TODAY   |  March 11, 2014

Experts weigh in on missing Flight 370

Greg Feith, a former investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, and NBC counterterrorism analyst Michael Leiter join TODAY to discuss the latest developments in the Flight 370 case.

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

>>> of unanswered questions tied to both aviation and terrorism. we have two experts this morning. former ntsb investigator, greg feith , and nbc counterterrorism analyst, michael leiter . greg , let's start with you and let's start with this press conference held by the malaysian airline officials where they laid out -- they said we haven't ruled anything out, but they laid out these four possibilities of hijack, sabotage, psychological issues with passengers and crew or personal issues with passenger and crew. i mean, shouldn't they have put mechanical failure or structural failure right on that list?

>> it's a real curious list, matt. the fact that they came down to four elements right now and ruled out what they think is mechanical problems . they must know something that we apparently don't. they must have additional information or they have decided that they are going to focus on the human aspect. this could be reminiscent of the accident i worked with the indonesians years ago, 185, where it ended up being that the captain had some personal issues, which resulted in an intentional act of taking the airplane from 35,000 feet and crashing it into sumatra.

>> and deciding what happens, greg , also impacts where they look for this plane, doesn't it?

>> absolutely. they have given the coordinates of the last known position. what i don't hear is what altitude that position was at. because if it was at 35,000 feet, that airplane could be flying well under radar coverage for a long distance. and, again, they're going to do a profile on the captain and first officer and apparently the rest of the crew to see if there was some intentional act or at least intent by somebody on board the airplane, not necessarily a group.

>> all right, greg , thank you very much. michael leiter , let's turn to you right now. we have learned some things overnight. one of the passengers flying with a stolen passport was 19 years old, he was iranian, he was seeking asylum in germany. does that cross him off the terror list?

>> i wouldn't say cross him off, but certainly puts him far lower down. the fact is, as we knew, there are lots of people traveling from this region back to other countries, especially western europe , for work reasons. and this seems to put him in that category.

>> both the passengers flying with stolen passports, had their tickets purchased with cash by an iranian middleman. but that iranian middleman stepped forward and contacted authorities when he heard about these stolen documents. so where does that road lead?

>> most terrorists don't raise their hand and say we did this. so it really suggests this was not nefarious. and cash in the united states may be suspicious but overseas common.

>> i had to read this sentence three times to make sure it wasn't a typo. according to interpol , last year about 1 billion people flew without having their passports checked against interpol 's database. that's shocking to me.

>> well, the fact is, interpol has this huge database, and countries can check that database, but most places in the world, the airlines themselves, from the time you check in to get on that plane, aren't comparing that data.

>> all right. and one last thing on the terrorism front. no group has claimed responsibility. we all know, you better than anyone, that one of the goals of terrorism is to destroy your sense of security, but also to kind of herald their capabilities. wouldn't we have had a claim by this point?

>> i think it's very likely yes, but it's not always the case. you, of course, know pan am 103 taken down by living intelligence services , never claimed responsibility because in that case the state wanted to hide it. makes it much less likely terrorism but doesn't absolutely rule it out.