Return to Transcripts main page


U.S. Investigators Say North Korea Ordered Sony Attack; FBI Issued Warnings To Theaters Associated With The Interview; U.S. Man Freed From Cuba In Historical Deal; Obama and Foreign Policy; White House Considering Options On Sony Attack; Pope Francis' Role In the Cuba-America Deal

Aired December 17, 2014 - 21:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is a CNN special report. We are following two major breaking news stories tonight.

We are learning that FBI and Justice Department investigators have determined North Korea ordered the cyber attack on Sony Pictures. This is on the same day that the United States announces a historic agreement to resume diplomatic relations with a long time enemy, Cuba.

But first to our top story, North Korea now confirmed by American officials as being the country to launch a cyber attack that has crippled Sony Pictures. It has caused billions and billions of dollars. It has caused major disruptions to the new film releases and there had been direct physical threats on Americans attending a movie.

We have just learned that FBI issued a warning to movie theaters and all businesses associated with the movie "The Interview" which is produced by Sony Pictures that they could be the target of cyber attacks. And that is the movie that caused all of this. Its called "The Interview" produced by Sony. Its actually a comedy about an assignation attempt on North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un.

Late today Sony announced it was cancelling the release of the movie. It's not going to come out in theaters and late breaking they are saying they wont out it out on DVD either. Are Sony Theaters caving to Kim Jong-un? And what are the consequences?

And I want to bring in Retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton, our senior media correspondent Brian Stelter, Mark Rasch, a cubersecurity expert and Michael Chinoy, senior fellow at U.S.-China Institute at the University of Southern California. He's also been to North Korea 17 times. Great to have all of you with us. Brian, you're with me. Let me start with you.

This is a story of incredible significance. This is as many have said this is an act of war against an American company now. They have said that this is perpetrated by a foreign government, by the government of North Korea. What can you tell us about what Sony Pictures has done in terms of what some are saying caving to these demands? BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: And this is all over a mediocre comedy. A movie that's being poorly reviewed but which now the whole world is curious about. Sony was in a conundrum here and so were the theater owners. These theater owners across the U.S. we're under tremendous pressure not to screen this movie next week. So one by one they backed out today and then Sony also backed down they're not going to premiere it at all.

Now they are saying they're not going to release the digitally. But I was just told don't say never. They don't want to entirely close the door here. But for now, definitely no plans to release it anywhere, anytime.

BURNETT: All right, so Mark let me ask you the question directly. When you hear this -- the threats that were made and there was a threat, right, there was a written threat not just on Sony Pictures but to the American public of warning of 9/11 style attacks if people went to see this movie on Christmas day when it debut -- is this an act of war?

MARK RASCH, CYBERSECURITY EXPERT: Well it is an act of war. But an act of war is typically against by a nation, state against another state. This is unusual because it is a war like act if it was done actually by North Korea which all indications are that it was. It's an act of war against the corporation.

Now Sony had to respond and they have to protect life, health, safety and property first. But after that, you know, really they did ultimately end up having to cave in to these demands.

BURNETT: And what do you think, Colonel, about the fact that they caved? What message does that send? And if Sony is afraid of retaliation by going ahead and putting this out on DVD, is that where the U.S. government steps in and says, "This is not acceptable?" I mean you put out a threat. You're going to attack people at theaters and so everything get pulled. The message this sends to ISIS and others is unacceptable. The U.S. won't stand for it. The U.S. government releases it.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, U.S. AIR FORCE RETIRED COLONEL: Well, that would be an alternative version trusting all alternative. And I think that in this particular case, Erin, you're dealing with somebody -- a regime that has decided that it can manipulate not only its own public opinion but American opinion.

And they're playing a very dangerous game here because they are affecting American freedoms. And it's really important for us to all say that this is not something that we can accept. We have to really be very careful that we go ahead and really go in and make sure that we actually all go see this movie even if it's badly reviewed.

STELTER: You know a couple weeks going on...


STELTER: ... people of Sony started saying to me this is a terrorist attack. And people outside the company don't understand. I think now we understand. I think now I understand why they were using phrase terrorist attack a couple of weeks ago when their company was crippled by the attackers.

BURNETT: And it certainly seems a fair word to use. Michael, you have been to this country 17 times. You know North Korea. Let me just ask you the very simple question here to the basis of this. I mean this is a deadly serious -- as Mark is saying and talking about words of war. But yet it is over a movie which is comedy - it is a comedy about the assassination of Kim Jong-un.

Why would this country react like this to a movie? I mean it's sort of like how come they care so deeply?

MICHAEL CHINOY, US-CHINA INSTITUTE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CALIFORNIA SENIOR FELLOW: Well, I think there are couple of really important points to bear in mind. First of all, you have to look at the North Korean system. North Korea is really like a medieval Korean kingdom ruled by a god king. Kim Jong-un like his father Kim Jong-il and his grand father is treated is as an near deity in North Korea.

The whole apparatus of state propaganda -- the whole society is organized around the worships of the keens. And so, you have a system in which the leader is a god. And then you have a movie company in the United States which is North Korea's adversary and there's technically a state of war still because there's never been a peace -- well, peace agreement since the shooting stopped with the end of Korean War in 1953. You have a movie company in the United States that's making a movie that is both mocking and making fun of the god- like figure. And a film that ends with his assassination. So it's hardly surprising that the North Korean's would be upset by this.

BURNETT: And do they think, Michael, that -- I mean is there a concern that North Koreans would somehow see this movie. Someone earlier was saying well one thing they do have is DVD players. If the South Koreans put the DVD's in their little air balloons and drop them down people might watch them. Is that ridiculous or is that a fear they had or is about internal viewing in Korea that caused them to do this? Is it worried about the world seeing it?

CHINOY: No, I don't think this has anything to do with internally fears. This is a system which above everything else wants respect. It craves legitimacy above all from the United States. And so, for a movie done by American actors that makes fun of a figure that they revere as a god and it ends with his assassination is a really, really big deal.

And don't forget, people impersonating T.V. crews to assassinate political figures isn't a fantasy. Remember the case of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the famous anti Taliban, Afghan mujahideen leader who was killed by two al-Qaeda terrorists masquerading as a Moroccan T.V. crew two days before 9/11. It's happened.

So the North Koreans have some grounds to be upset. Does that justify what they've done? Obviously, not. But from their point of view this is more than just making fun of a leader. They don't have a sense of humor about this.

BURNETT: So, Mark, then this goes the question of clearly now the United States is taking this seriously as it should. I mean it shouldn't accept this. They shouldn't tolerate this. It shouldn't be cowed by this. But yet by taking it seriously and not allowing to affect any one -- if that's the path that the U.S. takes, are they then legitimizing the North Korean regime giving that respect that Michael points out they still crave?

RASCH: No, not really because what happens now is this is no longer now a battle between Sony and some hacker. This is a battle between the United States government and the North Korean government because these actions -- because they are attributable to a state actor now becomes state actions. And we have to respond the State Department to State Department not technology to technology.

BURNETT: So, Colonel, what should the United States do? I mean this is a really tough situation. I mean people aren't saying well should you consider physical retaliation. OK. They probably are and they can but they most certainly wont. So what can the U.S. do that actually would cow North Korea that actual would send a message to others that you can't just say ISIS we're going to attack U.S. theater and you get a movie pulled?

LEIGHTON: Right, and the real problem here Erin is that the options are very limited. What you end up having is a country that has gotten a cyber capability that is rated somewhere between sixth and eight best in the world. And what they are able to do even though they themselves don't allow access to the internet they are enabling themselves to affect a large portion of a major corporation.

So that becomes an act of war. But it cannot be responded to in a physical sense because it doesn't meet really the kinetic threshold to do that. And that's the problem that we have. We don't have the wherewithal or the institutions that are setup in order to make that kind of response possible.

I think the best way we can handle it is a cyber response of some type. But that response would be limited because there's no rule cyber connection in North Korea that affects the vast majority of the population.

BURNETT: So, Brian, Mitt Romney has weighed in on this. And interesting his comment was "Sony Pictures don't cave. Fight. Release "The Interview" free online globally, ask the viewers for voluntary $5 contribution to fight hash tag Ebola."

OK, well put that part aside for a second. But the point is Sony could do that. But it sounds like from what their saying to you that they are not going to.

STELTER: Yeah, they are trying to dish away people from thinking that they have a plan in the works for a digital release at the same...

BURNETT: Right. STELTER: At the same time, you know, it wouldn't shock if this movie someday does see the light of day after all it cost $44 million to produce. They're going to want to somehow recoup some of that. But that is one way to respond.


STELTER: Let this movie be seen. You know, Aaron Sorkin tonight said "Today, succumbs to an unprecedented attack on our most cherished bed rock principle." This is about freedom of expression versus fear.

BURNETT: Right. Now if you are the White House is it possible that some of the things that were leaked before for example e-mails that were raised about the President of the States making jokes about him watching every movie with black characters in it.

STELTER: Right, right.

BURNETT: And if you are the President I mean obviously, you know, there's a part of you that is a little angry about that.

STELTER: You mean maybe you're going to let this go on?

BURNETT: Maybe you're going to say, "Sony fight this one yourself."

STELTER: I think you're not the first person to bring that up, Erin. On the other hand -- and I think this today for Sony is more about trying to stop further releases of their information beyond what's already so embarrassing, so damaging to their reputation as well as their bottom line. I think their coming out tonight saying we're not even going to release this digitally. So it for stalls any potential release of data in the future.

BURNETT: So, Michael, if North Korea sees this as a great success which who knows what the response will be but certainly they ask for something to happen and it happened right. The movie is not coming out. People aren't going to go to the theaters.

So then what happens now? I mean to your point they are very -- you're talking about this god-like culture. And that would seem very specific and at propose to this movie. But would they then be empowered to do more, to take further steps against the United States which is their nemesis?

CHINOY: Well, I think the North Koreans had all along been trying to get a better relationship with the United States. They obviously have chosen some strange ways to do so. But they've been trying to signal that they would like to have more reasonable relationship with the United States but on the basis of the U.S. accepting them as a legitimate state or legitimate government and established nuclear power. Now that's not on.

I think a couple of points I would make. First of all, one long time North Korea analyst in discussing the way the North Koreans respond to this crisis -- he said the North Koreans have what he called escalation dominance. They, you know, anything that one does to North Korea, they're -- the people -- they're design is going to wretch it up even more with overblown threats and sometimes actions. So I think its sort of tit for tat cycle of retaliation is very unlikely to deter them. And the idea that the U.S. actually getting to a shooting war over a movie is completely ridiculous in my mind.


CHINOY: The other point here is look at the societies that have had problems with terrorism over the years that have cope. Look at Israel, look at England during the height of -- Britain during the height of the IRA terror campaign. It was people who said "We wont be cowed. They win when we give up. We're going to take the risk. We're going to go about our daily lives. Sometimes bad things might happen. But we're not going to let them cow us."

To me what's most troubling about this is the sense that if you back off that somehow the problem goes away. And that's a big win for North Korea. And sticking up for your right to do this and taking the risk if necessary. This is a world full of risk. You can't just wish them all away. It seems to me to be a much more sensible response.

BURNETT: All right, well thanks very much to all of you. We appreciate your time tonight. And the head on our special report here on CNN. Cuba frees an American held prisoner there sealing the deal to resume normal relations. It is a stunning moment in history. But is it a good or bad deal for the U.S.?

Ands it's supposed to be the lame duck period of his presidency. President Obama is working on his legacy with immigration reform, new jobs, low gas prices and now there's Cuba deal. How will history judge an historic President? And the U.S. and Cuba agree.

New details on how Pope Francis became the driving force that reunited the two countries.


BURNETT: Breaking news, an American man now free after five years in a Cuban prison and an historic announcement from President Obama today. The United States will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba. That is a moment to pause -- an important moment.

Alan Gross was an American government contractor. He was sentenced to 15 years in a Cuban prison. He was charged for being a spy. So an exchange for getting Gross back the United States returned three Cuban spies that you see getting off the plane here imprisoned since 2001.

This new video of their arrival back in Cuba late today. It's a very muted reception we understand. The deal also included the return of an American intelligence agent who have been imprisoned in Cuba for nearly 20 years. Cuba also agreed to release 53 Cubans identified as quote unquote political prisoners.

Now this deal to free Gross was negotiated in secret over an 18-month period. This thaw though between the United States and Cuba has taken more than 50 years to happen.


ALAN GROSS, AMERICAN PRISONER RELEASED FROM CUBA: God bless you and thank you. It was crucial to my survival knowing that I was not forgotten.

BURNETT: Alan Gross back on U.S. soil for the first time in more than five years...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How does it feel to be a free man?

BURNETT: ... released by Cuba after being sentenced to 15 years in prison. Gross now 65 traveled to Cuba in 2009. He was a subcontractor for a U.S. government agency. He was bringing satellite phone and computer equipment to Cuba's Jewish population.

The Cubans charged he was a spy. Bolstering their suspensions, he was working for the government agency USAID which sponsors pro democracy projects in Cuba.


BURNETT: Over the years Judy Gross fought tirelessly for her husband's release. His health declined in prison. Reportedly he lost more than 100 pounds and the vision in one eye.

JUDYGROSS, ALAN GROSS' WIFE: He's just flat depressed, hopeless.

BURNETT: I spoke to Judy Gross in 2012.

What emotion is the one that you feel the most?

J.GROSS: I'm very lonely. I miss Alan's companionship so much. I have never been an angry person before but now I am. I have a lot of anger.

BURNETT: Gross' release catch President Obama's historic announcement today.

OBAMA: Today, America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past, so as to reach for a better future for the Cuban people, for the American people, for our entire hemisphere and for the world.

BURNETT: To understand the significant of that system consider the tortured history between the two countries. 1961 the Bay of Pigs invasion, a failed attempt by U.S. backed Cuban exiles to overthrow Fidel Castro. 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis. Soviet Missiles just 90 miles from U.S. shores bringing the world to brink of nuclear war.

1980, more than 100,000 Cubans fled to the U.S., many of them convicts reportedly released by Castro. And during all those years a crippling U.S. trade embargo on Cuba. A grateful Alan Gross expressed his love for the for the Cuban people.

A. GROSS: It pains me to see them treated so unjustly as a consequence of two governments' mutually belligerent policies.


BURNETT: Joining me now, retired U.S. Army General Spider Marks, Republicans Strategist Ana Navarro and Philip Peters, President of the Cuba Research Center.

Philip, you have worked for American President. You have spend a lot of time on this issue. Is this a good deal?

PHILIP PETERS, PRESIDENT OF THE CUBA RESEARCH CENTER: Well, I think it's a very good deal. I mean the only deal part of it has to do with the prisoner exchange where we got an intelligence agent. We gave them three intelligence agents and got Alan Gross out. But the rest of this unilateral measure on the part of President Obama that is very squarely in our national interest and gets us on a policy footing that allows us to have more engagement with Cuba and more influence in Cuba. And that's a good thing.

And I think Republicans generally believe in engagement and I think in this case, Republicans come along and support the President.

BURNETT: General Marks, what do you say?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, RETIRED U.S. ARMY: I think this President has done so many things that are upside down in terms of foreign policy. This is one thing I think he's gotten right.

Our policy toward Cuba over the course of the last 50 years clearly has not been beneficial. It's been cloaked in our former relationships with the former Soviet Union and we really just haven't gotten beyond that. And our engagements over the course of the last couple of decades really should have brought us to a conclusion -- this type of a conclusion far sooner.

BURNETT: Ana, I know you disagree with both of these gentlemen.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I agree with what the first gentleman said that it was a unilateral action by President Obama. And that's frankly part of the problem -- a large part of the problem.

First of all, he really didn't get any sort of consultation from Congress including none of the Cuban-American members in Congress that represent so many Cuban-American constituents. People who suffered first hand while in Cuba, people who had to flee that place.

And, you know, I think this is important, Erin, for people to understand why the reaction in Miami and why people feel so strongly about this and that's because there's still a lot of people in this community that were political prisoners or that where children or wives or husbands of political prisoners who's fathers or uncles or relatives not shot by the Cuban dictators.

And so, there is a lot of pain in this community. This is not a history book for most of these people. This is something that they have carried. This pain they have carried in their entire lives and I think they were hoping on seeing the Castro brothers come to an end before ever establishing diplomatic relationships again.

BURNETT: Is there something, Philip, to be said, you know, understanding the -- with empathy the emotion of the point that Ana is making about the fact that normalizing relations while the Castro brothers are still there may send its own message of incredible power which is they couldn't hold it back.

We didn't need to wait for them to die for the world to go ahead and move ahead with this.

PETERS: Yeah, I think it's -- that all Americans should understand that a lot of the people in Miami that fled the Cuban socialist government in the early years suffered a great deal and suffered unjustly. But it's 50 years now.

And our -- the foreign policy in the United States, is the foreign policy in the United States. It's not the foreign policy of Miami. And it's not our policy towards the Cuba should be in the national interest not in the Cuban-American interest. The Cuban-American community is divided by the way.

And President Obama did received consultation from Congress. 66 members of the United States Senate wrote to him about a year ago and urged him to get Alan Gross out and to negotiate and to take whatever steps on the U.S. national interest to achieve Mr. Gross's release.

So, will all due respect to Ana, of course, the Cuban-American members of Congress don't agree with President Obama, so plenty members of Congress consulted with the President, he dealt with them...


PETERS: ... and he followed their lead.

BURNETT: Well, I want to play something from of the Cuba members -- Cuban-American members of Congress who did speak today likely Presidential candidate Republican Senator Marco Rubio. Here's what he said.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: This President has proven today that his foreign policy is more than just naive. It is willfully ignorant of the way the world truly works.

This president is the single worst negotiator we have had in the White House in my lifetime.


BURNETT: General, those are harsh words. That's not just someone who disagrees. Those are words are pretty nasty.

MARKS: It's an indictment of the President. Look, as I stated earlier, I think this President has done a number of things that I think are completely off-based in terms of his foreign policy. And he's gotten a number of things incredibly wrong.

What we have been able to do and what we've learned over the course of many decades is that we've been able as the Soviet Union collapsed and international forms of communism collapsed. We've been able to embrace those portions of the former Soviet Union and as coming as kind of falling apart. We've been able to inculcate and engage.

I think we're at a point where we can probably do that with some degree of competence that there won't be a -- that the world will not spend out of control if we can do this in our own hemisphere with Cuba. I'm confident that we can move forward in this regard. And you don't live by consensus. We all understand that.

And in this case, you know, I'd have to thank the President by saying, "Yeah, we've got to move forward." Of course there's some issues and we can work through those and we should.

BURNETT: Well, there is no such thing as consensus in Washington and in the United States right now. I think we all that -- I mean, Ana...

PETERS: You got it.

BURNETT: ... would you at least say -- I mean, obviously, Marco Rubio's words where as I used the word nasty I think it's a fair word to use to describe that but do you think there is something to say that the president was a leader and said, "You know, what? I don't care. I 'm going to do what I think is right."

NAVARRO: You know, Erin, maybe if he had done that before the elections I would have thought that but it's funny that, you know, the leader that you're referring to -- President Obama in this case -- waited after his two elections -- his election and his reelection where of course the State of Florida was so very important and waited after the 2014 election where also there were important elections going on in Florida.

So if he was going to lead...

BURNETT: Interesting point.

NAVARRO: ... and this was the right thing to do, I wonder why he didn't do it before if it's what he wanted to do from Day 1. He did it when they was politically convenient, when he's got no more political cause to pay for it, when Florida is no longer that play for him or any of his allies, when the Senate is out of session adjourned yesterday.

And so, you know, I think it's very convenient to lead now.

BURNETT: And he got that vote he needed from the Senate of course approving the budget. It's an interesting point.

Thank you very much all of you. And coming on the CNN Special Report, President Obama just came out of those midterm elections and he's come out swinging, right? There's been executive action on immigration on the United States and now the massive U.S. Cuba deal.

So, what is next with his legacy?

And the first Latin American Pope in history. The key role played by Pope Francis, he was the broker in this historic deal between the U.S and Cuba. We'll tell you why.


BURNETT: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. We continue our coverage of President Obama's historic announcement today. His decision to restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba after more than 50 years of hostility. How will this decision impact the President's two-term legacy, something the entire world wonders at, at this moment.

Joining me now, Presidential Historian Douglas Brinkley, our CNN Senior Political Analyst and Former Presidential Advisor to both Ds and Rs, David Gergen, and Republican Strategist Ana Navarro is back with us.

OK, thanks so much to all of you.

So, when you start thinking about this President, this historic President, the first black President of the United States, David Gergen, there are many first, there are many moments in history that he will have just because he is Barack Obama. But then the question is his legacy, his achievements. What does he have?

Tonight, we're talking about the U.S. Cuba deal. So, on the foreign policy, I just looked through to say what are some highlights for this President?

Not all of these are on controversial but some of them are. He killed Osama bin Laden. I think everybody in the United States and around the world agree that was an achievement. It's going to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan and secure the release of Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban. Obviously, that's a controversial one.

But all of those things are on his list. People point to so many negatives on foreign policy front to Iraq, to Syria, to the spread of Islamic radicalism in North Africa. These are serious problems. These have gotten more strain during his presidency.

Does he have a chance of being successful when history judges him on foreign policy?



GERGEN: The -- listen, Osama bin Laden -- do you think he deserve -- Colonel Bob gates (ph), who has been a critic of his...

BURNETT: Former defense secretary?

GERGEN: ... as you know, former defense called the most courageous decision they've seen in President made in 50 years of being in service. So that's, you know, certainly give President Obama the -- I think ultimately he's going to be judge very favorably by history not by conservatives today but by history on climate change.

It probably is the most significant thing he's done. The fight where (ph) he had with China and if he didn't the world to a better agreement, that's going to go down as a major legacy.

BURNETT: And I suppose that is fair to characterize that as foreign policy because it is. I mean...

GERGEN: It is the heart of the new foreign policy agenda. That's right. There's a lot of things now. He's got some negatives. He's lack strategy all a way through this. It had been tactical or very reactive. The turn around on the whip battle on Syria, I think will always be...

BURNETT: Drawing the red line backing off.

GERGEN: Right. And then we got a whole slew of things that are unresolved. They're not determined yet. Who can say -- well, there's a test for now with Iran which is so important with Israel and in Palestine is so important. With Syria, ISIS, Iraq, Afghanistan, all of those are incomplete.

BURNETT: Doug, do you -- when you look back in all the presidents that you look at and their historical record, is there a president who on the foreign policy front has had as many seeming failures as this President may have and still when time goes by those turn into successes that he could still be seen as success. Do you think it's possible?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, there are some elements of Jimmy Carter in Barack Obama but Carter for all of the failures have some foreign policy successes as the Camp David. He's supported (ph) Panama Canal Treaties which was very divisive. It's similar in many ways that was going on here, you know, in Cuba tonight, meaning, a kind of a realignment of the hemisphere.

But, you know, for two-term president it's been rocky. I mean, Eisenhower gets high marks in foreign policy of recent presidents. Bill Clinton looks better but when Clinton was leaving off, there's nobody about Clinton was a genius at foreign affairs.


BRINKLEY: In fact, Al Gore in 2000 didn't even want to be on a stage with him. But I think right now, the verdicts out but to judge presidents on the Middle East is going to be tough in the age of terror because it's always going to be dysfunctional over there. BURNETT: Right, it's tough. And Ana, one of the big criticism I hear though from global leaders that I talked to is that he's a President who hasn't been present in terms of letting them know that he is there to support them but isn't always make think that you're going to have troops available. It's about the phone calls. It's about the glad ending. It's about knowing that he is there and that soft power has been lacking.

NAVARRO: I think that's right. I think there has been -- I think he is a, you know, a very hesitant commander-in-chief and very deliberative. At some point, being deliberative is good, sometimes it's not.

He's also a commander-in-chief who has been highly criticize by a lot of his national security team as we've seen happen in books written by them whether it would be Hillary Clinton, Leon Panetta, Bob Gates. They have all been critical of some of his decision-making processes and also the decisions made or to lack there of.

I think, you know, I go back and I think to the 2008 debate, Barack Obama talking about extending another branch to our enemies and engaging with our enemies and that hasn't work very well so far. It hasn't work well with North Korea. It has not work well with Iran. It hasn't work well with the Russian reset. And so, there was probably a lot of idealism in candidate Obama that have not turned into successes for President Obama.

GERGEN: I must say -- I don't think he's a very negotiator. I know he use his power only and he's comfortable using power...

BURNETT: Would you be comfortable -- sorry to interrupt you but today, Republican Marco Rubio -- Republican senator said on another network, Barack Obama is the worst negotiator that we've had as President since Jimmy Carter and maybe in the modern history of this country.

GERGEN: I think these words are calling when President Obama run for office. He did promise he would normalize relations in Cuba. And he has done that. But when he said that he said, I'm going to get gains on democracy. Those are not here. That's why conservatives were upset. Why did he get for all of these?

Negotiating with the Russian, negotiating with the Syrians, negotiating with the Chinese -- we can look at a whole series of thing people point to and say, "He's not very comfortable with power." I frankly think that.

And you point to President Eisenhower and we heard Doug Brinkley and I think he was right to side him. He was a very good foreign policy President.

I think Ronald Reagan is going to get a lot of credit for his foreign policy especially in the second term with the Soviet Union. And also George H. W. Bush and President Obama himself has sights (ph) President Bush Senior...

BURNETT: But there is nothing like that for President Obama of those...

GERGEN: No, there's nothing epic like that but I again, you and I may disagree but I do think this question of...

BURNETT: And maybe that why this question is so hard for Iran.

GERGEN: Well, but there's such this as pushing too hard for deal. And people are very, very worried in the neighborhood. Some of our best friends are very worry that he's going to get deal, to celebrate the deal for us. It could be dangerous still for us.

BURNETT: And I -- yes, go ahead, Ana.

NAVARRO: And I think David brings up such an important point when he brings up the President Reagan example because we saw Margaret Thatcher, we saw President Reagan and then John Paul II, the Pope then work together to bring about the collapse of the Soviet Union, the collapse of that communist, dictatorship there.

Here, they worked through do reengagement and normalize relations without there being a collapse of the dictatorship and a collapse of the communist regime. There in lies the difference.

BURNETT: And Ana, you know, I was originally a market reporter so I wanted to look at the economy, OK? And on the economy -- now, President Obama took over as every viewer watching this show around the world knows at the worst possible time for the global to come. You see expected numbers to be good but they're better than good. The stock market has more than doubled.

Gas prices are at their lowest level in 40 years in the United States, unemployment rate in the United States is down 26 percent. So, you can look at all of that Doug and you could say, "Well, that's just because he took over at the (inaudible).

True. But last year alone, the Dow had its best year since 1996. There has been economic highlights for this President that nobody seems to really talk about.

BRINKLEY: Exactly. And I think, you know, he inherited the great recession about the time he leaves office. We're going to say how is the economy if it's blooming or if it's even humming along like it is now. He's kind of give fairly high marks on that and there is a connection with foreign affairs. I mean, what President Obama has going for him, Erin, is he doesn't over react sometimes.

You know, some presidents may have send our troops in Syria by now with that really have been a good idea. Some people would have over reacted to what happen in the Ukraine.

President Obama put on economic sense with Russia but all accounts Putin has suffering big time right now but we are -- leaving us a world where we want a quick results.

Everyday, we want to see the President do something and I think he's in a -- in many ways, a very incredible job and that jumping the gun. We were a generation feeling exhausted from the war in Iraq and we were exhausted from the great recession. And I think there should be a feeling of optimism right now that we're incrementally getting better.

BURNETT: Quick (inaudible) what do you think?

GERGEN: I have two things. I think that Doug is right about Russia. We should wait and see. Maybe these sanctions are really going to force Putin's hand. And I do believe this. President Obama got lot of blame for the slowest recovery, you know, since a great depression.

So he deserves some credit now foreign economist improving. The country is better there -- the country looks better, a lot of people in this country are still suffering though it's not there yet

BURNETT: There and apparently when you look at -- Doug, deep and numbers can be tough too.

Thanks. And certainly hurting Russia though that plunge in the ruble is helping them in the oil front too.

Next on our CNN Special Report Breaking News, the White House response to North Korea being responsible for the hack of the story. We have this breaking headlines just responding at this moment.

Plus, we'll look at the surprising role played by Pope Francis as the broker of the U.S-Cuba Agreement to resume diplomatic relations. And this is chilling to watch but we think it is important for all of you to see it.

This is the new video in the aftermath. What is that happened in that school? What is it looked like in that school right now where 132 children were slaughtered by terrorists?


BURNETT: Breaking news CNN has learned that U.S. government is considering a cold range of options. It is weighing a potential response to the Sony Cyber attack. The breaking development tonight of course that American investigators have determined North Korea ordered the cyber attack on Sony Pictures and specifically the leaders of North Korea.

Pamela Brown is in Washington tonight with the breaking news and Pamela, the White House is now responding?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It is. The National Security Council now responding to this news that North Korea has been assessed to be the proprietor, the instigator of this unprecedented hack on Sony's computer system and here's what the National Security Council said.

It says the United States is investigating attribution and will provide and updated the appropriate time. The U.S. government is worked tirelessly to bring the proprietors of this attack to justice and we are considering a range of options in weighing potential response. And as you there, Erin, the White House is stopping short appointing the finger at North Korea.

We know from resources that government officials are right now as we speak trying to figure out how they want to publicly respond to this and what way will they address this and bring this hackers to justice. They do have some options at that they're weighing.

They could do what they did in the case of the Chinese military hackers where they filed charges so they could take the legal route or they could take another more aggressive approach perhaps by doing some counter cyber attack against the North Korean system. We just don't know exactly what route they're going to take.

It's all very fluid as we speak and this is happened so quickly, Erin, only in a few weeks that's unheard up to do a cyber investigation and then to draw the conclusion in such a short amount of time. I think that shows how much pressure there has been on U.S. government officials to call out North Korea on this.

BURNETT: All right, Pamela, thank you very much. Of course, Dan Rather and Fareed Zakaria both said out to me earlier tonight. One thing cannot be an option and that is a peace meant or ignoring at.

Well, new details are emerging tonight on the critical role Pope Francis played in broker in today's historic agreement between the United States and Cuba. The Catholic Church's first Latin American leader made a person appeal to President Obama and Cuban leaders. He did that. He said, "Please, begin talks". The Vatican hosted secret meetings between the two countries.

And joining me now is Raymond Arroya, the host of The World Over and Managing Editor at the Catholic News Network, EWTN, and our Religion Commentator Father Edward Beck.

Great to have both of you with us.


BURNETT: Let me start with you Father Beck. You know, the Pope playing a role here. You know I guess in history that is happened once before when we he came to the Soviet Union in a sense. How significant is this that Pope Francis was actually involved in brokering a foreign policy deal for the United States of America?

EDWARD BECK, CNN RELIGIOUS COMMENTATOR: Well, it's significant, Erin, because this Pope has shown that he is not afraid to do so. Remember he called the President of Israel and the Hamas to the Vatican to try to broker a peace deal with Israel. He sent a letter to President Putin during the G-20 Summit and said that military intervention was not an option in Syria that they had to look for a peaceful negotiation.

He spoken against ISIL and the situation in the Middle East. So I mean, this is a man who is not afraid of entering this waters but it's not for political reasons, Erin. It's because these are issues of human justice -- peace and justice and this Pope believes from his experience in Argentina and Latin America that you cannot disassociate the two -- that the human rights, justice, necessarily get link in the political forum. So, you need to wait in to those waters, just speak in the name of justice and peace, he has shown that he will do just that.

BURNETT: We're looking at the Pope today in Rome celebrating his birthday which was obviously another big event of great fan fair today. Raymond, I want to play for you what the President of United States said in AB CNN News tonight asked him about the Pope's role in the Cuba deal.

Here's exactly how the president said it.


PRES. BACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: The assistance not only of him and his office in providing a moral authority to the issue but also his practical facilities in Vatican I think was very, very appointment. He is the real deal remarkable man and an inspiration to all.


BURNETT: What do you say Raymond?

RAYMOND ARROYO, HOST, THE WORLD OVER: Well, look there is no doubt he is an inspiration to so many people. It's why the president is embracing I think Pope Francis. Look, Pope Francis was building on the legacy of John Paul the II. I covered that visit. He was the first Pope that go to Cuba. He kind of opened up, softened up the cast of regime if you will.

He got some concessions with the Catholic Church which other faiths don't enjoy in Cuba. There's still religious oppression there. And that should be said. This is basically, Erin -- and we have to say this. This was a prisoner's swap. OK.

We gave three prisoners up. We got two back. The President I think is trying to also wrap this in the mantle of Pope Francis. There is no doubt Pope Francis was a part of this but he is trying to build bridges and bring leaders together all over the world, not only in Cuba.

My concern is the Pope was being use for political end here to sort of paper over that this is a prisoner's swap. And now we're talking about getting rid of Guantanamo Bay. The Vatican is saying that was part of the conversation they had with the President when he was there in March.

Remember, this was President Obama campaign promise to normalize relations with Cuba and to close Guantanamo Bay. So he should do that on his own. He doesn't need Pope Francis to do that and indeed the Congress is going to have lift this embargo.

But it's wonderful to see Pope Francis doing what he's predecessors did and what is he become renown to doing which is bringing warring factions, bringing people on opposite sides of the table together. BURNETT: Interesting point about the fantastic business in some senses but also whether it's being used for political cover and fascinating point.

Coming up on our CNN Special Report, the shocking aftermath of the terrorists attack on a Pakistan School, 132 children slaughtered. I want to warn you. This video is hard to watch but we believe it is very important to see.


BURNETT: A moment of horror, 132 children slaughtered in Pakistan in response to Tuesday's attack for Taliban militants ambush to school slaughtering 145 people.

The Pakistan government today lifted the moratorium in on death penalty for terrorists. And tonight, the first time, we are seeing images of the aftermath. Pakistan army allowing cameras inside of the school to see the barbarity of the Taliban, this is hard to watch. We do believe it's important to see and Nic Robertson is out front from Pakistan.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tumbled chairs, concrete walls to depot by fuse. A lot of bullets, few of the children in these classroom could douched evidence of the ferocity of the Taliban's craven attack is everywhere. Flow still sought in the blood of the innocents.

This town is drenched in grief, funeral of the funeral. Most between 12 and 16 years old, many buried in their school uniforms, the smaller they are the heavier they are to carry. One official said, education in this impoverish town of 3 million is everything. No one saw this coming.

Survivors now wondering how they made it through.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We hid in locker room and pretended to be dead. They kind of believed us. But two students and a teacher caught their attention so they shot them in the head to make sure they were dead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Six men entered the hall. They opened fired on some students. Some died on the spot. Another were injured.


ROBERTSON: Villagers are lighting up across the country. Sympathy is strong and so is condemnation of the Taliban. It is rarely this universal rarely this visceral.

And this man some of them seemingly as young as our victims are the attackers according to the Taliban who say they planned and coordinated every murder step the gunmen took classroom to classroom. Brutally now becoming clear. Inside the school of dean office a 28 year old woman -- an office assistant not just shot but set a light here too. Too horrific for words but already to recrimination starting Pakistan's Prime Minister who is already blamed. The Afghan authorities when he says this attack was planned on Afghan soil.

The Taliban themselves say no that their commanders and the planning all took place from with inside Pakistan.


BURNETT: Nic, thank you and we'll be right back.


BURNETT: And thank you so much for joining us for the CNN Special Report. I'll see you tomorrow with 7 P.M. eastern on OutFront CNN tonight begins now.