest by washington state's mudslide as the death toll climbs even higher. really... so our business can be on at&t's network for $175 dollars a month? yup. all five of you for $175.
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a criteria in college admissions. let's discuss what's going on. joining us, our senior legal analyst jeffrey toobin and laurie borger. jeff, is this an end to affirmative action on college campuses? >> well, it's the end of it in michigan. we'll see about the rest of the country, because, you know, the university of michigan said, we want to have affirmative action. we want to have race be one factor in admissions, but the voters of michigan voted that policy down. they said we don't want any affirmative action, 58% of the voters in michigan in a referendum said get rid of affirmative action. the supreme court said the voters had a right to do it. so, this could be a road map for other states, voters, state legislators, that want to get rid of affirmative action because now the supreme court is giving it the okay. >> it was a 6-2 decision, alanna
kagan refusing herself, but what are the political implications of this? >> as jeffrey just said, it could -- on a larger stage, i think this puts the issue of race front and center again as we head into 2014, as we head into 2016. you look at this supreme court, you look at what it did with the voting rights act not too long ago. you'll be able to point to this decision and say oh, is this the beginning of the end of affirmative action? and democrats are clearly going to use that on the campaign trail. and i guarantee you during a 2016 campaign, the supreme court will be high on the debate list. >> and it's not just state colleges, private colleges are potentially involved as well? >> absolutely. the issue here is, you know, who
decides? who will decide whether race will be a factor in admissions? and what the supreme court has said now is that the voters can make that decision. state legislators can make that decision. so politicians can't pass the buck to the universities anymore. they have to say are they in favor or are they not in favor of the use of race. so i think it just injects race again into the politics of every state, the country, even more dramatically than it's been in the past. >> and justice kennedy said look, this is not about how the debate over race is going to get resolved in the end, but it's about who should resolve that debate. in this particular case, the court said the voterress solved it. they made a decision, and that's what you ought to stick with. >> a very, very important decision by the u.s. supreme court today. thanks for that analysis. just ahead, scenes of devastation seen from the
someone whose poor performance is slowing down the entire organization. i'm looking at you phone company dsl. go to comcastbusiness.com/ checkyourspeed. if we can't offer faster speeds or save you money we'll give you $150. comcast business built for business. president obama is in washington state right now. he is touring the damaged communities hit by a massive mudslide. it's his last stop in the united states before beginning a week-long four-nation tour of asia, including malaysia, the philippines, japan, and south korea. cnn's anna cabrera is joining us now from washington state, the scene of where the president has been touring. this is still a heartbreaking experience, not only for him, but ana, from the folks who live there.
>> this is a resilient community, wolf. we do know the president is just wrapping up his meeting with family members of the victims of the landslide, as well as first responders. he has witnessed the overwhelms devastation here, and he has also seen lines like this, signs of a resilient community really united by this tragedy. we can tell you two bodies were pulled from the debris just this week. two more people are still missing. and we had a chance to go into the landslide zone to give you a look at what the search effort is like today. is this the last zone to be searched? >> no. it's not the last zone. >> reporter: the work seems never ending. it's been one month since a mountain slide plunged into the town of oso, washington. searcher ben woodward took us right into the heart of the slide. what was here before the landslide? >> you know, houses, sparse houses, trees. records we walked along what was once a highway. the surroundings don't even
resemble the community that once flourished here. yet this is progress. >> where we're standing was under at least 10 feet of water a few weeks ago. >> reporter: water and mud still creating the biggest challenges for these search crews. we're told water was above my head when that landslide first hit. what they had to do is create a water channel with pumps to be able to move the water out of this area just to give search crews access to look here. special machinery like this floating excavator just arrived to help search for the missing in the obstacle-filled wreckage. this gives you an idea of what search crews are up against. logs, mud, piles of debris stacked 20 to 40 feet high in some places. the slow, sloppy, and dangerous work comes with an emotional toll. so far at least 41 victims have been recovered in the disaster zone. a washington spruce tree left
standing in the middle of the slide area now serves as a makeshift memorial to honor lives lost. >> this is a special place for the searchers that are out here. >> reporter: absolutely. woodward says it provides a source of strength for the ongoing recovery effort. now, when the search itself is over, there are still months ahead of cleanup and rebuilding. wolf? >> and ana, the official death toll now is? >> is 41. but we do know there are at least two people still missing. it's really amazing when you look at where we were a month ago. and at one point, there were well over 100 people missing. and even as they have continued to whittle it down, they're keeping out that hope that they'll be able to bring closure to all of the families that are affected in this community. this is one of the biggest natural disasters ever to hit washington state. it's been comparable to mount st. helens and that eruption that claimed 57 lives here in washington. >> ana cabrera, thank you very
much. that's it for me. thanks very much for watching. remember, you can always follow us on twitter. you can tweet me @wolfblitzer. you can tweet the sh show @cnnsitroom. be sure to join us tomorrow live or dvr the show so you won't miss a moment. "erin burnett outfront" starts right now. next, exclusive new details about the search for malaysia airlines flight 370. the underwater search could be completed in hours. 10 what is next? plus, the sun just coming up off the coast of south korea. divers in the water, racing against time to find survivors in the capsized ferry. it may have a major breakthrough tonight. and we're learning more about the 15-year-old stowaway who officials say flew five hours inside the landing gear of plane. well looked into this today. how exactly did he survive? let's go "outfront."