OTR Interviews

US involvement in missing flight investigation: Too little, too late?

Amb. John Bolton: US should have responded sooner to hunt for missing plane


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 14, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Developing now two huge U.S. Navy Marine surveillance planes are on the hunt for Flight 370. One is a Boeing P8 just launched by the navy last November. It is a powerful maritime surveillance machine even used to spot submarines deep near the ocean floor. America also putting up the Lockheed Pain-3 surveillance plane scouring the search area mile by mile. Three Americans are on board that missing flight and their families are waiting for answers. Former U.N. ambassador John Bolton joins us. Good evening, sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: I'm curious about our relationship with Malaysia in light of the fact that there has been at least a little bit difficulty seemingly so in getting information on their investigation.

BOLTON: Well, if think it's been a real problem that the Malaysians have not shared information. They have really not cooperated to the extent they should. Now, the press reports indicate that may be getting better. But, obviously, with six days gone by since the plane was last heard from, that's a lot of time and a lot of added difficulty to the search. So, I think the United States should have been more aggressive earlier. It's -- obviously, we have three Americans missing. There was also an American plane. And when a work horse of the aviation industry like that goes missing, it calls into question others until we learn what the explanation is. So, I think the U.S. had huge interest here and may on our part have been a little too reluctant to move ahead.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do we move ahead though? Do we just push ourselves on them? It didn't happen in our space. It's an American plane, but it's owned by the Malaysian airline. Is there anything we could do? I assume that in part it relies on sort of historic relationship with Malaysia, whether or not they trust us and want to work with us.

BOLTON: Well, it's not a great relationship politically and hasn't been for a long time. But I don't think there is any doubt that the U.S. has the technical capabilities that no other country has. We saw when China released satellite photographs of what they thought might be debris from the plane. That was fairly quickly disproved. So, I think given the critical importance of the aviation industry, international trade and commerce and finance, I don't think we should have been shy about moving ahead. So, I think there is fault on both sides. The Malaysian government and Arab industry for not sharing the data more quickly, but perhaps on our side as well for not being a little bit more assertive.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, we have all sorts of theories and guesses, some are basically -- wow, nobody knows for sure. But let me ask you, what do you think happened?

BOLTON: Well, I think you are right. There is really not adequate evidence at this point. But I would have to look at the pilots and whether they were working with others to hijack this plane. There is simply no evidence there was a physical problem with the plane. It's hard to imagine what other explanation there could be than the pilots took control of it and decided to go somewhere else. For what reason, what motive, no way of knowing at this point.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are there any big terrorism cells or any sort of motive for any particular group originating out of Malaysia? The plane wasn't coming to the United States. I know recently we had a warning of a plane coming to the United States. This one was not. Is there anything that sort of would suggest a motive for any terrorist group?

BOLTON: Well, it certainly had a government that's been anti-American in its public statements. I think there have been lots of reports of terrorist organizations operating through Malaysia, through Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia was a center of nuclear proliferation in the AQ Quan network, and so on. I think as a place that's pretty open and not as secure in its screening, as a lot of other countries, but it was an opportunity for terrorists to kind of haven for them to coordinate their activity without a lot of governmental scrutiny. And I think that this may be a case where somebody tried to take advantage of that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there -- I mean, you know, as we sort of seat through this to see whether it's mechanical or rogue pilots or whatever, does it -- on the issue of terrorism, does it mitigate it against terrorism that we have had no terrorist group that have stepped up and claim responsibility?

BOLTON: No. I don't think so at all, again, we're without any hard data. But it's possible that if they wanted to take this plane and use it somewhere for a terrorist action or for some other purpose, that they would not want to announce what group claimed responsibility because they had additional steps that they wanted to take.

Now, it's possible that this was an operation that was bungled and that the plane is at the bottom of the ocean somewhere, which is why those navy assets you mentioned a few minutes ago are so important. But, if they had been deployed two or three days before, we might be in a very different situation now. And this shows what happens when a government like Malaysia holds on to the data too tightly for fear of damaging their national reputation. We have lost a lot of time to gain valuable evidence.

VAN SUSTEREN: Ambassador, nice to see you. Thank you, sir.

BOLTON: Thank you, Greta.