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Obama Vows Response to North Korea Attack; Hackers Threaten South Korea Power Plants

Aired December 19, 2014 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news, the President puts Kim Jong-un on notice vowing to respond to the Sony attack at a place, time and manner of his choosing.

Plus, slamming Sony. The President says, the company shouldn't have cancelled the movie.

Tonight, Sony responds.

And a new terror alert just out tonight for Americans traveling during the holiday travel season. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good Friday evening to all. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, the President talking to North Korea and Sony. President Obama was very blunt. He said North Korea and North Korea alone launched a devastating attack on Sony Pictures. He vowed to respond but stopped short of saying what or when that would be saying only that he would do it at a place, time and manner of his choosing. But the President's harshest remarks were not about North Korea. They were about Sony.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: Sony is a corporation. I'm sympathetic to the concerns that they have faced. Having said all of that, yes, I think they made a mistake. We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States. Because if somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary that they don't like.


BURNETT: It is a fair point. And that is pretty blunt. The President of the United States coming out. If you are Sony Pictures and saying, you made a mistake. That is not mincing words. Well, Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton spoke to our Fareed Zakaria. Here's how he replied.


MICHAEL LYNTON, SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT CEO: I don't know exactly whether he understand the sequence of events that led up to the movies not being shown in the movie theaters and therefore I would disagree with the notion that it was a mistake. We have not given in. We have persevered and we have not backed down.


BURNETT: Our reporters are covering every angle of this story. Jim Acosta at the White House with what investigators know about the attack. And Brian Stelter has more on Sony's response to the President. But we begin with Kyung Lah, she is live in Seoul, South Korea with the reaction from North Korea. And Kyung, what are you learning?

KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is a very first comment that we're hearing from North Korea. It is coming through Reuters, a North Korean U.N. diplomat telling Reuters that, quote, "North Korea is not part of this." Basically a blanket denial. It is very much in lock step with the last official statement we did hear from North Korea. Also denying that they were a part of this, in that statement though, they did say they love it. That they found the movie to be offensive and it is a state crime to try to insult the leader of North Korea. Here is the important thing. This is part of a pattern. What North Korea has done, blanket wide is that they have denied any cyber-attack, especially any cyberattack on South Korea. Meanwhile, intelligence experts here in South Korea say, that the north has been slowly building a cyber-army -- Erin.

BURNETT: Cyber army as you've been reporting all week, Kyung has an amazing report on this so-called cyber-warriors that they trained and special schools to attack. Jim Acosta is at the White House. And Jim, law enforcement officials are calling this a game-changer, the President now has come out and spoken directly to the world saying, United States is going to respond. But he didn't say what or how or when. He said time and place of his own choosing. So what options are on the table?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The White House and other parts of the administration are developing a range of options for the President to review. The President said there would be a response to North Korea. He said it would be a proportional response but he would not elaborate whether he would slap North Korea with sanctions or perhaps even unleash a cyber-counter attack. He did not deny that kind of response is coming but in a pretty ominous statement, the President said during that news conference today, he is not going to announce his intentions at today's news conference. Also Erin, I do want to point out, that in just the last several minutes the White House put out a statement saying officials here did not discuss with Sony whether the company should pull that movie "The Interview." That is what to clarify what the President said earlier today at the news conference that he wished Sony had told him that they were going to pull this movie. The President thinks that was a mistake. We do know the conversation took place between at least one senior White House official and senior Sony management I'm told, but the White House insists that was not about the movie's distribution -- Erin.

BURNETT: That's pretty incredible that they weren't aware of that given the size and scope and scale of this. That is something that is pretty shocking. Thank you very much, Jim Acosta. So, you've heard Sony trying to defend their side of this saying

they didn't back down. Pretty shocking that we hear Jim Acosta saying, that they didn't tell the White House and talk about that they were going to pull the movie.

Brian Stelter is OUTFRONT. Brian, we have a new statement I knew that you have just obtained from Sony as they are fighting back on this. What are they saying?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Well one of the things that Sony is saying is they are again actively looking for ways to release this movie. In other words we might not have seen the end of "The Interview" after all. Here's one part of the statement says, it says, "Without theaters we could not release it in the theaters on Christmas Day. We had no choice but to cancel the movie. After that decision, we immediately began actively surveying alternatives to enable us to release the movie on a different platform. It is still our hope that anyone who wants to see this movie will get the opportunity to do so." And this is at the Sony's New York headquarters and I can tell you right now, there are these discussions going on about who might be willing to help Sony do this. They need to find a way to help charge people to watch this movie. They don't have that capability themselves. They need partners. And I do believe Erin, other studios, other distributors, are starting at least little bit to show some support to Sony. For example, earlier today the studio did hear from the chiefs of several other big movie studios expressing support to Sony.

BURNETT: Expressing support, Brian. One question I have though is, you know, and we'll hear a little bit more about this in a moment. But the CEO talking to Fareed Zakaria basically said, well, no one stepped forward to offer video on demand release.


BURNETT: So, I guess the question to you is, that would mean a Google or a YouTube would have to be willing to take on the risks of also being hacked if they distribute this. So is anyone going to take that risk?

STELTER: That is right. But that is the thing. You know, it is great for other studios to be saying they support Sony, it's great for actors like George Clooney to be saying that, but Sony needs a distributor. Like you said, a YouTube, a Netflix. Someone like that. Netflix has declined to comment. The other big distributors haven't gotten back us to yet. I think we're going to hear from them in the next few hours, at least the next few days, Erin. Because this is now a political issue. Every one of these distributors has to make a decision whether they are going to help out this movie and stand against North Korea or not.

BURNETT: Right. Stand for free speech, which of course is everything Google says it stands for. So, that would mean YouTube, we are talking to you. Thank you very much, Brian.

And now OUTFRONT, Gordon Chang, author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World." And retired U.S. army General Spider Marks. Gordon, let me start with you. President Obama today called Sony made a mistake to not tell them, you know, he didn't interview for the whole country with ABC News in which he told people to go to the movie theaters and Sony said, guess what? It is not going to be in the movies theaters. So, is he right? They made a mistake.

GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN": No, the President made a mistake. Yes. What Sony did was craven and nobody really likes it, but it is not up to Sony to stand-up to North Korea. It's not up to Sony to defend the liberties of the American people. The person who has the responsibility to do that is President Obama. And unfortunately for decades of really bad Washington policy on this, it means that Sony now had to make a terrible choice. We don't like that choice but it's not their fault.

BURNETT: Not their fault, General Marks?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Absolutely not their fault. Gordon is completely spot on. But I think we're missing the point because this has to do with the stone reflect, it goes about the, you know, talks about then revealed the assassination of Kim Jong-un and so we've got all this media players and we're looking for support within the media. The larger concern is access to the internet. This un-governed space called cyber space. It is a new domain of warfare. We've been in a state of conflict in cyber space for decades so this is really about a capability that is very precise and we're very lucky it didn't go after JP Morgan, it didn't go after the stock exchange or it didn't go after a host of scada (ph) system that exist as they are trying to get better and better penetration capability into our cyber-dependence.

BURNETT: Which is fascinating. I mean, I would bet that those institutions that you just mentioned, the Stock Exchange and JP Morgan have much better cyber-defense than Sony. Even though it has a lot of intellectual property. I could be wrong, but that is my bet. But Gordon, here is what President Obama said in terms of his response. I want to play that.


OBAMA: They caused a lot of damage. And we will respond. We will respond proportionally and we'll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose. It is not something that I will announce here today at a press conference.


BURNETT: So when he says they will respond proportionally, I mean, obviously, you can't read what is going on in his mind, but what does that mean and is that something that North Korea will believe.

CHANG: Well what he's trying to do is avoid a new round of escalation. Because we're obviously more vulnerable to cyber-attacks than North Korea but what he really should have said was, we're going to respond effectively because we need to stop this cycle of escalation. This will escalate whether we do something or not. But the question is, who ends up winning in this? And I think it is very important, because we got to realize that we are in a struggle already.

BURNETT: Right. And does this escalate too, as General Marks points out, tougher targets but ones that are much more significant to all of the American people, a stock exchange, a bank?

CHANG: Well, that is where this is going. Because clearly the North Koreans don't take these threats from presidents of the United States lying down. They follow through. And I think what we're going to see is a bigger target. We'll going to see more companies being hacked. This is going to go on for quite some time until the United States imposes costs on North Korea and friends like China that participate in these attacks with the north.

BURNETT: So, all right, so let me ask you about that. Because you say friends like China and General Marks I know you agreed China was involved. Look, the President was clear on one thing today, not on what he was going to do to reciprocate. But he was clear that no one else was involved. And that was pretty explicit, he was leaving China out of it. You also believe that is not true.

MARKS: Erin, I'm sorry, are you speaking to me?

BURNETT: Yes, I'm speaking to you. China was involved, right?

MARKS: No, China is involved. I mean, North Korea is a nuclear cyber-attack CNA, computer network attack capability. They didn't get this themselves. It's through partnership with others and clearly they're sponsoring this regard is Beijing and Beijing has forever. Embraced Pyongyang but for about the past two decades have been a little bit more distant and has more acquiesced but these capabilities that they have did not root and grow out of North Korean soil. This is as a result of exporting talent, bringing talent back in and having this capability that is indeed dependent upon others and it is clearly Beijing.

BURNETT: All right. So Gordon, if the President isn't going to say anything, I mean, is that a sign that the U.S. is perilous and is coward by China or is that a sign that he knows full well, isn't going to stay up for diplomatic reasons but the U.S. is going to do something to China down low.

CHANG: Yes. I hope that the reason why he didn't say that China was involved was because he has discussions with China and they are at a very sensitive stage and he thinks he can actually get the Chinese to dump the North Koreans. I'm afraid that this is going to be like that discussion between the President and CEO Michael Lynton where he said, no, and the other one says, the opposite. Because clearly administration officials have been talking to "The New York Times" and others that China was involved and we have these reports from Reuters that Chinese intelligence was involved. So clearly this is going to be a very difficult thing for the President to manage.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to both of you. Of course, there is the great irony. Corporations, you know, hate the government until they need it.

OUTFRONT next, North Korea cyber-attack on Sony being called a game-changer. So what is next? We have a special report on North Korea targeting American nuclear plants.

That special report is next.

Plus, President Obama today talking about race. Is black America better off than before the first black president took office?

And flying the bumpy skies. It has been a week of frightening rides for airline passengers. As this video shows just as 100 million Americans are about to hit the road on the busiest travel season of the year. We'll be right back.


BURNETT: Breaking news. President Obama promising a response to North Korea for the attack of Sony Pictures. Especially because of growing concerns, the communist regime could strike American nuclear plant, next. After all, North Korea's hackers have a history of infiltrating critical facilities like power plants. We have' special report on this tonight.

Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT with it from Seoul, South Korea.


LAH (voice-over): The Hollywood movie pulled an international mega company embarrassed and exposed, perhaps just a warning shot for America on the cyberwar with North Korea. South Korean officials say the north has launched a set of crippling attacks in that country. The most brazen coming to light just this week. A hack of South Korea's nuclear power plant system. Lim Jong-in (ph) is a security expert works with South Korea's military and says hackers posted on a blog nuclear power plant blueprints than other secret documents and then wrote this.

LIM JONG-IN, KOREA UNIVERSITY: If they do not stop the operation of a nuclear power plant, they will destroy it.

LAH (on camera): Wow! Very serious?


LAH: That raises some serious alarm bells with the government.


LAH (voice-over): Not just because of what was stolen, but because of what this means. They're getting better at it. While the north consistently pleads innocence, the south maintains the evidence is there. Last year South Korea's banks and media companies were hacked, ATMs frozen, television news knocked off the air. Similar malware to what ground Sony systems to a halt and similar code to what led to this latest breach of South Korean nuclear power plants. There is a power says Lim. Practice first in South Korea and then aim overseas.

(on camera): Should America be prepared for North Korea to try to break in to these types of agencies in America?

LAH (voice-over): Of course, he says. Even though the U.S. is one of the best prepared nations, cyber-attacks are really hard to protect yourself from. So they have to constantly be vigilant.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You want us to kill the leader of North Korea?



LAH: With Sony stunning decision, pulling this movie, it may send a simple signal to North Korea. Cyber-attacks work.


LAH: And we are learning something new on this. The South Korean government, we understand, is going through 23 power plants. The reason why is that the suspected hackers posted some new ominous threats on the web saying that the virus is in place and it can be activated at any time. Now these could be empty threats but after Sony, Erin, the government does not take anything for granted -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. So at this hour, 23 power plants they are now worried about or at risk in South Korea. Thank you very much to Kyung.

A new development there, I want to bring in Tim Clemente, a retired FBI counterterrorism agent along with Mark Rosch, a cybersecurity expert and our national security analyst Bob Baer who works for Sony on scripts and TV dramas. Also of course, formerly with the CIA. Great to have all of you with us.

Let me start first, Mark, any reaction from you in terms of what Kyung has just reporting at this hour, the South Korean government saying that these hackers perhaps may have a virus in place that would attack 23 power plants. It would seem, if this is true, we don't yet know if this is a real threat or not, but this is escalating this even further.

MARK ROSCH, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT PROSECUTOR FOR CYBER CRIMES: Oh, it absolutely is. And even if it is not a real threat, the idea is that you can disrupt the power plant and disrupt the operations simply by issuing the threat. It requires you to go become and revalidate every piece of software and every piece of code within a very complicated network. So that is a way to disrupt it even by just making the threat.

BURNETT: Bob, would North Korea attack U.S. nuclear power plants, as you her Kyung talked about looking at the plans and attempting in South Korea?

ROBERT BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Erin, absolutely. I've watched this regime for years. In 1987 they brought down a Korean airliner. They've taken hostages from Japan, you go on and on and on. They attacked Pueblo, for those who would remember that, an American ship off the coast, unprovoked attack. Yes, they are capable of doing it. You have to look at North Korea as -- I think they are crazy, but it is almost the theocracy, the Kim family that rules that in fact that this movie attack. And they will escalate if we go after them. And frankly anything is possible. And you have to wonder whether closing down movie theaters or keeping this movie from the premier wasn't a bad idea because they are perfectly capable of attacking them.

BURNETT: And you know, what, when you say, hold on, let me just follow up on that. When they're perfectly capable of attacking them, you're saying perfectly capable of attacking U.S. theaters?

BAER: I think so. They have no networks here to speak of. But they could throw a grenade in the theater. And I think that is an irrational decision for us, but yes, they could make that decision. I could see it very easily. Look, these people, when we used to track them in the 80s, I remember this very distinctly, they were distributing heroin out of their embassies all across Europe. They were also stealing dogs to make coats out of them, just this crazy stuff and they kept these old temples in their embassies for, you know, for the supreme leaders. This is very odd people. And like I said, we consider them irrational but I think they are capable of going after us like in this fashion.

BURNETT: And pretty incredible saying, they are capable of attacking those theaters, to remind our viewers, they had issued a threat of 9/11 style attacks in U.S. theaters if that movie have been released on Christmas Day. Of course, Sony pulled the movie. Tim, now we are in a position though where the President of the United States has vowed a retribution at the time and place and method of his choosing, but retribution. This is not retribution from Sony Pictures. This is retribution from the company where Sony, the country where Sony Pictures' headquarters, the United States of America, once that happens, that just by definition is an escalation in the eyes of North Korea, I would imagine. So then what do they do?

TIM CLEMENTE, FORMER FBI COUNTERTERRORISM AGENT: What does North Korea do or what do we do? That is the big question. It depends, I would imagine on what we do. If we are going to enforce some kind of sanctions against North Korea or increase what we already have against them, I don't know what the response would be to that. But if there is some kind of retaliation in the form of our own cyber-attack on them, because they might have been effective in this way but I don't think there is anybody more effective than the United States in this type of war. And I believe the (INAUDIBLE) virus is a perfect example of that. What we did to the Iranian nuclear program, we could certainly do to North Korea and cripple some of their industries quite easily.

BURNETT: Right. Because U.S. is never an Israel, have never taken credit for that but obviously widely reported that it was an American virus that disabled so much of the nuclear facilities in Iran and set them back. Mark, in terms of what's next. When you think about crucial pieces of infrastructure that affects Americans and how they live. Of course, you think of power plants, you think of nuclear power plants. But you think of air travel. Is that a target?

ROSCH: It is a target and has been a target in the past. Any system which is a scada (ph) system something that controls other things, whether it is power plants or air transportation, it is vulnerable and it's a target. I think for air transit what will you see more likely is a denial of service attack. So the idea that you flood the air traffic control system with a lot of traffic and therefore you shut it down for a day or a couple of days or something like that. And that is crucial to our infrastructure.

BURNETT: And Bob, where do you think the U.S. air system is most vulnerable?

BAER: I think we are vulnerable almost all across the country. The only computers that are safe are stand-alones and of course every industry is hooked up to the internet. And it is not safe. The government has understood this for years but private industry airports and nuclear facilities haven't completely been regulated in this fashion.

BURNETT: Tim, I see you nodding.

CLEMENTE: Yes, I was going to say, I worked closely with the nuclear energy institute for years when I was working counterterrorism and nuclear power plant security was very, very big thing and one of the things as Bob just mentioned is, anything that's connected to the internet is vulnerable. Anything. You know, once you have access to the internet, you may have well let the barbarians in the castle doors.

BURNETT: Well, I mean, now you are taking about planes that fly by wire, and I know that isn't fully automated back to essential computer but it does for a lot of people raise fears.

CLEMENTE: Well, it should. And again, as Bob mentioned earlier. This is not a stable, you know, sensible regime were dealing with. This isn't somebody you can negotiate with. This is a history of lunatics running North Korea. Barbarian lunatics, what they've done to their own people, they certainly would be willing to do to others outside of their country as they've proven.

BURNETT: And Bob, it's also though, if North Korea can do it, there are of course other non-state actors who would like nothing more than to infiltrate the U.S. air traffic system or infiltrate a fly live by wire plane, or ISIS and others.

BAER: ISIS is just amazing in their capabilities with computers. They have a lot of young people there from Western Europe, the United States, who can run this stuff too, who can do an assault like this. And why not. We are so vulnerable. We have not paid any attention to this. We've gotten lazy over the years. We've ignored warnings from the government that this is coming from cyber-command. Yes, like we just said, any computer that is online is vulnerable.

BURNETT: And Mark, what is the bottom-line? That there will be public attacks on commercial air travel.

ROSCH: I don't know about commercial air travel but there will be public attack on critical infrastructure and they will come from both state actors and non-state actors and that corporations are really the targets. It's not going to just be defense contractors and the U.S. government, it's going to be corporations who need to dedicate much more resources to protecting their own assets.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks so much to all of you. Pretty sobering conversation.

And next, breaking news, a new travel warning for Americans tonight. Plus, the President speaking candidly about race today. Is black America better off now than before he came into office?

And tonight we're watching protesters march live through the streets of New York City. As you can see, gathering again. This is not stopping. This is something that is gaining traction and steam across this country this holiday season. We'll be right back.


BURNETT: Breaking news tonight: a new warning for Americans traveling over the holidays. The State Department is issuing an alert saying their threat analysis, quote, "strongly suggests a focus by terrorists not only on the targeting of U.S. government facilities but also on hotels, shopping areas, places of worship, and schools, among other targets during this holiday period."

This warning to Americans traveling overseas comes in the wake of this week's deadly attack in Sydney where two hostages were killed, after 16-hour siege at a coffee shop.

Jim Sciutto is OUTFRONT.

And, Jim, what do you think about these threats?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Erin, you know, you read this threat warning and it's fairly alarming. It is encouraging people to maintain, quote, "a very high level of vigilance" at all those places that you mentioned -- hotels, shopping areas, places of worship and schools, and not in any particular country but around the world. That's very broad.

Now, I spoke to the State Department and they said this is not based on any specific threat today on any of those particular places, it's based on an analysis of threats, particularly coming out of this attack on Monday in Sydney, and the State Department has a policy. It's called a no double standards policy, that when they have an analysis like this, that they are required to share it with the public, sort of full disclosure, that kind of thing.

Now, the difficulty, of course, is that the warning is so broad, you know, it's difficult for people, frankly, to, you know, exercise this kind of vigilance virtually wherever they go in the world. But this is one of those abundance-of-caution messages and shows where we are in the world today that you have with -- with lone wolves, you don't have a lot of warning. You won't necessarily have a credible and specific threat before something happens.

So, I think that people out there who are listening to this, they should take it to mind, but they shouldn't necessarily, you know, be scared or losing sleep over this. They should just be conscious of this is the era we live in.

BURNETT: Which is a terrifying thing in and of itself, that we all have to think and live that way.

Jim Sciutto, thank you so much.

SCIUTTO: No question.

BURNETT: Well, breaking news tonight. Protesters on the streets of New York City. It's a Friday night. It may be cold, but there are live pictures of a large crowd that at just a few moments ago tried to shut down, one of the busy bridges in this city, that connects Manhattan to one of the biggest boroughs, Brooklyn.

Police were able to keep the crowd moving, but the protesters are not backing down. These demonstrators are still turning out more than two weeks since the grand jury decided not to indict a white police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, a black man.

Earlier today, President Obama spoke at length about the state of Black America.


APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: What is the state of Black America as we talk about those issues, as well as race relations in this country?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Like the rest of America, Black America in the aggregate is better off now than it was when I came into office. The jobs that have been created, the people who have gotten health insurance, the housing equity that's been recovered, the 401 pensions that have been recovered, a lot of those African-Americans. They are better off than they were.


BURNETT: Joining me now, former Obama White House press secretary, Jay Carney, and April Ryan, American Urban Radio White House correspondent. You just saw her there asking that question of the president. She's also author of "The Presidency in Black and White".

All right. April, since you asked that question, let me ask you -- you said he couldn't take about race like this in his first time. And I believe you said it could have been political suicide. So, is he going to do more now? Is race suddenly going to become a core of the rest of his presidency? RYAN: Well, Erin, one thing is for sure -- things are not over

when it comes to Ferguson, when it comes to New York, and when it comes to Cleveland. Remember, we still have a report that's due out from the Justice Department on the Trayvon Martin situation. And then we still have yet to hear from the report when it comes to Ferguson. So, we still have that to tool with.

And the president, I'm sure, is waiting to hear from the Justice Department and the Trayvon Martin report is very slow right now.

But the first term, you have to remember, this was a president who happened to be black. Now, there are issues that are really hitting him square in the face that come to him as a black man. And as black people, we feel certain things that other communities don't.

So, he is addressing them. The first term, it would have been political suicide for him to address these issues like he is right now.

BURNETT: And one of the things he did say at the end of the term, Jay, was about Trayvon Martin. Now, you advised him on how to deal with the race issue and you were there when he said something -- frankly, that struck the nation that no one has forgotten. Let me play it again for the viewers.


OBAMA: If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.


BURNETT: You know, Jay, that was an incredible moment. It was a personal moment.

Was that hard for him to say? Did he think about that before or did it just come off the cuff?

JAY CARNEY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You know, Erin, I advised him on a lot of things and told him a lot of things that I thought he should say in press conferences and in speeches. But when it came to matters like that, he used his own judgment and tended not to listen to his advisers at all. And so, what he said there was completely from the heart and completely thought through.

I think what April said is exactly right in the sense that the issues that have presented themselves in the last few years, including at the end of his first term with Trayvon Martin, have been, you know, more personal. And when he can speak about an incident like that, in those kind of terms, I think it really resonates with African- Americans around the country and especially parents and to Americans of all colors.

I remember after he made those staples and after he spoke again about Trayvon Martin, I got an e-mail from a senior staffer for a leader in the House of Represents on the Republican side and said, you know, I don't agree with him on a lot of things but what he just said was incredibly profound and affected me.

So, I think -- I think when he is best able to use that, you know, platform of the presidency to talk about these issues in a way that everybody can hear and not just, you know, one race or the other.

BURNETT: All right. So, it's an interesting point and a hopeful point that you're making, Jay. But, April, what do you make of which has been -- it is under me right now on our screen, polls. Six percent of Americans say race relations are better under Obama. That's a recent political poll.

Six percent. He's a black president. He's taking on this issue. That number seems -- that number seems horrible?

RYAN: It seems horrible. It is. Six percent of Americans believe that race relations are better, that's saying something.

So, that 6 percent, I don't know where they live, but race relations have been and will continue to be a problem. It's not just a legislative issue, it's a heart issue. And we are seeing things that we haven't seen in a long time.

Now, the whole world -- literally, the whole world is seeing what African-Americans feel and have dealt with for many years. This is not just something that just happen, this is century's old, and it's going to take it's taken a long time to get to this point. It's going to take a while. We have to change hearts, legislation, and this is speaking as a report, as well as an African-American.

BURNETT: And, you know, Jay, now the president is saying -- because the Trayvon Martin point that he said, I pointed out, that was at the end of that first term when he was -- and I remember at that moment, because it was so personal and he was often careful to be empathetic but not too close and now, he's much more emotional over all about it.

And so, he and the first lady just gave an interview to people which I'm sure you read. But here's a quote from him. He said, "There is no black male my age who's a professional who hasn't come out for a restaurant and is waiting for their car and somebody didn't hand them their car keys."

And then, Mrs. Obama talked about to "People" magazine, an incident when she was first lady of the United States. She went to Target. She was Michelle Obama first lady, she said, "The only person who came up to me in the store was a woman who asked me to help her take something off the shelf. These kind of things happen in life. So, it isn't anything new."

Jay, have they made a concerted decision to make this personal to make race a core and critical focus of the rest of his presidency?

CARNEY: I don't think it is a decision in the sense that they had a meeting and they thought, OK, now we're going to approach it this way. I think they've learned over the years, as they've had these positions, president and first lady, about how they can be most effective in talking about these issues which are very sensitive and very hard. And when they can talk about them in personal ways that resonate for anyone, because we've all walked out of restaurants, but only if you are a black American male are you likely to have the experience that the president had and have somebody hand you their keys --

BURNETT: it's a fair point.

CARNEY: -- or ask for the keys, right?

And I think that what the first lady said is also something that can resonate because I think what they are trying to do is create some commonality, to have people of different races to be able to see things through everyone else's eyes. And that's a hard piece of business, because legislation is one thing and we've had a lot of historic legislation over the past 50 years.


CARNEY: But the work needs to be done often now is working in hearts and minds.

BURNETT: All right. And before we go, I have to play something unprecedented that happened at today's press conference. April was one of these women, but let me just play what happened. Here it is.


REPORTER: Thank you, Mr. President. Would you consider you taking some sort of symbolic steps like watching the movie yourself?

REPORTER: Thank you, Mr. President. Looking ahead, what would you say to dissidents or democracy advocates inside of Cuba?

REPORTER: I have a number of questions on Cuba as well.

REPOIRTER: And you spoke earlier about 2014 being a break- through year and you ended the year with executive actions.

REPORTER: Thank you so much.


BURNETT: All right. Jay, every single one of them was a woman and then there was April. She was the one that wasn't on the list. She got in there unscripted, which was -- which was the special one.

RYAN: The special one.

BURNETT: Special, that's what I'm saying, right? You didn't know in advance.

RYAN: I didn't.

BURNETT: But, Jay, the White House defended this move of calling on all women. The quote was, "They had a unique opportunity to highlight the number of women who cover the president."

Look, that's a great thing. And I'm a little torn on it, right? I look and I say, gosh, do we need to highlight the number of women who cover the president? Are we past that point? Or is this a good thing?

CARNEY: I don't think so. I think it's important to highlight. Look, most press conferences the president has, certainly every the press conference I had, you called the people on the room. I called on April all of the time.


RYAN: No, you didn't.

CARNEY: I did, April. You know, you are one of my favorite.



CARNEY: But the fact is, there are a lot of men in that room, too. And I think it's important occasionally to highlight some of the most important reporters from the most important news organizations that cover the most important office in the land are women and they are good and they are tough and they ask, you know, questions that are every bit as good as their male colleagues.

I don't think they are trying to make a bigger point than just to highlight that act.

BURNETT: Which is a great thing, but -- I mean, gosh, I wish Americans just knew that and assumed that, because it's true, and that we didn't have to make a point on calling on all women to point it out.

RYAN: Let me say this. The history in this place is not the history for women. It started out as a white male-dominated room and it's still that way. And I mean, remember back when President Kennedy was president. Many people who are still alive and remember that time, Helen Thomas was one of those who went to President Kennedy and told him, look, women are not allowed to that wonderful White House Correspondent Association dinner and you could be a member of the association but not going to the dinner.

President Kennedy was going to boycott the dinner unless women came in. And the boycott from the women or the women going talking to the president helped women usher -- usher women into that dinner as well as usher the women into other areas in that room.

And in 2014, we're talking about President Kennedy and we're looking at 2014 and we just had this happen. There is still a long way to go.

BURNETT: I guess it's true. I just -- there is a part of me that just thinks, oh, goodness. It's a bummer we need to even point that out at this point.

RYAN: Erin, we've got to bring you along. Come on. We've got to bring you along.

CARNEY: I'll tell you, Erin --

BURNETT: Yes, go ahead, Jay.

CARNEY: And there were times, and April remember this is, in a briefing, when I would look at the front row, the first row in the briefing room and a lot of TVs there, but also the "Associated Press" and "Reuters", and there were days when every single seat was filled by a white male. And that's in 2014. That's not always the case. And sometimes there are a lot of women. But it's still --

BURNETT: But I think --


CARNEY: But the field is not quite level yet.

BURNETT: That's an interesting point.

RYAN: It doesn't reflect America. It does not reflect America in that room at all.

BURNETT: I'm certain in that, too. If you look at college campuses, to Jay's point, you still see men sitting in the front row.

OUTFRONT next: it's expected to be the busiest holiday travel season on record. Almost 100 million Americans on the road. And if you are flying, you will not want to miss our next report.

And hackers for hire. Cyberattacks like the one on Sony are now for sale. So, you can go out and buy one, and it's cheap. A special report.


BURNETT: Americans are taking to the skies in record numbers this holiday season. And if this past week is any indication, some of them could be in for a very bumpy ride.

So, Tuesday, severe turbulence hit this American Airlines flight. It was going to Dallas from South Korea. Passengers were terrified. Some were seriously injured. They had to make an emergency landing.

Other frightening problems range from engine trouble to very unruly passengers.

Rene Marsh is OUTFRONT.


RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Severe turbulence, a mid-air brawl, a flight attendant scalded with hot water, and an emergency exit pulled open. A frightening week onboard airplanes packed with passengers.

An American Airlines flight from South Korea to Dallas hit severe turbulence. Fourteen people hurt, five hospitalized. This woman struck in the head with a glass plate and food carts overturned.

The turbulence caused by a strong winter storm off the coast of Japan. The plane makes an emergency landing. Everyone is now out of the hospital.

The problem on this Thai Air Asia flight, a passenger upset about her seating assignment tosses hot noodles on a flight attendant, scalding her.

SETH KAPLAN, AIRLINE WEEKLY: Certainly, airlines would always appreciate even stricter laws about this. But they, themselves, can do a little more than they're doing and it could come down to just announcing it. You know, right after you talk about not smoking in the lavatory or you face a fine, why not remind passengers that there can be a $25,000 fine for causing a disturbance on a flight.

MARSH: And then, there is this United Airlines flight from London to New York, a possible engine problem forcing the pilot to circle over the English Channel for three hours, dumping fuel before landing safely.

And caught on camera: two women in a mid-air smackdown onboard Air China. The fight reportedly stemming from a crying baby.

KAPLAN: The good news is, these are still the exception not the rule. Most lights go off with none of these kinds of problems, but it does happen.

MARSH: From 2007 to 2013, more than 28,000 cases of unruly passengers reported by the airline industry, ranging from violence to not following safety instructions.

KAPLAN: You have people who presumably are nice people at other times in their lives but somehow you put them together in an airplane and they just lose their minds.


KAPLAN: Well, despite these incidents, this is actually one of the safest times in aviation history. Now when it comes to turbulence, you saw the video, it looks scary. But when you look at the statistics from 2013, for example, as few as 24 people were actually injured. And that's not a lot when you consider how many people fly. Usually, though, the people who do get hurt are the people not wearing their seat belts -- Erin.

BURNETT: Yes, thank you so much. That video, though, we can agree, Rene, was just terrifying. My gosh.

OUTFRONT next, the "dark web". This is an online marketplace for illegal drugs and guns, and it's also a place you can go to hire a hacker to perform a Sony-style attack. That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: U.S. officials calling the attack on Sony a game- changer. That attack carried out by an elite group of hackers from Kim Jong-un's military. But online espionage is also available to just about anyone with access to dark corners of the web. That's a very specific term.

And Laurie Segall is OUTFRONT with tonight's money and power.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want us to kill the leader of North Korea?



LAURIE SEGALL, CNN TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The next Sony-style hack is for sale, in the dark corners of the web.

To bring down a web page for an hour, depending on the Web site, only $2 to $60 on this Russian underground page.

To redirect people to a fake site, that's going for 750 bucks.

And what about an attack like the one on Sony?

DAVID KENNEDY, FOUNDER & CEO, TRUSTEDSEC: Out of pocket, you're probably looking at maybe $500 to $1,000 of coding time to get something like that the same.

SEGALL: All of these services available for purchase on an illegal forum on the "dark web", in the deep corners of the Internet, often accessed through encrypted browsers. The FBI may have traced the Sony attack to North Korea, but in the Wild West of the Internet, you don't have to be a sophisticated criminal to launch a devastating cyberattack.

You just need an Internet connection.

TOM KELLERMANN, CHIEF CYBERSECUIRTY OFFICER, TREND MICRO: You don't need to learn how to build a gun anymore. You don't need to be a coder in order to purchase a cyber Kalashnikov and add a grenade launcher to it in these forums.

SEGALL: Many of these forums based in Russia, Brazil and China are making billions. But not just anyone can enter.

KELLERMANN: Those people who are thinking right now that they want to go visit these forums and buy these capabilities, you should be well-aware that the second you've entered the forum, you've probably been hacked.

SEGALL: As these online communities thrive, more cyber criminals could get their hands on the keys to major corporations.

What makes the Sony hack different, it wasn't about money.

KELLERMAN: The fact that most hack attacks have a financial motivation behind them and this one didn't is significant, which really speaks to the fact that geopolitics are now serving as a harbinger for attacks.

SEGALL: And just may level the playing field for smaller enemies everywhere who want something.


BURNETT: That is a stunning report, Laurie.

SEGALL: Thank you.

BURNETT: So, you talk about 500 to 1,000 bucks to do the Sony attack. I mean, I think, my jaw dropped. I thought it was millions and millions of dollars.


BURNETT: How much money do these guys make to providing the service?

SEGALL: One of the guys I spoke to said one of these forums we showed you here makes $10 million a week.

And let me tell you, Erin, they actually have hacker hotlines. Let's say you go on and you buy your hack and you need customer support, they have hacker customer support. So, you get what you're given.

Also, I will say, this community in the last couple of years, it is thriving and it's becoming incredibly dangerous.

BURNETT: Wow, that is stunning, $10 million a week. I just, that's incredible. What a great report. Laurie, thank you so much.

SEGALL: Thank you.

BURNETT: And we'll be right back.


BURNETT: And thanks so much for joining us on this Friday night. Please be sure to set your DVR to record OUTFRONT so you can watch us anytime. We hope you have a wonderful weekend. If you've got holiday shopping left to do, get it done. You don't have much time.

Thanks so much. Have a great time.

"AC360" begins right now.