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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
New York's Mayor Bill de Blasio Asking New Yorkers to Put Aside Their Differences; New York Mourns Murdered Officers; North Korean Internet Down; The Ridiculist
Aired December 22, 2014 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, I'm Wolf Blitzer sitting in for Anderson.
President Obama said the United States would retaliate against North Korea at a time of its own choosing for the Sony cyber attack. Tonight, North Korea's internet is down. The question is did Washington just pull the plug on Kim Jong-Un? Late new details coming in. Stand by for that.
But let's begin with the breaking news and a call for unity in a deeply divide New York. New York's mayor Bill de Blasio asking New Yorkers to put aside their differences and put a lid on protests until after two fallen New York police officers are laid to rest. He reaffirmed that call in a statement just moments ago, calling on the city to heal.
Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were shot and killed execution style by a deranged man vowing retribution for the death of Eric Garner in a police chokehold this summer. Tonight, Officer's Liu's widow spoke to reporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PEI XIA CHEN, WENJIAN LIU'S WIFE: The Liu family would like to express our gratitude and appreciation to the police department, our neighbors, the entire New York City community, friends and co-workers for the help and support this crisis. We would also like to express our condolence to the officer Ramos' family. This is a difficult time for both of our families. But we will stand together and get through this together. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What a heartbreaking story. Our thoughts and prayers, of course, with her and the Ramos family.
Additionally tonight, we have new video just in to CNN. Ismaaiyl Brinsley caught on camera at a shopping center in Brooklyn, his last known location before shooting the officers, then shooting himself. Police believe the gun he used is inside the Styrofoam box.
Late today the attorney general of the United States Eric Holder called it an assassination. President Obama condemned the killings in no uncertain terms. So did New York city mayor Bill de Blasio. At the same time, all three came under fire this weekend from critics who accuse them in one way or another of creating a climate that put cops in jeopardy and ultimately cost two their lives.
Today mayor de Blasio took sharp issue with that notion and with reporters whom he believes is hyping the idea that he and his police force are at odds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, NEW YORK: I heard from NYPD officer and leaders who said they saw peaceful protests, respectful protests. What you managed to do is pull up the few who do not represent the majority, who are saying unacceptable things, who shouldn't be saying those things, and they -- some who actually physically attack police officers which I say is absolutely unacceptable. We'll prosecute them to the fullness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We'll talk more about that shortly, about all that's been said by each side in what's become a very, very painful war of words. First, the very latest on how we got here.
CNN's Martin Savidge reports.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Surveillance video shows suspected gunman Ismaaiyl Brinsley at a mall in Brooklyn Saturday. About three hours from now he'll shoot and kill two New York police officers. Authorities are still trying to piece together those final hours.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If anyone has seen this individual --
SAVIDGE: This cell phone video shot from a balcony captures the moments just after the shooting. The frantic efforts to try and save the two officers. About a block away from this scene, Brinsley, the shooter, takes his own life at a subway platform as police close in. Hours later, authorities announce officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos died, murdered with the uniform they wore.
Based on social media posts, authorities believe Brinsley was vent on revenge, angry over police killings of African-American men in New York and Missouri.
WILLIAM BRATTON, COMMISSIONER, NEW YORK POLICE: Two of New York's finest were shot and killed with no warning, no provocation. They were, quite simply, assassinated.
SAVIDGE: Investigators say a review of Brinsley's cell phone contained video they believe he shot in Manhattan earlier this month at a protest over the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.
Brinsley's string of violence began early Saturday morning about 200 miles away. Police say he gained entrance to his ex-girlfriend's apartment somehow through the lobby and knocked on her door. She told police he threatened to shoot himself. After the woman talks him out of it, Brinsley shoots and wounds her before fleeing and taking her cell phone with him.
Baltimore police begin tracking Brinsley via her cell phone. While on the move he posts to Instagram, I'm putting wings on pigs today. The Baltimore police realize Brinsley's arrived in New York, they warn NYPD of the potential danger. Police now believe when he appears in this mall video his plan is already set.
DE BLASIO: I've seen with my own eyes New Yorkers quickly run over to a police officer and point out a bag left unattended and that's good and important. But this is another thing we have to do now.
SAVIDGE: At about the same time Brinsley throws the cell phone away and police lose track of it. The next time he's seen is around 2:45 p.m. near the intersection of Myrtle and Tompkins where he strikes up a conversation with people on the street ending with the chilling words, watch what I'm going to do. Moments later, he shoots four rounds through the passenger window at the police hitting both officers in the head.
As more of the shootings spread New York police officers rushed to the hospital where the men were taken. So did New York mayor, Bill de Blasio. And in a hallway this moment captured, officers turning their backs to the mayor. Many of them believing his sympathies for what they call anti-police demonstrations helped pave the way for the deaths of their brother officers.
PATRICK LYNCH, PRESIDENT, PATROLMEN'S BENEVOLENT ASSOCIATION: There is blood on many hands tonight. Those that incited violence on the street under the guise of protest that try to tear down what New York City police officers did every day
BLITZER: And Martin is joining us now with more.
Martin, why are the police asking if anyone saw the shooter in the hours before he killed the two NYPD officers? What else are they investigating?
SAVIDGE: Good evening, Wolf. Yes, by the way, we're standing outside of the street memorial where these officers were shot on Saturday and it continues to grow.
But to your question, the reason authorities want to find out exactly what he was doing every hour leading up to the moment of the shooting is to be able to be absolutely certain that there were no accomplices, that there was to one that assisted him in any way, shape or form in the murder of the two police officer. There's about two to two-and-a- half hours of time they cannot account for, after he disappeared, when he got rid of the phone and left that shopping area. They want to know everyone with whom he may have come in contact. They want to make sure nobody else may have had a role in this terrible crime.
BLITZER: Alright, Martin Savidge, thanks very much.
Both Mayor de Blasio and the commissioner Bill Bratton spoke at length about the divisions that exist between police and the community and their confidence about overcoming them. Mark Novak has seen many ups and downs over the years. He served more than 20 years at the NYPD and has strong views about what he's seeing today.
Mark, you say many current and former officers feel that the mayor has symbolically turned his back on them. How so?
MARK NOVAK, FORMER NYPD CAPTAIN: Well, I think in speaking to a number of my colleagues, Wolf, what officers are feeling is when these attacks were being directed at them, when you had protesters attacking officers physically and verbally in some instances on some of these demonstrations, chanting and calling for dead cops.
What the officers were looking for in that instance was for the mayor to take a stand or some individuals associated with this protest to stand up and say, yes, you have a right to protest, yes, you may have some valid issues that need to be discussed, but this is unacceptable. That's what officers were looking for. That's where they feel the mayor's support was not on their behalf.
You look at the progression, you look at the progression of the demonstrations becoming more and more violent. And many officers that I had spoken to felt this was the basic logical conclusion that was coming as a result of what was happening.
BLITZER: Patrick lynch, as you know, the head of the NYPD's biggest union said in reaction to the killings this weekend that many had blood on their hands. Then he said, and I'm quoting him now, that starts on the steps of city hall and the office of the mayor. That's a pretty extreme position. Do you agree?
NOVAK: You know, I'm not going to take a point here and debate that, but what I would say is this -- if the mayor feels that he's been unjustly and unfairly accused of having blood on his hands, then I would say welcome to the world of the average NYPD officer. It doesn't feel very good, does it?
BLITZER: Do you believe Mr. Lynch should apologize or retract that very tough statement?
NOVAK: No, I don't. I feel he made a statement based upon the anger and the emotions that were occurring at that time. I do believe, however, that going forward there needs to be a more moderated discussion between the unions and city hall because it's only by an open, honest discussion and avoiding this kind of heated rhetoric where things can move forward and healing can begin.
BLITZER: To the critics of Mr. Lynch who say he's simply using these tragic deaths to end a long simmering political battle with mayor de Blasio, you say what?
NOVAK: I say that the anger and the frustration that is felt by these officers is real. It's grass roots. I believe it's valid. To settle a score, I don't believe that's the purpose here, nor do I feel that's productive. But I think that based upon the raw emotion that occurred on Saturday, I understand where it came from, but I think moving forward cooler heads will prevail and things will progress.
BLITZER: Do you believe the mayor, Mayor de Blasio, had a very tough needle to try to thread after the Eric Garner decision to try to keep calm in New York as emotions still ran high after Ferguson, also to support the rule of law. How would you have handled it differently, for example?
NOVAK: Well, the one thing I can say that I believe that in my opinion where it could have been handled differently was. Again, when you have individuals protesting and marching and chanting, what do we want, dead cops, when do we want it, now, that's when a stand should have been taken. That's when somebody should have stood up loudly, unequivocally stated this is unacceptable.
And I don't understand. I would like somebody to tell me where you can replace that word "cops" with any other segment of society, be it politicians, teachers, or any other racial ethnic group, where you can replace the word "cops" with any other group and it would be acceptable.
BLITZER: But that was a really tiny number of thousands, and maybe tens of thousands of protesters that uttered those ugly words.
NOVAK: Absolutely. And it is was a small radical group within that protest. And it goes two things. One, it incites people, it's divisive and it also diminishes the actual valid concerns that the protesters had. So you had a number of protesters out there voicing in a legitimate way. They are honest and true concerns and you have people, I believe, diminishing that by making these chant. And I think that those are the people that should have been addressed by the persons involved with the protests. And that is what I feel the officer are believing.
BLITZER: Mark Novak, thanks very much for joining us.
NOVAK: Thank you so very much for having me. Appreciate it.
BLITZER: Digging deeper now on this with our CNN legal analyst, the former federal prosecutor Sunny Hostin, also Neil Bruntrager is general counsel for the St. Louis police officers association. He's also the attorney for former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.
Sunny, let's start with you. Mark Novak, you just heard him say the comments from Patrick Lynch regarding the mayor's office having blood on its hands reflected the emotions of rank and file police. Even if that's true, was it appropriate for the head of the police union to say that?
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, no. You know, I think everyone is feeling very emotional. Let's face it. We have two dead police officers that were assassinated. Of course tensions are high. People are upset. People are angry. This is a tragedy on every level. Everyone, you know, I send out my prayers and condolences to officers Ramos and Liu. It's a tragedy.
But there's really no place for that kind of rhetoric in response to this kind of tragedy. The bottom line is to somehow connect this lone mentally ill shooter with the 50,000-plus people that were protesting peacefully in the streets of New York, my hometown, is just that, just rhetoric, there's just no place for it. If we want to move forward in our society and exercise our right to free speech, exercise our right like police brutality, like institutionalized racism, we'd like to speak our truth.
And that kind of rhetoric, talking about blood on the hands of the mayor and people have said the attorney general and the president are somehow to blame for the actions of this one lone mentally ill shooter is just not helpful.
BLITZER: Neil, what's your take on this?
NEIL BRUNTRAGER, GENERAL COUNSEL FOR THE ST. LOUIS POLICE OFFICERS ASSOCIATION: Well, I agree with Sunny in a lot of different levels. But let me tell you. I think in order to be fair, what we have to look at is the timeline that is existed here. If we go back to August 9th when the Michael Brown shooting occurred we had lots of awful rhetoric, and lots of allegations that were being made, that were being directed not just at Darren Wilson but at police officers in general.
And police officers have had to listen to that and they've had to listen quietly to that. This frustration has built. And I condemn all of these intemperate remarks. But they all must be condemned.
And again, I agree with Sunny. This is rhetoric that doesn't advance the argument. So if we call someone murder, if we call someone killer, if we call someone a pig, that doesn't advance the argument either. And that's the environment in which we have lived in which these officers are now living.
So again, do I think it was a wrong thing to say? I do. Do I think it was intemperate? I do. What this should be about right now is the Ramos family and the Liu family. Nothing else. It should be about them. Those poor people at this time of year to have suffered this loss is something that we should all gather together on and say, look, we have to talk about these things and we have to deal with it.
BLITZER: Two men, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, great police officers, young, but such a tragedy.
Sunny., Mark Novak also honed in on a group of protesters who have chanted calling for dead cops. You point out that was a tiny fraction of the protesters and it was within the tens of thousands who have taken to the streets. But does he have a point that a more forceful rebuke of those people including those that wrote NYPD KKK on the sidewalk in front of headquarters, that those people should have been condemned and stopped right away?
HOSTIN: Well, my understanding, Wolf, is that they were condemned. That mean I have interviewed many of the organizers of these protests including Michael Skolnik. And it is very clear that they have in no way have sponsored that kind of language. They've in no way Have been involved with that kind of language.
And in fact, I mean, when you look at the fact that over 50,000 people were protesting at least in New York, the million march day, only one arrest was made. And so this really is a fringe element and there's no one that's condoning it. You can't -- who would condone killing police officers or calling for the death of police officers?
But again, Wolf, people do have the right, the first amendment right to protest, to peacefully protest, to assemble. And these are real issues. These aren't made-up issues. When you look at the stats, yes, there are problems of police brutality. Yes, there is racism in within the police ranks and those are issues that need to be addressed.
BRUNTRAGER: Can I weigh in on this?
BLITZER: Yes, but weigh in. But I also want you to weigh in on what the mayor said. He wants a hiatus in the protest now, at least until after the funerals. But go ahead.
BRUNTRAGER: I couldn't agree with you more. We need to simply stand down. Everyone needs to stand down at this point and let these poor people grieve. But listen, this is not about first amendment rights. This is about whether or not the mayor and whether or not the authorities in New York stood up and said these comments that are being made are wrong. Because while it may have been a fringe element, the media was catching that, the media was broadcasting this. This is what police officers were seeing.
So again, whether we like it or not, whether it was ten people, it was getting play on the air. And so what they wanted was not the Michael Skolniks of the world tell people to be quiet. What they wanted was their chief. They wanted their mayor to stand up and say, this is wrong. So let's be careful --
HOSTIN: He has condemned it over and over and over again.
BRUNTRAGER: Well, again, he didn't at the time. And that's the problem, is that he did not stand up and say these things. So again these remarks that were made by Mr. Lynch were certainly intemperate. But at this point, as I say, it's about the Ramos family. It's about the Liu family. We need to take care of these people and we need to stand down. And perhaps given the time of year, perhaps the fact that it is Christmas, we can simply say, let's start to try and understand each other.
BLITZER: All right. On that note, we got to wrap it up, at least for now.
Neil Bruntrager and Sunny Hostin, thanks as usual.
As always, make sure you set your DVR so you can watch "360" whenever you like.
Up next, more coming up on the tensions between New York's mayor and the police.
And Philadelphia's police commissioner joins us as well.
And also coming up, North Korea's leader maybe adored in his country. But tonight, he can't even check his Wikipedia entry. Somebody has actually taken down his country's internet. We have late breaking details coming in.
BLITZER: We're reporting about the very serious tension between New York's mayor and members of the NYPD. And I want to read you a line or two from the patrolman benevolence association, a flyer in the form of a will. It says that in the event of an officer's dead, the mayor and the police commissioner should, in their words and I'm quoting now, "be denied attendance of any memorial service in my honor as their attendance would only bring disgrace to my memory."
That was actually written back in 1997 about the New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. The PBA has also clashed sharply over the years with mayors Michael Bloomberg and David Dinkins. So the divide right now between city hall and members of New York's finest is apparently nothing new. It is, however, as bad as it's been in a very, very long time.
More now from CNN's Miguel Marquez.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A shocking moment. As New York mayor Bill de Blasio entered the hospital Saturday where the mortally injured officers were taken, fellow police turn their backs on him. A powerful and divisive message to the mayor of this major city who has lost their trust.
Noel Leader was a New York City cop for 20 years.
NOEL LEADER, 100 BLACKS LAW ENFORCEMENT: I've never seen hostilities this heightened before my career.
MARQUEZ: One NYPD union, The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, has been withering in its attacks on de Blasio.
LYNCH: There's blood on many hands tonight. That blood on the hands starts on the steps of city hall in the office of the mayor.
MARQUEZ: He and his organization representing beat cops blame the mayor for the way he's handled recent protests.
The lack of indictment of police in the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, first set off angry protests here. They grew angrier, a handful of protesters actually calling for the killing of police after a jury in New York failed to indict police over the killing of Eric Garner after he was stopped for selling loose cigarettes.
In the midst of the protest firestorm de Blasio shared his feelings about talking to his own mixed-race son about how he should deal with police.
DE BLASIO: We've had to literally train them as families have all over this city for decades in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him.
MARQUEZ: But perhaps what angered police here most, protesters given free rein of the city for several nights, and in one incident several protesters on the Brooklyn bridge physically assaulted an NYPD officer.
So upset over the mayor's handling of the protests on December 12th, well before these current killings, the police benevolent association asked officers to sign a letter to the mayor asking him not to attend funeral of officers in the event they were killed on duty.
LEADER: When an individual who is the executive of the city does not have the cooperation of his own police force, it puts the citizens in a very dangerous place. And when you hear some of the rhetoric by the union president, that only raises the level of frustration.
MARQUEZ: Tension between police and de Blasio started before he took office in January over New York's stop and frisk policy. At its height in 2011 nearly 700,000 New Yorkers stopped for so-called suspicious behavior, 87 percent of them black or Latino. De Blasio made ending the policy a cornerstone of his pain.
DE BLASIO: I believe that actually the long-term security needs of this city require moving away from the overuse of stop and frisk.
MARQUEZ: The practice ended by a federal judge in 2013 and supported by the new de Blasio administration has been a sore point for police and its unions who view the practice as successful in curbing crime here and preventing everything from petty crime to terrorism in the future.
BLITZER: And Miguel is joining us now.
Miguel, where does this go from here? Do you get any sense that the mayor and the police are going to work this out any time soon?
MARQUEZ: Well, it sounds like we have a bit of a reprieve at this point. Officer Ramos will be laid to rest on Saturday. We're still working out the details of officer Liu's funeral, waiting for family to come in from China. But it sounds like all the unions, not just the PBA, but all the unions are going to dial back on the rhetoric, the mayor has spoken twice now, said he's spoken to the family today. So it sounds like things are moving in the right direction, but I think there's going to be a lot more discussion in the days ahead -- Wolf.
Alright, Miguel, thanks very much.
As Philadelphia's police commissioner Charles Ramsey leads the fourth largest police department in the country. He also co-chairs President Obama's recently established task force on policing. We spoke earlier tonight.
CHARLES RAMSEY, COMMISSIONER, PHILADELPHIA POLICE: Well, I'm very, very pleased to hear that everyone is setting aside their differences to pay proper honor and tribute to the two fallen officers. I was concerned about that, and I'm very, very pleased to hear that any discussion is going to wait until after the funerals take place. So that's good news.
BLITZER: What do you think of the comments that the head of the New York police union made over the weekend that the mayor has blood on his hands?
RAMSEY: Well, I mean, that's out of emotion. It's a very emotional time. I think that after everything calms down a bit, hopefully he's able to have constructive dialogue with the mayor, with the police commissioner and with anyone else who needs to be in the room so these differences can be settled.
BLITZER: How do you move forward and regain the trust between the mayor and the cops?
RAMSEY: Well, I mean, you have to. I mean, they need each other. The mayor is recently elected. He's got another three years or so in office. It's for the good of the city. And I think everyone has that one thing in common. What can they do for a better New York City. So they have to come together. They cannot fight for the next three years or so.
BLITZER: Have you ever seen a situation where the mayor walks into an area this time in the hospital to pay his respects to the two police officers who were brutally shot and killed and two corridors, two lines of police officers, they turn around, they put their backs to the mayor, they refuse to even look at him in the face. You've been around for a while. I've never seen that. Have you?
RAMSEY: No, I've never seen that. It was very unfortunate because all the attention should have been for the families of the fallen officers and nothing else. So again, there's a time and a place for everything. But I'll tell you this, Bill Bratton is one of the police leaders in the country and I'm sure he'll guide his department through all this.
BLITZER: I know your city, Philadelphia, you have urge -- how concerned are you about the safety of your police officers, copycats, for example, who might be out there?
RAMSEY: Well, I am concerned, and we have certainly instructed our officers to be vigilant. But at the same time make sure they maintain a measured response when dealing with the public depending on the situation, obviously, but we don't want people overreacting. It is time for everybody to take a deep breath and just do everything they can to keep our neighborhoods as safe as they possibly can. BLITZER: Good advice From Commissioner Ramsey. Thanks very much for
RAMSEY: OK, thank you.
BLITZER: Up next we're remembering the slain police officers, partners on patrol, each with dreams cut short and families left in mourning.
BLITZER: Take a look at this scene. Live pictures coming in from Brooklyn. This is a candlelight vigil in memory of those two police officers, Rafael Ramos, Wenjian Liu who were brutally assassinated Saturday while in their patrol car, gunned down over the weekend, awful, awful situation. As we mentioned at the top of the program, New York's mayor is calling for unity and quiet reflection.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO NEW YORK: I'm asking everyone -- and this is across the spectrum -- to put aside protests, put aside demonstrations. Until these funerals are passed, let's focus just on these families and what they've lost.
BLITZER: The mayor says the two families of the slain officers are in tremendous pain. Tonight, we honor and remember both officers. Each dreamed of making a difference. Randi Kaye reports.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They were partners on patrol. Officer Wenjian Liu was seven-year veteran of the NYPD and Officer Rafael Ramos who first joined the department in 2012. Both were assigned to the 84th precinct in downtown Brooklyn. Officer Ramos worked as a school security officer before joining the NYPD and reportedly loved the Mets. He was married with two children. On Facebook his 13-year- old son wrote "He was there for me every day of my life. He was the best father I could ask for. It's horrible that someone gets shot dead just for being a police officer. I will always love you, and I will never forget you. Rest in peace, Dad."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said he was god -- He was god because the heart he had is uncompared to other people's heart.
KAYE: Ramos' cousin told "The Wall Street Journal" that God was a priority in Ramos' life. The 40-year old officer in recent years grew more passionate about his church. On his Facebook page a quote reads "If your way isn't working, try God's way. The same page said Officer Ramos had been married since 1993 and once studied at a seminary.
Before his death Ramos was studying to become a chaplain. In fact later that Saturday afternoon, the day he was killed, he was scheduled to graduate from a chaplain program. The pastor at his church told us Ramos had an infectious smile and loved his wife Maritza and his two boys, Justin and Jaden. LUCY RAMOS, AUNT OF SLAIN OFFICER RAFAEL RAMOS: I would like to thank
all those who have shared their sympathy and support for our beloved family member, Rafael Ramos. Who will always be loved and missed by many.
KAYE: Officer Liu, who was 32, had been married just a couple of months. Described by some around the neighborhood as quiet and in love. His parents are from China, and according to media reports, he was their only son. One friend of Liu's summed up his passion for police work in "The New York Times." "I know that being a cop is dangerous, but I must do it" officer Liu had said. If I don't do it and you don't do it, then who is going to do it?
BLITZER: And Randi's joining us now from the streets of New York. Randi, do you have any information tonight about when these two police officers will be laid to rest?
KAYE: Wolf, the rainy streets of New York, I should point out. We're just learning tonight that Officer Ramos is expected to be buried on Saturday. There aren't any definite plans announced as of yet for Officer Liu. We understand that his family is waiting for more family to come from China before they make those final arrangements. But as you saw earlier in the program when his -- when Officer Liu's family came out to speak, they're distraught. The family's doctor told reporters that the parents aren't eating. They haven't eaten since their son was killed. They're trying to understand how they lost their only son. Both of these men will be terribly missed. Officer Ramos as I mentioned in that story, was studying to be a chaplain and the president of that group that he was studying with told us tonight that he felt that being a police officer was also doing God's work, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Randi, what a heartbreaking story this is. And once again, our deepest, deepest condolences to the families.
Up next, breaking news. North Korea's Internet suddenly goes down. Is it retaliation for the Sony hack, what the United States is saying plus new threats from North Korea? That's next.
BLITZER: There's an ongoing war of words between Washington and Pyongyang after the Sony hacking scandal and now there are reports of what could be a cyber-attack on North Korea. The country has very little Internet access to begin with, but what it does have is reportedly gone, at least for now, leaving many wondering if the U.S. is behind it. We have Kyung Lah reporting from South Korea about what the North Korean government has been saying over the past few days. Let's begin with Barbara Starr over at the Pentagon. Barbara, is there any indication on who might have caused the Internet in North Korea going down? What's the U.S. say?
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, Wolf, the Obama administration isn't saying anything. Very interesting. The White House, the State Department, the Pentagon, all quiet about this. But you will recall that the administration said it would respond to North Korea's hacking of Sony, it would respond at a time and place of its choosing, and that response may not be made public. It may be very secretive. And that's leading some of the speculation around the world tonight that the U.S. may be behind this hacking attack against North Korea, retaliation. A lot of people say maybe not. That the U.S. wouldn't want to do something so overt. You can't always measure North Korea's response. Maybe the North Koreans took themselves out of the Internet business to protect their small network. Maybe the Chinese took them out, you know, getting annoyed with North Korea's constant rhetoric and leading to more instability in the region. The North Korean system basically goes through China. So speculation is rampant. But right now nobody's stepping up and saying they did it. Wolf.
BLITZER: What is the Pentagon focusing in on right now, Barbara?
STARR: They're focusing on defense right now, Wolf. What we learned today is, shortly after it was made clear North Korea was behind this attack, the Pentagon moved very quickly to look once again at its military computer systems, classified and unclassified, to make sure they were protected from this very specific North Korean attack pattern in cyber space. So they're working on beefing up those defenses. They're also working on options for the president if he wants them, cyber retaliation indeed and any other options the president may decide. As the Pentagon always says, it plans for everything. Wolf?
BLITZER: They certainly do. A lot of contingency planning going on. Barbara, thank you. Kyung Lah is joining us now from Seoul, South Korea. Kyung, as we mentioned, in the last 24 hours the Internet in North Korea suddenly has gone down. And you say you're witnessing something you've never experienced. You covered the Korean story for a long time. What's going on?
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I want to show you something that happened when we try to log on to KCNA. That is the state-run newspaper, the Web service. It is how North Korea sends its message to the United States, to the outside world. We get an error page. I've never ever seen this before. Sometimes it's a little slow. Sometimes you have a little trouble for a few minutes, but you can always get through. This is a trusted channel. This is what they want the world to see. It is down. Now, if they took themselves offline, maybe there will be an explanation later. If it is just simply a failure, if they were hacked, Wolf, this is a major embarrassment.
BLITZER: Certainly is. Kyung, you've been monitoring North Korean state media all day. Have there been any signs of anti-U.S. propaganda, state-run TV particularly in relation to the Sony hacking?
LAH: Well, it's generally a topic of every single program, everything is anti-U.S. The thing that's really notable are the news programs, what the news bulletins have been saying is very blatantly, we did not have anything to do with the Sony hack. But at the same time they are praising the Sony hack and pledging, Wolf, that the next attack will be thousands of times worse than the Sony hack.
BLITZER: Kyung Lah reporting for us. Thanks very much. Up next, more on threats coming from North Korea promising action against the White House, the Pentagon and the whole U.S. mainland, which it calls a cesspool of terrorism.
BLITZER: As we touched on before the break, North Korea has made a number of claims in recent days including that the United States government was behind the making of the film "The Interview." That's a comedy about an assassination plot against Kim Jong-un. And that the United States trying to frame North Korea for the Sony hacking. North Korea is again promising retaliation. Joining us CNN national security analyst Fran Townsend and Bruce Bennett, a senior defense analyst at the Rand Corporation. He was able to see the movie, "The Interview", several months ago while he was working with Sony.
Fran, North Korea is threatening what they are calling American (INAUDIBLE), saying counteraction will be taken against the White House, the Pentagon, the U.S. mainland. What do you make of these threats?
FRAN FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: You know, remember, Wolf, before the movie got pulled out of the theaters, they were threatening to also attack Americans when they went to the movie theaters. And we heard from the U.S. government that the threat wasn't credible. So if we're talking about physical attacks other than sort of trying to potentially inspire a lone wolf, they don't really have the ability to launch physical attacks. If you're talking about cyber, we've seen they do have capability, but the good news even on that, Wolf, is that now those are the most -- the Pentagon, the White House, you know, are the most heavily protected cyber assets we have. We worry about things like infrastructure, you know, electrical grids, banking, air traffic control, we worry about those things, but the American government has got both defensive capability and offensive capability if they -- now that they're watching, if they saw an attack, a cyber- attack coming at any of that infrastructure. So the answer is it's not impossible, but I think it's unlikely. It sounds like more of a kind of a thug's, you know, threatening than real to me.
BLITZER: Bruce, you said the U.S. response since the cyber-attack has been weak, that North Korea will not stop its threats unless the United States acts. What do you mean by that?
BRUCE BENNETT, SENIOR DEFENSE ANALYST, RAND CORPORATION: North Korea traditionally responds very strongly in its threats to actions that are threatened against it. It tries to deter. It has a very, very sincere concept of deterrence. So it tries to appear forceful, as Fran says, it may well not be able to do these things, but you only have to be able to do a little bit. One theater, one location of the Pentagon could be enough to cause a major event.
BLITZER: You saw the movie, Bruce, what, back in June. Did you think North Korea would respond the way it has? BENNETT: I did not think of the hacking kind of attack of the magnitude that they did against Sony. They have traditionally done collection of information, other hackers have as well. But this kind of damaging attack was something I had not envisioned.
BLITZER: Fran, as you know, there are a lot of reports out there now that North Korea's Internet all of a sudden has gone down. The National Security Council here in Washington says they have no information about that. That's just one day after the White House said the U.S. response against North Korea might not be visible or announced. What do you make of this? Could this downing of the North Korean Internet be the initial U.S. response?
TOWNSEND: You know, you can't say it's impossible, Wolf, but the fact of the matter is -- you know, and this would be the sort of dedicated denial of service attack that sort of clogs their pipes, if you will. It doesn't let people outside North Korea get in and doesn't let the few people who have got access get out. It just doesn't - the scope and the sort of -- the way it's been executed, Wolf, does not look to me like it is an NSA or GCHQ, which is the British equivalent. That's where you would expect they have very sophisticated capability and tools. Much as we wish that this would be it, I don't think -- although we don't know, and the American government certainly isn't commenting right now.
BLITZER: Bruce, what do you think?
BENNETT: I think this could be North Korea taking themselves off the net. They may be trying to prevent us from gaining access to hit them in places in response. So it's really hard to tell at this stage who's doing what and to what extent. It could even be the Chinese. They're pretty angry at North Korea for a lot of their provocations in recent years. And they may have concluded that this was -- this Sony attack was a violation of their major objectives in northeast Asia of stability and peace.
BLITZER: Bruce Bennett, Fran Townsend. Thanks to both of you. Thanks very much.
TOWNSEND: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: And just ahead, we'll shift gears. Something to make you smile. Anderson has been asking you to vote online for your favorite "Ridiculist" of 2014. Tonight we start counting them down. Your pick for number five, that's next.
BLITZER: One of my favorites. The Ridiculist that you've been voting online. For your favorite one of 2014. And tonight, we start counting down your top five. So, coming in at number five, a real career highlight for our own Randi Kaye. Here's Anderson from back in January.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, time now for the "Ridiculist." Tonight we'd like to take a moment to acknowledge the dedication that one of our intrepid reporters recently displayed. I'm speaking about Randi Kaye who spent last week in Colorado reporting on the newly legal business of recreational marijuana. Now, for starters, she showed us what an eighth of an ounce of pot look like. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here it is right here. And here at the grove, this will cost you 60 bucks plus tax. So, it comes out to about $73.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: All right, so that was last Monday. By Friday Randi had gotten very comfortable and had gotten a very thorough education.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: Now, this is considered a sativa. So, this is a very high energy marijuana, which Coloradans apparently like because they're active people here in Colorado, but then there's another one here called Indika. And Anderson, Indika means sort of like Inda couch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, here's what's happened on Friday. Randi was reporting on the new so called ganjapreuners. Companies like Colorado Rocky Mountain High, which runs marijuana tours, like wine tours in Napa, complete with a personal cannabis concierge and gourmet snacks. Being a resourceful reporter Randi, of course, got in contact with some sources. She got in a lot of contact. Basically she rode around in the limousine all day with the windows rolled up, I might add, visiting some dispensaries. And let's just say after a while the air quality in that limo was thick, to say the least. I mean just look at that. It smelled like Willie Nelson's bandana in there, I'm sure. At the end of the day of reporting, I asked Randi about her joint investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, Randi, I got to ask, how extensive was your research in the back of that limo?
KAYE: You know, Anderson, it was top notch. We did very extensive research, I have to tell you. I wasn't thinking right. I couldn't remember even some of the questions that I want to ask in the interview, which has never happened to me when I'm reporting in the field. And I found things to be really funny.
COOPER: But it was just a contact high, I just want to make that clear, is that correct?
KAYE: Yes, it was just a contact ... (END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Randi then went on to prove live on the air that even a contact high can elicit a tinge of wonderment and perhaps a bit of hyperbole.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: And if you saw those joints, I don't know if you could see them through the video there, but they were like the size of small cannons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Randi, did you say those joints were like smoking cannons, they were as big as small cannons?
KAYE: They are so big. When she -- When Barbara whipped it out to light it up, nobody wanted to light it. Everybody was afraid to touch it, because it was so big, nobody had seen such a big joint before.
COOPER: How much longer are you going to be there for, Randi? Are you moving there?
KAYE: I think I need to come home.
KAYE: I'm coming home tomorrow.
COOPER: I think you ...
KAYE: I'm coming home tomorrow.
COOPER: Please come back to the East Coast. Yeah. Come back to the East Coast.
KAYE: Do you think they'll know?
COOPER: Thanks very much.
COOPER: Randi Kaye giggling talking about whipping out small cannons. Just to be clear, I'm not taking pot shots at Randi Kaye, just at many of us in the newsroom, pot is pretty much the greatest (INAUDIBLE) that was aired on the program. And a true career highlight for someone who's always outstanding in her field. So, Randi, thank you very, very much.
BLITZER: Keep watching 360 on the coming days as we count down the next four. We'll see you back here again 11 P.M. Eastern. "SOMEBODY'S GOTTA DO IT" starts right now.