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THE SITUATION ROOM
NYC Mayor: Put Aside Protests for Now; Reports: North Korean Internet Down
Aired December 22, 2014 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, put aside the protests -- that's the appeal from New York's embattled mayor after the brutal murders of two New York City police officers.
On alert, law enforcement agencies across the country, they're now taking special precautions after the New York City killings.
Will the latest tensions lead to a spike in crime?
And Internet down -- why did North Korea's communications network crash?
I'll ask Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger. He's a key member of the House Intelligence Committee.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Let's get right to the breaking news.
Police across the country, they're taking special precautions after the murder of two New York City police officers. And the NYPD is investigating more than 15 direct threats posted on social media.
Under intense criticism for his comments on recent protests, the New York City mayor, Bill de Blasio, is calling the murders an attack on democracy and he's appealing for protests to be put aside until the police officers are buried.
We're also getting new information about urgent efforts by Baltimore police to o warn authorities in New York City that the gunman had gone there with the declared intent of attacking and killing police officers.
The NAACP president, Cornell William Brooks, he's standing by, along with our correspondents, our analysts and our guests.
But let's begin with CNN's Martin Savidge.
He's on the ground for us in Brooklyn -- Martin.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Wolf.
You know, standing outside of the memorial now that has grown on the street here at the intersection where the shooting that took place on Saturday has still caused this city to be in deep mourning and deep shock over what was the broad daylight assassination, authorities have said, of two of New York's finest. The tents now have been erected over this site to try to protect it from the elements.
Late this afternoon, an update from authorities on the investigation. And there we learned that authorities are still trying to piece together the final hours of the suspect in this particularly case. And they showed some remarkable footage. They say it is surveillance footage that was gathered from a mall in Brooklyn about three hours before the attack on the New York police officers. And there, they say, it shows the suspect walking and moving about here in the New York area.
But there is still a gap of about two-and-a-half hours they really don't know where this person was. They're appealing to the public for information.
Meanwhile, as you said, the mayor putting out a call. There are all sorts of protests that have been coming, both before and even being planned after this tragedy. The mayor is saying this is no time for that, please put them on hold until after the funerals of these fallen officers.
Here's what he said at a press conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: -- asking everyone -- and this is across the spectrum -- to put aside protests, put aside demonstrations until these funerals are past. Let's focus just on these families and what they have lost.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: There is a tremendous divide that is between the mayor and his police department. Now, New Yorkers have known this for some time. But the rest of the nation is finding out about just how bitter that divide is and how wide that gap is. And the officers say it's because the police are not backed by the mayor -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It certainly is bitter and that divide is great right now. The mayor, he got frustrated, as you know, with the news media, Martin, when he was asked about some of the more extreme rhetoric at these recent protests in New York.
He defended the protesters, right?
SAVIDGE: That's right. Yes. There have been some who have suggested that it was the protests that perhaps planted the seed in the suspect's mind to somehow want to seek revenge against police officers and that, in fact, he was shooting at a uniform. And that was brought up today, about the rhetoric that some of these protests had used on the streets of New York. And as you point out, the mayor got rather testy in his response.
Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DE BLASIO: The question is, what are you guys going to do?
What are you guys going to do?
Are you going to keep dividing us?
I'm not talking every single one of you, but let's get real. Just in that question, 25,000 people marched down one of our streets a few days back, absolutely peaceful, no chants like that.
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, the few who want conflict, attempt that. And unfortunately, so many times, you guys enable that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: The "you" in the statement that the mayor is making there is a reference to the New York media. He believes in some cases, they have been fanning the flames here.
But again, hearing from the mayor and also hearing from at least one of the fallen officers' families, there is a request that people take a time out, that they reflect on all that's been said and done and allow for these funerals to go forward in peace -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It is pretty amazing, though, when you saw that -- that video of the mayor Saturday night walking into the hospital where these two police officers were -- we're showing the video now. The corridor of police officers on both sides, they actually turned their backs on the mayor. They refused to look at him at all. I've been covering these kinds of stories for a long time, Martin. So have you. I don't remember a time when police officers showed such disdain for a sitting mayor.
SAVIDGE: Correct. It was an absolute stunning moment visually, when you looked at that, to see those officers physically turning their back, as they did. And then on top of that, when you talk to retired police officers, those who go back decades working in this city, they say never before have they seen a divide as great as the one they're seeing now. And that is truly a problem when you're dealing with a city deep in mourning, as well -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, it's a real serious problem right now. They've got to work this out and fix it.
Martin Savidge in Brooklyn for us.
We'll get back to you.
We're also getting new information about the desperate effort by police in Baltimore to warn the NYPD that the gunman had traveled to New York with murder on his mind.
Let's bring in our justice reporter, Evan Perez.
He's been working his sources.
What are you learning -- Evan?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the urgent efforts by the Baltimore County Police Department to try to warn the New York Police Department when they realized that this killer, that this -- the shooter was actually in Brooklyn. So we have -- at 2:10 p.m., this is a new time line they provided, at 2:10 p.m., the Baltimore County Police Department, a detective, calls the NYPD. He gets turned around, sent to another precinct, but eventually spends 30 minutes talking about this Instagram that this suspect had put out in which he threatens police officers.
At about 2:46 p.m., Wolf, the Baltimore County P.D. faxes the wanted flier, at the request of the NYPD, that shows the suspect and who they're looking for.
Less than two minutes later, a minute or two later, these two officers were killed. They never saw it coming -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's really shocking when you think about it. This is after he actually shot his ex-girlfriend in Baltimore. So there was a little history there of how dangerous this individual was.
You're also following the criticism of not just the mayor in New York, but also the attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder.
What are you picking up, Evan, on that front?
PEREZ: Well, Wolf, you know, it's actually something that I've been hearing a lot from former and current cops who tell me that they believe that the tone that the attorney general and a lot of elected officials who have been dealing with these protests have taken, that they weren't doing enough to give the backing of police officers. Today, at a press conference, an unrelated press conference, Jim Cole, the deputy attorney general, addressed this question when I asked him about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COLE, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: What you have to be able to do is have a conversation about isolated instances where we see profiling, where we see excessive force. And at the same time, we have to make sure that our officers are safe and that we do everything we can to make sure that the brave men and women who are part of law enforcement are protected as much as we can. And I think having the conversation about one is not undercutting the other. We have to have them both.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PEREZ: And, Wolf, you know, the rhetoric that you heard over the weekend from the head of the NYPD union was very strident. And it was something that certainly people at the Justice Department are pushing back on, because they say, you know, this is a conversation that can be had. We can talk. We can give backing to the police officers. At the same time, we can talk about the need, in some places, for improvements in the way the police do their work -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Evan Perez with that late breaking information, thank you.
First a wave of protests over killings by police, now growing fallout over the murder of two police officers.
Did one lead to the other?
Will the tensions lead to an upsurge in crime not only in New York, but around the country?
Brian Todd is joining us now.
You've been looking into this part of the story -- Brown, what are you seeing?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, one top police union official is telling us he believes the recent protests did lead to the deaths of those two officers. And a former police commissioner in New York gives an ominous warning. He believes a spike in crime across the country may result from this sequence of events.
TODD (voice-over): Two fallen officers, a city convulsing with tension. And tonight, a sense that the strain between police across the country and the public they protect is growing.
TODD: Police are angry that recent demonstrations turned into personal attacks against them.
JIM PASCO, NATIONAL FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE: We can certainly blame them. And I think that to the extent that this deranged individual acted on Saturday, there is little doubt that he thought that there would be a wave of sympathy from within the community based on what he's been hearing from the agitators.
TODD: In the days before the police officers' murders, police in New York had been assaulted during protests on the Brooklyn Bridge and at the Staten Island Ferry.
As the tensions escalated, police increasingly pointed blame at New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, accusing him of being less than supportive, and giving protesters too much leeway.
The police union in New York circulated a form letter which officers could sign, saying they didn't want de Blasio coming to their funerals if they died in the line of duty. Police turned their backs on the mayor on Saturday, when he appeared at the hospital after the officers' deaths.
And there was this angry outburst from the police union chief.
PATRICK LYNCH, PATROLMEN'S BENEVOLENT ASSOCIATION: That blood on the hands starts on the steps of city hall in the office of the mayor.
TODD: De Blasio's office calls it "overheated and irresponsible."
Tonight, an ominous concern from former New York City police commissioner, Howard Safir, that out of concern for their own safety, police across the country won't take the extra steps they usually take to protect the public.
HOWARD SAFIR, FORMER NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: If somebody gets a call that there is a domestic dispute in an apartment, they pull up to the apartment building, they don't see anything, they report it as unsubstantiated.
TODD (on camera): Without even going in?
They won't even go in?
SAFIR: I'm not suggesting that would happen, I'm suggesting it's possible.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: Howard Safir says he remembers back in the 1970s and 1980s in New York, when, during a time of more violence toward police, the police were called, quote, "blue flower pots" because they sat in their cars not doing much. Neither Safir nor Jim Pascal of the Fraternal Order of Police believe that we're headed back to that kind of a period, but Safir does worry about how police are going to behave in heated situations if they continue to feel unappreciated -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And you also, Brian, got some perspective from the former New York City police commissioner, Howard Safir, on how bad the tensions are right now between the police and the mayor's office.
TODD: That's right. Now, remember, Howard Safir was commissioner during the Amadou Diallo police shooting in the late '90s and the Abner Louima abuse case. He says he has seen periods of serious tension between the police and the mayor's office. He says he has never seen it as bad as it is right now.
BLITZER: Yes, as I said, I don't remember a time when the mayor, a sitting mayor --
BLITZER: -- was walking by police officers, two corridors of police officers, and they simply turned their back on him, showed their disdain, wouldn't even look him --
BLITZER: -- at the face.
Brian, thanks very much.
Let's bring in our justice reporter, Evan Perez, and our law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes -- Tom, what worries a lot of people -- and tell me if this is a legitimate concern -- copycats out there, not in New York, necessarily, but all over the country, guys who, presumably, on social media sites, they're saying they want to kill cops.
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Wolf, that's already a concern and it's already happening. I mean they've -- they've intercepted many social media postings already since Saturday afternoon where individuals expressed an interest in killing police because of what happened here, that they wanted to do it, also, they wanted to kill more police. So a direct reference to knowing that the police officers were killed on Saturday afternoon.
BLITZER: And, Evan, I assume the federal authorities, the FBI -- and you cover the Justice Department and the FBI for us -- they're very worried about this, as well, right?
PEREZ: Wolf, they are very worried about it because, you know, even if most of these are just hoaxes -- are just threats, they're just threats, people acting out, you know, they have to investigate every one of these. This is a very resource intensive thing.
And then the other thing is you don't -- you never know when one of these persons, maybe somebody who has mental issues, will act out and will carry out something like this. And worse, Wolf, the ones who don't even speak out.
And so the question is, you know, what do you blame this on?
Do you blame this on the protests?
Do you blame this on just, you know, what's going on at this time of year?
There's a lot of things that, you know, people with mental issues act out. It's Christmastime. There's -- you see this a lot in police departments.
So it's not clear what's driving it.
BLITZER: Evan, Tom, guys, stand by.
I want to bring in Cornell William Brooks.
He's the president and CEO of the NAACP.
He's joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Cornell, thanks very much for coming in.
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, PRESIDENT, NAACP: Thanks. BLITZER: It's an awful situation right now. And everybody's looking to calm things down. But as I said, I don't remember a time of such ugly bitterness between a sitting mayor, especially in New York City, and these cops.
Do you remember anything like this?
BROOKS: No. And particularly at this moment, where New York City is the safest large city in the country, and perhaps even the world. And so for this to be happening now is extraordinarily disturbing.
BLITZER: How did this get out of hand, this out of control like this? Two young police officers brutally shot down in Brooklyn for no reason, and this killer, he posted on social media, "I'm going to go kill two cops."
BROOKS: Absolutely. This is an extraordinary tragedy. And certainly, on behalf of the NAACP, we extend our condolences to the Ramos family and the Liu family.
But I think it's important to note here that we have a lone gunman with a serious history of mental illness and a long criminal history who acts out of a suicidal homicidal rage. We cannot connect that to peaceful protests. Because what's clear here is peaceful protests are not a cure for mental illness, and irresponsible rhetoric is certainly not a cause of mental illness.
But at this point, we all need to be very careful and precise in terms of our speech and our conduct, lest we make a bad situation worse.
BLITZER: Is the mayor right in saying, "You know what? Call off the protests for now" in the aftermath of the Eric Garner case, the Michael Brown case? Is the mayor right to say, "At least for now, let's pay our respects to the families who have lost their loved ones and forego the protests"?
BROOKS: Yes. I think there's a moment where one can exercise your constitutional rights, and then there's also a moment to exercise judgment, discretion and compassion. We have families who are attempting to bury their loved ones. We have a police department, a city, a country that is grieving.
And we need to be real clear about this. We have a country that's grieving. So let's honor the grief. Let's take care of one another. Let's console one another and tamp down on heated words.
BLITZER: What do you say to those police leaders who blame the anti- police rhetoric that we heard during some of these demonstrations after Ferguson, after Staten Island? Let me play a little clip. Here is the head of -- Patrick Lynch. He's the head of the police union in New York City. I'll play this clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATRICK LYNCH, HEAD OF POLICE UNION, NEW YORK CITY: There's blood on many hands tonight. Those that incited violence on this street under the guise of protest, that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did every day. That blood on their hands starts on the steps of city hall in the office of the mayor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Wow. Those are strong words. Are they fair?
BROOKS: I don't believe those words are fair. We have to be more concerned about not blood on anyone's hands but preventing further bloodshed. We have to be concerned about that.
And it does not help the situation to use such heated rhetoric. Because we all knew the tears of grieving families are not law enforcement blue. They're not racially black or Brown. They're colorless. And so we need to be concerned about grieving families. We need to be concerned about a grieving city. And we need to tamp down this rhetoric, because that's dangerous. It's very dangerous.
BLITZER: Very dangerous indeed. And of course, our deepest, deepest condolences to the two families of the two police officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.
I want you to stand by, Cornell. We have a lot more to discuss. This is an explosive, sensitive issue. Everybody wants it to calm down, but it looks like it's really tense in New York City right now.
We'll take a quick break. Much more right after this.
BLITZER: These are live pictures of the memorial at the site where the gunman killed two New York City police officers over the weekend, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. The breaking news: police across the country right now, they are taking extra precautions after the murder of those two police officers in New York. And New York's mayor, they are under enormous fire right now for earlier remarks. He's urging a pause in the protests over police violence. Says police must be respected.
We're back with Cornell William Brooks. He's the president and CEO of the NAACP. Once again, Cornell, thanks very much for joining us. So people focus in on most of the protests, and there were tens of thousands. Honorable, decent. They did it the way they're supposed to protest. But there were some who were ugly and terrible. And we heard this in New York the other day. I'll play some clips, because it's disgusting, but presumably it gets picked up. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do we want?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dead cops!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dead cops!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dead cops! UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When do we want it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So you see a crowd going down a major street in New York, "What do you want?" "Dead cops." "When do you want it?" "Now." And they keep going on and on and on. How does that happen?
BROOKS: It's misdirected anger. The fact of the matter is people are expressing their anger in ways that are not only unconstructive but socially suicidal. So in other words, when you attack police officers broadly, these are the people charged with the responsibility of protecting you, protecting us. That does not help.
And one of the things that I'll note here is in Ferguson, within days of Michael Brown being killed, the NAACP marched with law enforcement and young people, grade-schoolers. We did that because we wanted to make clear that we're not anti-police. We're anti-injustice. And the fact of the matter is, we're looking to bring about a better, stronger, more community-oriented style and strategy and tactic of community policing, we need police officers. We can't make them the enemy. Because in fact, when we make police officers the enemy, we in fact, make ourselves the enemy, because they're charged with --
BLITZER: But did some of the rhetoric that seemingly was anti-police in the aftermath of Ferguson, the aftermath of Staten Island, the chokehold death, if you will, did some of the rhetoric encourage some of these crazy fringe elements to go out there and start streaming "What do you want? Dead cops"?
BROOKS: I don't believe so. I believe people have to take responsibility for their own actions. You cannot blame the crowd for incidents of violence or acting out or bringing harm to your own community. People have to stand on their own feet and take responsibilities for these actions.
Now, on the other hand, it also means that people in the crowds should take responsibility for inciting bad behavior, using irresponsible rhetoric. We shouldn't use this kind of rhetoric when we're standing on the street. And we certainly shouldn't use this kind of rhetoric if we're public officials.
BLITZER: And you would hope that next time you hear that kind of rhetoric, others in the crowd would tell these people, "Shut up. There's no place for language like that."
I interviewed earlier today a very distinguished man, Rev. Kelvin Butts. He's the pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York. He's well-known. He's been an inspiration for a lot of people over the years. But he was not very complimentary of the mayor of New York. I'm going to play a little clip. This is Reverend Butts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. CALVIN BUTTS, ABYSSINIAN BAPTIST CHURCH: I'm disappointed when I called the mayor's office to set up a meeting between several leading clergy persons in this city and several prominent businesspersons, the mayor did not reach back. This indicates that he is slightly out of touch. He's getting bad advice and, as a result, the tensions in the city between the police and the community are heightened. And it is, I think, a direct result of leadership.
BLITZER: Those are pretty strong words from Reverend Butts.
BROOKS: Very strong words. But I'll note that at this point where tensions are so high, now's the time to draw deeply upon the reservoir of trust, community capital, there are people across New York, ministers, priests, rabbis, distinguished community leaders. It's time for all of us to reach out to all of us, to bring about calm, peace.
BLITZER: Here's an idea. Tell me what you think about this. The NAACP, the National Urban League and other organizations organize a march, if you will, to support law enforcement, to support police.
BROOKS: Here's what I would make clear here. Everything that we have done over the last several months has been in support of lawful, well- respected community-oriented policing. Everything. We have already marched with the police.
We have -- consider this, Wolf. Members of my staff, members of the NAACP are police officers, are part of law enforcement. The fact of the matter is I began my career at a very distinguished law enforcement agency called the U.S. Justice Department. We believe in law enforcement, so much so that we believe that they have to honor their badges by operating in a fashion that wins the trust of the community.
BLITZER: Does it make sense to have a little demonstration in support of law enforcement? Reverend butts told me he's got a lot of members of his church in New York who are cops, and they need some support.
BROOKS: I think it's important to not only demonstrate in a march but demonstrate in an ongoing way. It's not about just merely having a march, but it's also a matter of standing with police officers for the best form of policing. That we're doing and that we have done.
BLITZER: Cornell William Brooks, a very tense time right now. Let's hope there are no more copycats out there and that they can calm the situation down. Because as I said before, I was really worried.
BROOKS: -- copy the nonviolence.
BLITZER: Nonviolence is great. Peaceful protests, everybody has a right to do it. But when you hear those ugly, you know, comments..
BROOKS: No place. It has no place. BLITZER: All right. Cornell, thanks very much for coming in.
BROOKS: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to have a lot more on the breaking news.
Also, there are new developments involving North Korea. Guess what? North Korea's Internet, it's down. Who's responsible for that? We've got new information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We continue to follow the breaking news in New York City where the mayor, Bill de Blasio, is asking people to put aside protests until after the funerals of the two police officers who were brutally killed over the weekend.
But we're also following reports that North Korea's Internet system all of a sudden collapsed today. The reports come as the State Department put new pressure on North Korea to admit that it was behind the cyberattack on Sony Pictures.
Let's bring in our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott. She's working this story for us. What are you learning?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: U.S. being tight- lipped, not surprisingly, about these reports that North Korea's Internet service is down. Experts say it does seem to be a cyberattack. You know, you've had these latest shutdowns of North Korea Internet service. This doesn't seem to be a blip. It seems to be something much more than that, experts say.
Others say it could be North Korea pulled the plug on its own Internet or perhaps their main Chinese Internet provider could have disconnected them.
This happens as the U.S. is weighing its response to the cyberattack on Sony. North Korea has denied its involvement and is demanding a joint investigation. Today the tit for tat was the U.S. said it was sure of its conclusion and urged the North Koreans to come clean. Take a listen to deputy State Department spokesman Marie Harf.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIE HARF, DEPUTY STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: As the FBI and the president and everyone has now made clear, we are confident the North Korean government is responsible for this destructive attack. We stand by this conclusion.
The government of North Korea has a long history of denying responsibility for provocative actions. And if they want to help here, they can admit their culpability and compensate Sony for the damages that they caused.
(END VIDEO CLIP) LABOTT: And even as it denied involvement, the North Koreans threatened further action against the White House, the Pentagon, the whole U.S. mainland. The U.S. is chalking it up to the usual North Korean rhetoric but still very damaging words, as the U.S. decided to connect them to it (ph).
BLITZER: Chilling words, indeed. Thanks very much, Elise, for that report.
While there are these reports that North Korea's Internet has gone down, there's no claim about who's responsible.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, has been working her sources. She has more on the military options for U.S. retaliation against North Korea, if it comes down to that. What are you learning, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Wolf.
The outages in North Korea are capturing the attention of the online world. The Pentagon, like the State Department, is staying very quiet about who may be responsible for that. But make no mistake, some pieces are being put into place about military response and military options.
STARR (voice-over): After the Sony attack, the Pentagon moved quickly, beefing up its own cyber defense against North Korea, CNN has learned. Now the Pentagon is looking into a number of classified options to quickly identify and defend against any future attempts by North Korea to hack into military computer systems.
At the same time, the military is preparing options for the president to consider.
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We're part of the interagency discussion about the incident and about options that may be available.
STARR: Any military cyber response will be coordinated with the FBI, which is leading the investigation.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We take it very seriously. We will respond proportionally, as I said.
STARR: One potential, an offensive, U.S. military cyberattack on North Korea's limited online capabilities. But it may be tough.
We know from defectors from this unit, which is called Bureau 121 or Unit 121, that they have 3,000, 5,000 cyber warriors. They operate out of China, Singapore, Europe, as well as using computer nodes throughout the world.
STARR: Oddly, experts who track online outages around the world are reporting Internet routes into North Korea since Sunday have been down. No one is yet saying this is a U.S. counterattack.
Pyongyang not giving up on its fiery rhetoric, saying, "Our toughest counteraction will be boldly taken against the White House, the Pentagon and the whole U.S. mainland, the cesspool of terrorism."
There are more U.S. options, such as more sanctions and putting North Korea back on the list of countries sponsoring terrorism.
STARR: Here at the Pentagon, the big priority tonight is on making sure all the defensive measures are in place so U.S. computer systems, the classified military network, essentially, is safe from any North Korean hacking.
Why not just go ahead and launch that cyber-counterattack against North Korea? Well, there's always the concern that, in that country, the U.S. doesn't have a lot of understanding how the leadership might react to something like that, and they want to keep provocation at a minimum even while they contemplate perhaps a very secretive response -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Barbara Starr, thanks very much. Let's get more now. Joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM, Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland. He's the top Democrat of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thanks very much for joining us. What do you make of all of a sudden North Korea experiencing an Internet outage? What do you know about this?
RUPPERSBERGER: Well, I wouldn't trust anything that North Korea has said. They have plenty of propaganda. They threaten our country, the most powerful country in the world. But, you know, we have to really focus on how we're going to handle this situation.
Wolf, if you don't mind, I think it's important that we let the public know that there are different types of cyberattacks. There's the type of attack that we feel that China is attacking our country and other countries, where they steal information, mostly from our businesses. We estimate we've lost over $2 billion in the last year cyberattacking our banks, cyberattacking our companies, our academia, our medical systems.
Then there's the destructive attack. And that was what's so serious about this North Korea attack, is this is the first time the United States has received a destructive attack. One of our companies, Sony.
And what a destructive attack is basically, is they came in to Sony, they totally took out their systems, and then they took all their information and then they deleted all the information. And this is very serious. And destructive attacks can be used against our grid systems, against our air traffic control.
And we now, as a country, need to determine how we're going to handle this, how we're going to let North Korea know that they would be held accountable for any other country in the world that will attack us. And Congress has a job to do also.
BLITZER: So if the Internet's down in North Korea -- they have limited Internet capability, but let's say it's down. A lot of people will suspect the United States did this, given the fact that the president said the U.S. will respond; it will be proportionate. The U.S. might not necessarily announce what it's doing. But what's your sense? If, in fact, the Internet is down in North Korea, was the United States behind it?
RUPPERSBERGER: Wolf, I'm not going to comment on that. It's not about what -- we will let the public know what happens after we do the attack. We don't tell people that we're going to come and we're going to hold them accountable, what we're going to do until we finish.
We've got -- we've got different agencies in our government coming together who will make a recommendation to the president, our commander in chief. And then we will act, and we have to make sure that we do it the right way. Because we are going to be a standard for the world on how we deal with destructive attacks.
It's just not about North Korea. It's about terrorists. It's about ISIS hiring hackers to do these type of things. So we have to do this right. It's got to be strong, but it's also got to be proportionate.
But I'd like to talk if you don't mind, too, about what Congress needs to do and what we need to do to protect our country.
BLITZER: Go ahead.
RUPPERSBERGER: OK. Well, Chairman Rogers and I and our committee, the House Intelligence Committee, have been working on legislation over the last couple of years. Right now, the -- our intelligence community is as good as anybody in the world seeing these attacks coming in.
But we -- the intelligence community and our country can't share this information with the companies and the people that are being attacked. And so our legislation allows for information sharing to allow our community, our government, our intelligence community, to let them know that attacks are coming.
It's like being a forecaster, a meteorologist. when you see Sandy coming up the East Coast, and you can't warn anybody. So we were able to pass legislation in the House, close to 300 votes, which is pretty good. And our record in the last House hasn't been very good at passing bipartisan legislation. We got this legislation passed. It went to the Senate and unfortunately -- even though Senator Feinstein and Chambliss, who are on the intelligence community in the Senate, worked with us, we weren't able to get a bill passed.
BLITZER: Well, why -- let me interrupt. Let me interrupt, Congressman. Harry Reid, he's the outgoing majority leader. Why wouldn't he let it come up for a vote?
RUPPERSBERGER: I understand that there were a couple of senators that -- that objected to it. There were two senators. And I'm not sure which senators they were. And as a result of that, it didn't come to a vote. And it was the last couple of weeks last week.
But the bottom-line issue is that we've got to move forward. We have to -- the next Congress, we have to put this legislation ahead, because now the public are starting to understand how serious these cyberattacks are. Those of us that have been talking about it for years, we're now seeing what happened with Target. We're seeing what happened with our government, our Treasury Department. We're seeing what's happened to the Sony situation, Home Depot. And it's going to keep coming.
These cyberattacks are serious. Not only about the information that's being stolen but more importantly what happened here in our country with Sony and the North Koreans is that they had destructive attacks. And that can disrupt lives.
BLITZER: What would be an appropriate -- yes, I was going to say, Congressman, what would be an appropriate, responsible U.S. response to North Korea?
RUPPERSBERGER: I'm not going to talking about that, Wolf. I mean, there can be sanctions. There can be a lot of things that we can do to make things difficult. Put them on the terror list.
But you're not going to -- you don't identify to your enemy what you're going to do until you do it. And that's what we have to do now, and that's the decision that the president is going to make, based on the recommendation from our military, from our intelligence community and other agencies on the best way to let North Korea know, you cyberattack in the United States of America, you're going to be held accountable. And we're going to do whatever we do -- we're going to do whatever we can to do to make sure you don't do it again or any other country or any other terrorist group that wants to attack our country or our allies.
BLITZER: Is there any doubt in your mind that North Korea was responsible for the attack on Sony Pictures?
RUPPERSBERGER: I can only base my information on the briefings that I've received. And the briefings that I've received, I have a lot of confidence in the FBI. I have a lot of confidence in the people involved in this, and it was North Korea.
And North Korea has so much propaganda. They've got a young, immature kid who's running the country. They're very irresponsible. And to threaten us and say they're going to attack our capital, they're going to attack our Pentagon -- you know, but that's their propaganda. What we want to do is make sure they don't attack us again. And we're going to do whatever we have to do proportionately to make sure that doesn't happen.
BLITZER: How big of a threat is North Korea to the United States?
RUPPERSBERGER: North Korea's a threat to the United States because they have nuclear weapons. But North Korea's more of a threat to the region. And that's why it's important that we work with China, if we can, because China does not want disruption in their own region when you have a government like North Korea that's radical, that's irresponsible, that has a very young -- a young adult who's now leader -- a dictator of a country because he inherited this.
And he's totally irresponsible. He killed his uncle, who coordinated with a lot of these other countries.
So North Korea's always dangerous.
BLITZER: All right.
RUPPERSBERGER: But believe me, the United States can stand up to what we have to do to protect our citizens.
BLITZER: Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
RUPPERSBERGER: OK, Wolf.
BLITZER: Dutch Ruppersberger is the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Up next, dealing with the stream of threats from North Korea. Our experts getting ready to weigh in how tough the U.S. can get with Kim Jong-un.
And at the top of the hour, we have new details from the investigation into the killings of two New York City police officers.
BLITZER: We're following the latest reports that North Korea's Internet all of a sudden has gone down.
Now in THE SITUATION ROOM to discuss CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, a former assistant director of the FBI. Christian Whiton, who's a deputy special envoy for human rights in North Korea. Our CNN intelligence and security analyst Bob Baer, former CIA operative, and retired U.S. general, CNN military analyst Mark Hertling.
Guys, thanks very much for joining us.
General Hertling, we heard the president vowing proportional response to this cyber attack on the United States. Barbara Starr just reported on possible military options are there.
How likely is it that we could see a U.S. military response to what North Korea did?
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, if you're talking about a conventional or a special operations force response, Wolf. I don't think it's likely, although I do know probably General Scott Beradi is very concerned about these movements and he has probably put his forces on high alert during this Christmas period. But I don't think you're going to see a conventional or special operations attack against North Korea certainly.
BLITZER: Christian, some sort of extreme military action seems unlikely, I agree. But is there any response that the U.S. could do in order to convince Kim Jong-Un to stop what he supposedly has been doing?
CHRISTIAN WHITON, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SENIOR ADVISER: Well, I think a real cyber counterattack would have some benefit or targeting the electrical system in Pyongyang. You know, we used nonlethal means against Serbia in the late 1990s. Just dropping carbon fiber filaments on transformers that disable them temporarily. Things that would have a real cause beyond just a minor black-eye for the hundreds of millions potentially of damage it's done to our economy.
BLITZER: But don't you think, Christian, if the U.S. were to engage in that kind of direct cyber warfare with North Korea, the U.S. has a lot more to lose in this kind of war than the North Koreans do given the technological advances and the dependency on the technology here in the United States.
WHITON: That's right. In that sense, we do. But I think at some point you have to push back. There has to be a consequence. It's not just North Korea who's watching this, it's Vladimir Putin, it's the Chinese. It's the Iranians. And if you can get away with a cyber attack on America, that not only has a financial cost but also puts the chill on the First Amendment in Hollywood, for example, there just has to be some sort of consequence.
We've talked so long, more sanctions on North Korea aren't going to make a difference. We should put it back on the terrorist list but it was before and the regime did just fine.
BLITZER: Bob, when you heard today the Internet in North Korea was down, what -- what was your immediate reaction? Who did you think was responsible for that?
ROBERT BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, the timing, Wolf, suggests it was the United States. I can't confirm that, of course. But it would be a warning, a shot across the bow of North Korea. But I think at the end of the day, even if we did bring it down, it's not enough. My solution always on North Korea, and it's always been this way, is deal through the Chinese.
We've got to take this to Beijing and say look, we cannot have a rogue state in your backyard. You can truly enforce the embargo. We cannot predict what Kim Jong-Un is going to do, but you might, and I would put it in their court, because really they're the ones that can do something about North Korea.
BLITZER: You know, Christian, I just want to get back to you for a second. The official White House statement from the National Security Council was sort of nebulous. They didn't reject it, they didn't confirm it, they just said they're not going to respond. They didn't deny it, though specifically they said they don't know about it. Not enough to discuss it, whatever. They had a nebulous statement. What do you think?
WHITON: I put my money on that we are not responsible for this. I wish we were in a way. But I just think you wouldn't see the messaging coming out of the State Department. If you're undertaking an attack on a country, whether cyber or not, you're not at the same point going to call them out to fess up to what they've done before. I think you'd change your language to hawkish.
Also the Pentagon making noises, the usual noises about an interagency operation. The fact that the FBI is still in charge of this. There's been no mention of U.S. cyber command that would probably actually execute an attack leads me to believe that this might actually be North Korea seeking preemptively to defend its Internet and its electronic systems against us rather than them doing -- them being the target of a U.S. attack themselves.
BLITZER: You used to work at the FBI, Tom. What do you think?
FUENTES: Well, I'd like to go back to what Bob Baer said because it's exactly right. China is a key player in this. You know, China has increased its trade with South Korea. China absolutely has an interdependency economically with the United States. They're only going to let North Korea get out of line so far before they're going to slap them down. So I think that the idea of the U.S. working with China to keep North Korea in the box is actually the more likely --
BLITZER: Well, some had suggested that maybe the Chinese were responsible for taking down North Korea's Internet.
BLITZER: General Hertling, what do you think?
HERTLING: Well, I do know, Wolf, that there's about 1,000 Internet protocol addresses in North Korea. There are over a billion here in the United States. The ones that are held by those in North Korea are hold -- held by the elite, the governmental agencies and some of these special units that do cyber in North Korea.
So, you know, this would be a whole lot easier to disrupt their network, disrupt their services in North Korea than it would be any place else. Certainly China might have a role in this. But again, I go back to the words of the president. He's looking for a proportional response at the time of his choosing, and it happened immediately after the announcement on Friday.
BLITZER: All right. Guys, we're going to continue our analysis, continue our reporting. Obviously significant developments.
Tom Fuentes, Christian Whiton, Bob Baer, General Mark Hertling, thanks very much for joining us.
Just ahead, the breaking news. Police across the United States right now, they are stepping up their precautions.
And New York's mayor calls for a pause in the protest after the murders of two New York City police officers. And inside ISIS. My exclusive interview with a Westerner who was
given behind-the-scenes access by the jihadists, and he actually lived to tell us what happened.