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tv   Lockup  MSNBC  July 18, 2014 1:00am-2:01am PDT

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speaking, vladimir putin is saying he believes the government of ukraine is to blame for that passenger plane coming down. now it's time for lawrence o'donnell. good evening, lawrence. >> good evening, rachel. today two hot spots gave us a very full day of bad breaking news. >> nbc news special report. >> we are following breaking news. >> a plane has crashed. >> a malaysian airlines passenger plane crashing in the ukraine. >> as many as 295 people on board. >> flying from amsterdam to kuala lumpur. >> this happened somewhere near the ukranian-russian border. >> the scene of a great deal of military conflict. >> the ukranians are blaming separatists. >> hit by a missile. >> shot down, blown out of the sky.
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>> what you're looking at is simply a blip on the radar. >> it has the earmarks of a tragic mistake. >> the united states will offer any assistance we can. >> we will do everything we can to determine what happened and why. >> we move to our other major story. >> when newspapers need two front pages. >> israel has officially become a ground offensive in gaza. >> they wanted to take out a network of tunnels hamas has been using to infiltrate the gaza strip. >> hamas said the infiltration would have dreadful consequences. >> the shooting down of that malaysian airliner. >> if evidence emerges that this was involved. >> this could be a game changer. the united nations international civil aviation organization warns commercial airlines about routes that could be unsafe to fly. the route taken by malaysian
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airlines today from kuala lumpur had been declared safe by that united nations group. the only warning issued was from the united states which warned american airliners to avoid flying over crimea. the intelligence community says it has airlines that malaysian flight 17 was brought down by a surface-to-air missile, about 15 miles in the southern border by an area brought down by pro-russian separatists. we cannot confirm who fired that missile. the boeing 777 with 280 passengers and 15 members of crew came down. the pilots did not make a distress call. witnesses saw a plume of smoke and debris over a 10-mile area. 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,
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his right arm placed on his stomach as in repose. others had personal belongings nearby. one man had sneakers but no pants with his arms and legs splayed outward, his iphone at his side. president barack obama called the malaysian president to offer help for 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
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today. >> 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. >> joining me now is nbc aviation and transportation correspondent tom costello. tom, has the faa or any other organization now indicated that it is not safe to fly those routes over ukraine? >> yeah. moments ago, in fact, the faa put out a new notem, that's notice to airmen, and they are
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prohibiting flights until further in the area 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 airliners to fly over crimea and that portion of the black sea in which we saw the russians and ukranians go toe to toe a month ago. they do not fly over this region, but we have seen throughout the day now foreign carriers, whether they are lufthanza or british airways or several russian airliners, emirence air, a variety of airlines skirting it saying they will no longer use it as a transit route to get from europe to, say, asia. it's a very common route to go from amsterdam to frankfurt or to london, into the middle east,
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but tonight the airspace is virtually empty of anything except military planes. 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 ukranian 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
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have grave reservations about sending any of her staff into that area. >> tom, is there any precedent for the ntsb or the american government getting cooperation when these kinds of things happen in unfriendly regions? >> yeah. 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.
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intelligence and military say point conclusively to a missile launch. >> tom costello, thanks very much for joining us. >> you bet. joining me now, retired four-star germany army general barry mccaffery and anthony roman. anthony, i want to go to you as a pilot. what do you make of the evidence we're picking up so far in the debris pattern we've seen? >> 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. >> what about the fact that so much of the debris is close together, and it's not as
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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. >> 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 like that. >> barry mccaffery, maybe we don't need the ntsb on this. it seems like the american officials have already determined what happened here. >> well, i think before we're done with this, we're going to end up knowing that our satellite infrared systems saw the launch of a missile,
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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 nations that have people tragically murdered by this event. people will 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 shootdown by the separatists with sophisticated equipment provided by the russians and the separatists who didn't know what they were doing. >> 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
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targeting? >> well, you know, a lot of these systems, lawrence, work extremely well under a part of air defense battalion or tied into commercial radar network. because a commercial airliner flying on a known route at a known altitude, a giant transponder pulse coming out of it, these people didn't know what they were doing. it may 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 trying to evade is detection. so they didn't know what they were doing to down an airliner in this manner.
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>> 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. >> yeah. 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. >> is it a timing issue? obviously it's the chosen route. it's the one they save the most time, right?
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>> well, they save the most time, they save the most fuel. >> there is a cost issue in these routes. >> there is no question about it, yes. >> general mccaffery, 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? >> well, one hopes so. there's always, by the way, a national identity problem where they don't want to say they were in a public air zone. they don't want to really magnify the degree of the problem. this is a huge localized conflict. it's going to get worse, not better. it the ground fighting to retake donetsk could be severe. it's a real question why any airline would fly within reach of these kind of missile systems. you don't talk about enemy
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intentions, you talk about enemy capabilities. and this was clearly an ongoing air defense combat zone. >> general barry mccaffery 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.
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it's 5:16 in gaza. up next, stephen clemons and mark ginsburg 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 down.
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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 engle is in gaza city with the latest. richard? >> reporter: lawrence, this ground offensive is under way. over the last several hours we've seen israeli strikes from the sea, we've seen traceer fire over gaza city, we've heard frequent loud explosions, seen illumination rounds in the sky. these are rounds that israel fires them so drones can see what better goes on in gaza. 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 in the tunnels they have had here
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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 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 that enter 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.
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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. >> nbc's richard evening -- engle in gaza. thank you very much. and now steve clemens, nbc contributor and former usa investor mark ginsberg. mark, what is the israeli calculation with ground troops now? especially at the end of what's
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been a few days of the world's perception of what's going on there has not been in israel's favor. >> agreed, lawrence. there is no doubt that right now, as richard just said, it's conceivable that this is a limited military engagement to destroy tunnels but also to deplete hamas's capacity to launch missile s 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 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 root out hamas. the israeli cabinet, just a few hours ago, and i just read this off the hebrew text that came out of that cabinet meeting. there are ministers who are saying that our goal is to rid gaza of hamas' political
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control. and that is going to be a far deeper incursion than maybe perhaps richard is suggesting. >> steve clemens, is that possible? >> no, it's not, and i think mark 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 heed by israel, hamas looks to them and other groups that are extreme as defenders of their rights of interest. so the notion that palestinians could go into any part of gaza and impose a political choice and political options upon the palestinians ensures, in fact, that they continue with this route.
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it's very disturbing what they're doing. >> here's the state department's readout of what happened in that conversation. >> 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. the reports were horrifying, the video was horrifying. the photos were 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. >> mark ginsberg, it seems israel has moved beyond the killing of those children. >> yeah, 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. there's nowhere to run.
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there's not only nowhere to run, but before incursion, hamas had lost such political support in gaza. i came back from there just three days ago. we have an office in gaza with 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 inside gaza. 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 israeli troops who are going to be injured or killed. >> steve clemens, 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
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today but the winning of hearts and minds longer term. >> well, i think that israel had a suspicion that hamas would not accept. 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. 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 crossfire. the failure of the peace talks have consequences, so when john kerry went home and said, we're done, everybody 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
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in the direction of fattah. 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. >> mr. ginsberg, you have an advantage that many other officials don't, of actually being in gaza and having the feeling there. what would you advise the israelis to do next? >> i think what's clear is israel cannot accept these attacks from gaza. against its population, no matter what may be 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
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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. >> steve, quickly, what would your advice to israel be? >> i agree with mark 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 mark said, i think the other thing is you've got an institutionalized harassment of palestinians that are under occupation. anyone that goes through checkpoints on the border see this regularly. the taunting and humiliation of
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pal stillians is actually unforgivable and it creates the very problem and support for the sort of terrorism mark is talking about that we're seeing unfold. they must pull that plug and they just don't do it. >> steve clemens and former ambassador mark 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.
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as we've been reporting tonight, senior officials told
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us that a malaysian airliner was shot down today. while u.s. intelligence analysts are still trying to determine exactly who is responsible, today's news comes after the ukranian government accused russia of shooting down an su-5 attack jet on wednesday, and earlier this week, a ukranian cargo plane was also shot down amid reports that rebels had seized soviet missile systems capable of bringing down aircraft. although no group has claimed responsibility for today's tragedy, investigation of what type of weapon was used and by whom has just begun. joining me now is editor of the interpreter and author of foreign policy, michael. weiss. >> the self-styled commander in chief of the separatist movement. he's also a member of the gru,
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which is to say russia's military intelligence agency. he posted to a social media platform called v-contacta, which is russia's version of facebook. the page that was used by him for months in spreading messages. he posted, today we took down a ukrainian cargo plane. he mentioned the region where the airliner 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 people of donetsk, which is the name of the administrative government. of the separatists. they posted a photo of the buk anti-aircraft missile systems and said, look at the new toys we've got. both the statement and that tweet were deleted within hours of the plane going down.
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>> and the colonel who did this play player, he's not some fringe guy. >> 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 ukranian government has put out transcripts of indicating, basically, conversations about this kind of about this, panicky conversations about maybe we made a big mistake. what is your reading of those? >> the ukranian 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's voice is very distinct. >> did they release the audio
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tapes? >> they did, and my team has interpreted it. >> they've listened to it? >> yes. what's interesting about this, bezler attended a quote, unquote, meeting, and it had the aura of theater, something that was staged for propaganda value. essentially it was the russian director accusing bezler and not seeming to know he was talking to a leading ukranian separatist of cowardice because the separatist had just lost the city of slovens in ukraine. besler, for the first time, on record they admitted that russia had sent tanks and armored vehicles to sloviansk. he said, you only gave us three tanks. that wasn't anything. more help is on the way. you will get heavy materiel, and
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anti aircraft systems. >> what is your opinion about the messages delivered today. do you think they're credible? >> the sbu is very, very good about playing information warfare with the russians. you'll recall there were mysterious conversations released. very clearly done by russian intelligence. the ukranians, the sbu was essentially created by the soviets. it's a hangover of the soviet regime. they want very clear, like we know exactly who did this. my guess is, look, you had vice president biden come out and say in no uncertain terms this plane was shot down out of the sky. u.s. intelligence confirms it was a surface-to-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 happened. my guess is they are releasing this knowing the united states knows for sure this was done a separatists. >> the nsa, i'm sure, have
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intercepted conversations between moscow and the men on the ground about, what in the hell did you guys just do? you'll recall the way the u.s. is absolutely 100% sure that they had used weapons last summer, communications intercepted between moscow and damascus, again, what in the hell did you guys just do? so the united states knew probably within minutes of what really happened. my guess is there is a level of coordination. we are using the ukranian services and the ukranian government to leak things that we are not comfortable doing. >> the russian sides of these conversations is clearly, this is a real bad thing they've done. we may not necessarily see it, but what is russia saying to these people right now behind the scenes? >> my guess would be, okay, amateur hour is over, colonel strokoff, there is a new sheriff in town. actually, i wrote a piece last
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week talking about what seems to be some very clear cleavages or schisms within the separatist movement. there is another group on the ground. that's the exact name of a russian military unit also run by the gru, russia's military intelligence. largely consistent of chechen's people from the caucuses. supposedly, it was disbanded in 2008, but it's rejoined by a man of the same name. the man heading that is a defector of the sbu. all of a sudden he appears leading this battalion, probably indicating he was always a russian spy and they will say we have a big problem with infiltration and this is the case. so this guy and this battalion,
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the clearest evidence yesterday that the kremlin wants professionals or adult supervision, seems to be dropping between mainstream russians and the kremlin. it's been rising, however, between nationalists who think putin is whipped. they want him to invade such as he did in crimea. >> michael weiss on foreign policy. thank you so much. >> sure, my pleasure. 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. wouldn't it be great if hiring plumbers, carpenters shopping online is as easy as it gets.
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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
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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, lufthanza airlines, singapore airlines, china airlines, usair have all said they will not be flying over ukraine.
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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. >> today's tragic event came only one day after president
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obama announced tougher sanctions on putin and russia with their continued interference with ukraine. putin is blaming ukraine saying this tragedy would not have occurred if there was peace in that land. the president referred to the downed plane as a terrorist act. joining me now is adrian keranitsky, a fellow with us. the president had just emerged from air force one. he's now in marine one, the helicopter taking him to the white house. 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 that could keep him on the phone that long, an uninterrupted phone call. that would be benjamin netanyahu
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or vladimir putin. if it was vladimir putin, what would they have been discussing tonight? >> 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 would be a sign that putin is looking for some wiggle room to walk this back. this is in some ways and not with exact parallels, putin's lockerbie. that is to say, a movement he has supported, weapons he has provided and skilled operatives 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. so i think if putin wants to walk it back, this is the time, at breakfast time very early in the morning, to have that conversation with the president. if it's the president calling him, it's another sign. it's a sign that the president is ratcheting up or trying to
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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 ukranians who are behind shooting in their own air space. >> 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 in libya was financing the people who took down the pan am 747 that went down in scotland and lockerbie with a huge loss.
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>> 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 -- forces from russia and russian weapons and russian financing that it is now, you know, cresting outside of ukraine and engaging the outside world. >> 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, adrian, the last two days have been very bad ones
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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. >> 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. then he felt that he could walk in through surrogates and through proxies and through disgruntled portion of ukraine society. and to try to create a broader split in ukrainian territory. he was met with resistance, he didn't meet with a lot of public support, and now if a strategy to create a kind of ongoing zone of conflict in ukraine. and i think that is not a strategy at all, it's kind of a failure -- the failure of his
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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. >> adrian karenitsky, thank you for joining me tonight. coming up, who should take charge of that investigation in ukraine?
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we must and we will find out precisely what happened to this flight. no stone will be left unturned. if it con spires that the plane was indeed shot down, we insist that the perpetrators must swiftly be brought to justice. >> 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 for the investigation of the construction and has asked for assistance from the international naval association as well as assistance from the netherlands and malaysia. the last time a plane was shot down was in 1998, the same day
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both president reagan and the joint chiefs of staff expressed regret over the incident. if 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 investigators." alan, there are reports that the black box has been found. we can't confirm this, but it has been found and are probably in the hands of the separatists there. can the black box be tampered
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with? >> i don't think they would have the sophistication to do anything to change the recordings, but obviously they could destroy them or withhold them, and i think that would be certainly a crime against humanity if they did that. >> 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? >> 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 ground. >> there are some military authorities here in the states
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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? >> 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. i guess there were cell phone pictures of it falling out of the sky. this was a very sophisticated soviet-made missile. i think the ntsb could add something to this. still, the u.s. safety center could be valuable, so i hope the ukraines will ask the american government for their help, and we know there has been a lot of
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satellite aimed at this border area around ukraine and russia. so i think the satellite images from the american assets would be helpful also. >> alan diehl, thank you very much for joining me tonight. >> you're welcome. ♪ good morning, everybody. i'm thomas roberts. it is friday, july 18th. and welcome to a special hour-long edition of "way too early." the breaking news on two international stories. the downing of malaysia flight 17, as well as israel's forces in the gaza strip. we want to talk about the plane that went down, killing 298 people onboard. u.s. officials believe it was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. but trying to determine if it was fired from the

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