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'Daily Show' Names Replacement Host; Flight 9525 Investigation; 150 German Investigators at Crash Site. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired March 30, 2015 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:09] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: A prosecutor says that co-pilot was suicidal several years ago.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The world lead: new details today on the co-pilot whom authorities say committed mass murder in the sky. Was his mental illness so severe that he was actually experiencing physical pain? And how did all those red flags get missed?

The national lead, a bizarre and deadly shoot-out at one of the nation's most secure facilities. Why the two guys dressed as women tried to ram their way into the NSA?

And the pop culture lead, fresh air. He has only been on "The Daily Show" three times and that's all Comedy Central apparently needed to see. Just who is this guy replacing the most trusted funnyman in fake news?

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Right now, some new information is emerging about the mental health of the man who propelled a packed passenger plane into a mountainside six days ago. Today, German prosecutor said the co-pilot who murdered the 149 other people on board the Germanwings Flight 9525 had been suicidal several years ago. According to a report, he had received antipsychotic injections in 2010.

Today, European officials familiar with the investigation telling CNN the co-pilot also had vision issues brought on by some sort of psychological stress. Officials say Andreas Lubitz got his eyes checked by a doctor, who then told the co-pilot his vision problems were psychosomatic. That in part led one of the doctors the co-pilot sought out to declare him unfit for a work.

This as a purported transcript from one of the flight's black boxes paints a clearer and frankly horrific picture of the plane's final minutes, at one point, the pilot pounding on the door to the cockpit screaming, "For God sake, open the door."

CNN's Pamela Brown is on the ground tracking the newest developments in Dusseldorf, Germany.

But I want to start here in Washington, D.C., with CNN aviation correspondent Rene Marsh. Rene, you have been piecing together this timeline studying the

transcript. Looking back, were there any hints at all that things were going to take this terrible turn before the pilot left the cockpit?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: You know, Jake, when you look at the minute-by-minute ticktock of all this, you look at what the co- pilot said, how many times he said it, in retrospect, it does appear that it was almost as if he was trying to get the captain out of the cockpit.

On more than one occasion, the co-pilot tells the pilot you can go to the bathroom whenever you are ready. We should note audio of the plane's cockpit voice recorder has not been released publicly, but the transcript has reportedly been leaked to a German newspaper and it paints a picture of a frantic captain and terrified passengers on board.


MARSH (voice-over): Germanwings Flight 9525's cockpit voice recorder reveals a detailed account of the deadly flight. According to the "Bild," a German newspaper, around 10:00 Tuesday morning Flight 9525 takes off from Barcelona nearly 20 minutes late. The captain, 34- year-old Patrick Sondenheimer, apologizes for the delay and says they will try to make up for it in the air. All appeared normal.

The captain tells his co-pilot he didn't get a chance to go to the bathroom before departure; 27-year-old Andreas Lubitz responds, "Go any time."

At 10:27, the plane reaches 38,000 feet, cruising altitude. The captain asks Lubitz to prepare the landing. After the check, Lubitz tells the captain, "You can go now."

There's the sound of a seat moving backward and the captain allegedly says, "You can take over." Once the captain leaves, the cockpit door is locked.

BRICE ROBIN, MARSEILLE, FRANCE, PUBLIC PROSECUTOR: The co-pilot manipulates the flight monitoring controls to activate the descent of the aircraft.

MARSH: Data streamed from the plane's transponder suggests the co- pilot manually reprograms the autopilot from 38,000 feet to 100 feet, the lowest altitude position that can be programmed into the autopilot of an Airbus 320.

At 3:29, air traffic control detects the plane's descent. At 10:32, controllers contact the plane, but get no response from the cockpit. An alarm that sounds like this blaring in the cockpit indicating a plane is losing altitude too quickly. Then loud banging on the door, with the captain saying, "For God's sake, open the door."

Passengers are now screaming. JOHN GOGLIA, FORMER MEMBER, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: The fact that he had all these bells and whistles going off to tell him that he was in trouble was almost to the point where it was too late.

MARSH: At 10:35, the plane is at about 23,000 feet, 90 seconds later, another alarm in the cockpit that sounds like this, the plane now at just about 16,000 feet, the captain says, "Open the damn door" -- 10:38, 13,000 feet, the co-pilot is heard breathing steadily; 10:40, investigators believe they hear the plane's right wing scrape a mountain.

[16:05:24] Passengers are heard screaming once again before the plane crashes.

GOGLIA: They have all this put out on top of it. It just prolongs the pain for the families. And it's not the right thing to do.


MARSH: Well, the BEA, which is the agency investigating the aviation accident side of this, they agree with that. They told me just yesterday they are shocked by these leaks and they say it's a complete lack of decency for the families of the victims.

They won't deny or confirm this information if the leaked transcript is correct, but in the meantime, we know that investigators, they are still working to find the other black boxes, the flight data recorder. That has a lot of critical information about what was happening with the plane at the time.

TAPPER: Horrific stuff. Rene Marsh, thank you so much.

Let's go now to CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown, who is, as I said, in Dusseldorf, Germany.

Pamela, sources telling you today this co-pilot's supposed vision issues seemed to have been triggered by his mind and were possibly stress-related.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right. I have been speaking to a source close to the investigation and I am told that Andreas Lubitz thought he was having vision problems, that he couldn't see as well.

He went to the eye doctor and turns out was diagnosed with psychosomatic issues and it was all in his head.


BROWN (voice-over): Andreas Lubitz once a young enthusiastic pilot loved being behind the controls of a glider plane in 2007, now said to have been suicidal before he ever even received his commercial pilots license.

CHRISTOPH KUMPA, DUSSELDORF PROSECUTOR: Had at that time had been in treatment of a psychotherapist because of what is documented as being suicidal at that time.

BROWN: More recently, a source tells CNN Lubitz went to an eye doctor complaining of vision issues. But the doctor determined there was nothing was wrong and it was all in his head, diagnosing him with a psychosomatic disorder, according to the source.

The source also said Lubitz visited a neuropsychologist for complaints of being overburdened and stressed at work. But today the German prosecutor said Lubitz didn't tell his doctors he was suicidal and showed no aggression toward other people. Prosecutors say they found torn-up doctors notes deeming him unfit to work in Lubitz's trash can, including one for the day authorities say he deliberately crashed Flight 9525 into the French Alps.

What investigators didn't find? A confession letter showing his action was premeditated.

KUMPA: We have not found anything in the surrounding personal or his family or his professional surrounding that is giving us any hints that enable us to say anything about his motivation.

BROWN: A German aviation source tells CNN Lubitz passed his annual recertification test in the summer. Lufthansa says it was not aware that Lubitz had any medical issues.


BROWN: As part of that recertification exam, we have learned that he would have had to have filled out a questionnaire over the summer.

And some of the questions on that are, are you taking medication, have you ever attempted suicide, do you have any psychological, psychiatric or neurological diseases?

We don't know the timing of when he filled out this questionnaire and, of course, when he was diagnosed with the psychosomatic issues, but we do know here in Germany it's up to the pilots to self-report any mental health issues -- Jake.

TAPPER: Pamela Brown live for us in Germany, thank you so much.

Let's go right to Dr. Erin Bowen, who specializes in aviation psychologist. She works with pilots and she joins us right now from Phoenix.

Dr. Bowen, thanks for joining us.

The German prosecutor, as you heard, said this morning the co-pilot had been suicidal several years ago. Should that be an automatic disqualifier in order to fly a commercial jet?

DR. ERIN BOWEN, AVIATION PSYCHOLOGIST: Without knowing the specifics of what the prosecutor means by suicidal and what the actual physicians or psychologist or psychiatrist report specified, there's no way to say that he should have been permanently banned from flying, no. [16:10:00] TAPPER: What do you think should prompt a permanent ban or

at least a temporary ban, an actual suicidal attempt, an action? Is there a gradation here?

BOWEN: No, it's really a question of what the pilot's duty was to report that he was having trouble of any kind, whether that was stress, burnout from work, psychosomatic illness, a physical illness.

He had a duty and an obligation to report that to his employer and to his aviation medical examiner or flight surgeon.

TAPPER: This, of course, wasn't just suicide at the end of the day. He didn't just fly himself into a mountain. This was mass murder. When -- I know being suicidal is not the same thing in any way as being homicidal. Explain this to us.

BOWEN: I would suspect, in his mind, he didn't see it as being homicide. And while we interpret it as such as -- and rightly so -- based on what we know from these leaks of what he was suffering, he would not have considered it in that light.

TAPPER: He would have just forgotten the fact there were 149 other people on the plane. It was about ending his own life, theoretically, based on the facts we have.

BOWEN: Exactly.

Again, given what we know of what he may have been suffering from, what he may have been dealing with, then, yes, the focus would have been very internal and on his own illness, not on the job and the responsibility he had to those passengers.

TAPPER: Let's turn to the other news coming out today, that the co- pilot's vision problems had been diagnosed as psychosomatic. Explain how that works and how common it is.

BOWEN: Well, it's not uncommon.

There are a host of physical illnesses that may have in part some level of psychological input. For example, stress can have a physical component, ulcers, upset stomachs, headaches, skin responses and those are essentially a physiological response to a psychological stressor.

TAPPER: Is it disqualifying for a pilot to have vision problems that are psychosomatic or some other psychosomatic problem? Would you have told a patient with psychosomatic symptoms not to fly as a precaution?

BOWEN: It would really depend on the nature of the psychosomatic illness and the nature of the physical problems they were exhibiting.

TAPPER: Dr. Erin Bowen, thank you so much for your insights. We appreciate it.

BOWEN: You're welcome.

TAPPER: With all these new details about the co-pilot's mental and physical health in the days leading up to the crash, was there any way a doctor could have alerted the airline before it was too late? One psychiatrist with whom we spoke says he would have done just that. And he joins me next.


[16:17:17] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Continuing with our world lead: more manpower is arriving in the French Alps, where investigators say Germanwings Flight 9525 was purposely steered into a mountain last week. All 150 people were killed, including three Americans. About 150 German investigators are now helping French search team scour the mountainside, some specialized in homicide cases. Others in identifying remains. Still, more are looking for the plane's second black box, the flight data recorder. Also today, 325 families have made their way to the crash site.

CNN's Karl Penhaul joins me now from Southern France.

Karl, search teams say ultimately, it may not be possible to identify all the victims, right?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and that's what we've been hearing today, Jake. I mean, let's put things in perspective. The terrain is really rugged. I hiked up there a few days ago. So, I got a really perspective on what's going on.

And the recovery teams so far have managed to recover and identify at least bodies or parts of bodies. But because of the speed of this crash, more than 430 miles an hour, when it slammed into the steep side of the ravine, some of the bodies were pulverized, many of them at least broken up into small parts. And so, what that crash investigators are saying today is that some people may not get any remains of their loved ones back. That is going to be a hard pill to swallow, but certainly in terms of the bodies they have identified before --

TAPPER: It seems like we lost Karl Penhaul. He was in southern France.

Karl, thank you so much for what you were able to report. Difficult terrain to broadcast from.

So much information coming out today prompting tough questions about whether officials should have known that the co-pilot was not psychologically fit to fly and whether the self-reporting systems like the Western airlines use, including the U.S., are effective.

Joining me now Dr. Robert Klitzman, psychiatry professor at Columbia University, also, pilot and CNN aviation analyst, Les Abend.

Both of you, thanks for being here.

Dr. Klitzman, let me start with you if I may. Today, we've learned that this co-pilot had been suicidal years ago. He had a vision problem that at least one doctor deemed psychosomatic, thus making him unfit to fly, and the co-pilot told a neuropsychologist that his work was too stressful.

Should these doctors have notified his employer, Lufthansa Airlines?

DR. ROBERT KLITZMAN, PSYCHIATRY PROFESSOR: So, yes. I think that technically and legally, pilots who feel that there is a reason that they're not able to fly are obligated to notify their employer and the FAA.

[16:20:04] Here in this country, they're required to do so. If not, there's a quarter million fine.

I think the larger question is what role, if any, the medical providers, the psychologists or psychiatrists might have at a certain point if they have a patient who has a problem and is a pilot, and that problem may impede that patient's ability to fly, whether or not these medical providers have an obligation to notify someone.

TAPPER: Well, do you think they do? I mean, obviously, there are privacy considerations. You also don't want to stigmatize mental illness. You don't want to discourage people from seeking help. Do you think that doctors should ultimately, if they're worried about the pilot, call the employer?

KLITZMAN: I think we need a broad discussion about these very issues, because as you rightly said, we don't want to stigmatize illness, we don't want someone who has an illness not to seek treatment for it.

On the other hand, if someone comes to me as a patient and says, "I'm busy harming people on the outside and may be endangering their lives," I think, technically, as a physician may have a duty to do something about it other than keep the information to myself with that patient. We have a precedent for this. There's something called a Tarasoff decision, which was a number of years ago, there was a patient who saw a psychologist at the University of California- Berkeley, who said, "I want to go and kill my girlfriend", and the psychologist notified the campus police at Berkeley but did not notify the girlfriend, Ms. Tatiana Tarasoff, or the police, and he was found legally in court.

And I think these are the kinds of ethical concerns that we need to think about and think about changing policy.

TAPPER: Les, the French prosecutor said that the co-pilot was suicidal in the years before he got his pilots license. This, of course, is a self-reporting system. He would have been obligated -- although it's unlikely he was honest, about having suicidal thoughts in the past.

Would you have felt comfortable with a pilot who had been suicidal in the past?

LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you got treatment for it, Jake, you know, I wouldn't have -- we, the FAA relaxed the rules and the doctor could probably go on that for more. But they relaxed the rules about medication for depression -- although, before that individual pilot can go back to flight status, they have to be monitored with how the medication takes effect.

But I wouldn't have any problem with that. My concern was the fact that this was part of the initial rigor of his screening process, part of the training. That absence that seems to be sketchy however long it was, six months, 18 months, I'm not quite certain. But the bottom line was, this should have set off some red flags that, hey, do we want to hire an individual that seems to be having a problem right within our program? To heck with the fact there's suicidal tendency before he ever came to Germanwings.

TAPPER: Interesting.

Dr. Klitzman, you disagreed with my earlier guest, Dr. Bowen (ph), about whether the co-pilot would have seen the crash as murder and not just a suicide. She was saying he would probably not even be thinking about 149 other people he was killing. What's your take?

KLITZMAN: I think at some point, he obviously is. I mean, presumably, he is a rational person. He's not psychotic. So, he knows what he's doing.

I think, my sense is, he was probably very angry at -- of course, I should clarify I've never examined him, I don't know, I'm only going with the little bit on what's been reported by the media and, of course, we don't know the full story but a lot of -- my concern is someone like this wouldn't be aware, that out of anger, or whatever other processes, that, you know, God damn it, I'm angry, my job may be in jeopardy, I'm going to show them.

Obviously, that's not what a fully rational person would think, but I would think that he would be aware of what he's doing. It wasn't just, I'm going to kill myself. If he was going to kill himself, he didn't have to wait until he got in a plane with 149 passengers involved.

TAPPER: Exactly. Les, how thorough are the screening processes in the United States when it comes to pilots? Would screenings here have picked up some of the problems that this co-pilot went through?

ABEND: Jake, it's a good question. It's anybody's best guess. I think the screening process is pretty well done. But most of it focuses on stress and that in and of itself, if you could deal with a given stress through those particular tests, you can certainly qualify. I was -- one of the tests, one of the phases I remember was listening to an air traffic control situation with reference to a thunderstorm situation, pilots responding air traffic control, vice versa. And we were supposed to do geometry problems, and math problems while listening to those tape and then we were asked questions, what did you hear the controllers say and so on and so forth.

For those of us who are experienced such a stressful time, and, you know, were you able to listen, solve problems? No, it's a multitask.

So, if this individual was subject to the test, maybe he would have broken down and not been able to answer it to the standards that the airline required.

[16:25:05] TAPPER: Dr. Robert Klitzman, Les Abend, thank you both so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, the final minutes of Flight 9525, passenger screams and the sounds of the pilot seemingly trying to break down the cockpit door. But was there any way, even with help that the pilot could have done it, could have broken through door? We'll take a closer look.

Plus, two men disguised as women rammed their car into a security gate at the headquarters of the National Security Agency. Now, one of those men is dead. We'll go there live, next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to the lead. I'm Jake Tapper.

We're back with a little bit more about our world lead: the Germanwings crash 9525. New details are now emerging about the flight's final moments and the pilot's efforts about trying to knock down the cockpit door.

According to the German newspaper "Bild", the pilot stepped out, leaving controls to the co-pilot, pilots can later be heard yelling, quote, "For God's sake, open the door", and three minutes later, loud metallic bangs, as if someone was trying to break down the door.

You'll recall, after the 9/11 attacks, cockpit doors were reinforced to keep intruders from getting inside the cockpit, from taking over the pilot controls.