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CIA Chief Defends Agency After Torture Report

Aired December 11, 2014 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Torture head on, defending the agency after blistering charges in a Senate report. Did the CIA mislead Congress about its interrogation techniques?

Body for sale. A disturbing report says ISIS is now trying to sell the body of the first American it beheaded, James Foley, for $1 million. How the terrorists plan to carry out what officials are now calling a depraved plan.

Capital protests. Dozens of congressional staffers walk out in a demonstration against excessive police force and a show of support for the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. What impact are the ongoing protests having?

North Korea brutality. Defectors revealing the horrors that Kim Jong-un regime releases on its own citizens who fall from favor. What really goes on inside of its notorious prison camps.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. An unprecedented move by the CIA director, as his agency is rocked by revelations of brutal interrogation methods. John Brennan held an extensive news conference in response to the Senate report, accusing the CIA of torture, conceding that mistakes were made until officers went beyond approved interrogation methods. But overall, he strongly defended the agency, putting the White House in an awkward position.

We're covering all angles of the breaking news with our correspondents and our guests, including the former CIA spokesman, Bill Harlow. But we begin with our White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski. Michelle, what's the latest over there?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It has been stunning to see the CIA director in this open, deep disagreement with the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Then you had the White House refusing to even say whether it agrees with John Brennan, that these methods led to good intelligence and saved lives.

Well, today, a big change. We hear Brennan now publicly agreeing with the White House, saying that it is unknowable whether that intel resulted from these methods or could have been gotten through other means. And even the fact that he is CIA director after serving in the Bush administration when these techniques were used, has become yet another question.


KOSINSKI (voice-over): The CIA director today defended his agency in an unprecedented press conference.

JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: The detention and interrogation program produced useful intelligence that helped the United States thwart, attack plans, capture terrorists and save lives.

KOSINSKI: But with a strong caveat on enhanced interrogation techniques, or EITs, now better aligned with what the White House has been saying.

BRENNAN: Let me be clear, we have not concluded that it was the use of EITs within that program that allowed us to obtain useful information from detainees subjected to them. The cause and effect relationship between the use of EITs and useful information subsequently provided by the detainee is, in my view, unknowable.

KOSINSKI: John Brennan admitted the CIA made mistakes.

BRENNAN: I cannot say with certainty whether or not individuals acted with complete honesty.

KOSINSKI: But he would not call it torture. Brennan was CIA deputy director during the Bush administration when these techniques were used: waterboardings, beatings, conditions so brutal one detainee apparently froze to death; others kept away for days, forced to stand on broken legs; rectal feedings.

During his confirmation hearing last year, Brennan suggested he didn't know fully what was going on back then.

BRENNAN: Many things that I read in that report that were very concerning and disturbing to me.

KOSINSKI: Now Democratic Senator Mark Udall has called for Brennan to resign. President Obama has made strong statements against these practices.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's not who we are, that's not how we operate.

KOSINSKI: The White House emphatic that torture undermines America's moral authority and standing in the world; yet Brennan and FBI director James Comey, who was President Bush's deputy attorney general, remained in this administration.

(on camera): How does it not undermine our moral authority to keep people on who were involved during that era?

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Those individuals servings the president of the United States right now are not engaged and are not supporting a policy of enhanced interrogation techniques. And the reason they're doing that is because the president unequivocally banned it on his second full day in office.

I suppose if those individuals didn't agree with that policy, they wouldn't be serving the president.


KOSINSKI: Well, there are still questions surrounding how much Brennan knew at the time, but today the White House called him a patriot and said the president has full confidence in him -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Michelle Kosinski at the White House, thanks very much.

Even as John Brennan was speaking, he was facing some sharp rebuttal from the Senate Intelligence Committee chair, Dianne Feinstein, who presented the initial report earlier in the week. Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is working this part of the story for us.

Barbara, what did Brennan say about these controversial CIA tactics and the intelligence that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think a lot of people would be very interested in this, because of course, to some extent, that's the bottom line of all of this: did this help get Osama bin Laden?

Brennan talked about this act again, as Michelle pointed out, while some of the detainees subjected to enhanced interrogation, like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded, eventually offered up key, crucial intelligence to getting Osama bin Laden. It's not entirely clear that the enhanced interrogation directly led them to offer that intelligence. Listen to what he had to say.


BRENNAN: The detainees who were subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques provided information that was useful and was used in the ultimate operation to go against bin Laden. Again, I am not going to attribute that to the use of the EITs. I'm just going to state, as a matter of fact, the information that they provided was used.


STARR: So he's refusing to decline, if you will, to make the direct link but certainly leaving the door open.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, throughout Brennan's presentation undertook what some people are calling a tweet storm, fact-checking him in real-time, in her view, on her Twitter account. And let's just go to this point about bin Laden. The senator

says in her tweet that her study definitively proves EITs did not lead to bin Laden. The senator with her hash tag, #ReadTheReport -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So just to be precise, Barbara, she says there's absolutely no evidence that these tactics, these interrogation tactics resulted in the U.S., at least with other information, finding and then killing bin Laden. The -- what he says, John Brennan says, it's possible that they did, in fact, help but you can't prove that, so it's not knowable. It's unknowable.

STARR: Exactly. It's not knowable, in the view of the intelligence committee, whether the enhanced interrogation directly led any detainee to offer up what later did become what they say is valuable and crucial intelligence in leading to finding bin Laden. It's something that we may never know, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Barbara Starr, thanks very much.

One of the most provocative questions at Brennan's rare news conferences over at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, came from our own justice reporter, Evan Perez. Listen to this.


EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Your agency is involved in overseeing the drone program. And which we know from the government's own statements, you know, that there have been some civilians -- innocent civilians killed alongside terrorists.

I'm wondering if -- if you feel that there's enough control over those programs and that we're not going to be there in a few years with another director, having to answer these same questions about the loss of trust from the public, from policy makers.

BRENNAN: I'm not going to talk about any type of operational activity that this agency is involved in currently. I'm just not going to do it.

I will tell you, though, that during my tenure at the White House as the president's assistant for counterterrorism, that the use of these unmanned aerial vehicles that you referred to as drones in the counterterrorism effort has done tremendous work to keep this country safe.


BLITZER: Evan is with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. What did you think of that answer from the CIA director, Evan?

PEREZ: Well, Wolf, you know, what he was trying to do is maintain that this is still a covert program. This is a program that, you know, the CIA doesn't acknowledge exists, because it is something that is still secret.

Now, I do think that it was interesting that he was making sure, speaking as a former White House official who oversaw this program, that he was trying to make sure that people understood that there was great care being taken to make sure that civilians, innocent civilians were not killed as a result of this program, Wolf.

And I think that's the big question that we're going to hear reverberate from this debate this week. In the next ten years, are we going to come back, see documents come out as a result of investigations showing that the CIA, that the White House was not being careful enough to make sure that civilians were killed -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Evan, thanks very much. Good questioning over at CIA headquarters.

Let's talk about all of this and a lot more. The former CIA spokesman, Bill Harlow, is joining us right now.

Bill, thanks very much for joining us.

What do you make about this question that Evan asked about drones, that there's not going to be questioning in a few years because by all accounts, they're pretty precise, but there's civilian casualties, collateral damage, as they like to call it.

BILL HARLOW, FORMER CIA SPOKESMAN: Well, I'm not sure that there's a lot of collateral damage. But it's possible in any form of warfare that there may be some.

I understand, I believe that every effort is made to try to minimize that. On the other hand, in warfare there will be some collateral damage. A good question would be, if you're going after terrorists, and you have a few known terrorists in a prison setting, and you're interrogating them, is it morally worse to waterboard a known terrorist than to fire a Hellfire missile and blow him up and anybody who might be in his vicinity that you don't know?

I prefer, if possible at all, for it to capture a terrorist, interrogate them. Hopefully, if they cooperate fully, to capture them and get information out of them and allow them to live and allow them to give you more information rather than just killing them outright.

Now, if there's no other option and you know you, in fact, have a dangerous terrorist, then I think it's necessary sometimes in order to take them out. But when you make this moral equivalence argument, the fact that we made some terrorists uncomfortable for several days, several weeks at a time a decade ago, compared to blowing up terrorists now and people nearby, it's an interesting question.

BLITZER: The use of the word "uncomfortable." I mean, it's a lot more than being simply uncomfortable. A little chilly in the studio, I can be uncomfortable. But if somebody is waterboarding me or sleep deprivation or doing some of the other stuff that has been widely reported now in this report, that's a lot more than being uncomfortable.

HARLOW: And if you get blown up, that would be a lot worse... BLITZER: You'd be dead. Because the criticism of the Obama

administration that I've been hearing over the last few days -- and I want to know if you agree with this -- because you served at the CIA during the end of the Clinton administration into the Bush administration. You were there. You were the chief spokesman for George Tenet, the CIA director.

The criticism is, during the Bush administration, they were capturing suspected terrorists, bringing them to Gitmo or black sites around the world; and they may have been torturing them but they didn't kill them, although one or two may have died in the process of these brutal interrogations. The criticism of the Obama administration is they don't want to capture any more terrorists. They just want to go ahead and kill them in these drone strikes?

HARLOW: Let's back up a little bit. People who killed during the process of a brutal interrogation, that's not right. There was -- there was one person who died in Afghanistan who was not part of the high-valued detainee program...

BLITZER: It was a CIA operation.

HARLOW: The CIA was managing an operation where an Afghan guard allowed somebody to die. It wasn't part of an interrogation process. He wasn't being interrogated. It was a tragedy. It shouldn't have happened. That's separate from the program which is under investigation, widely reported.

Another thing I want to clear up here, people keep saying, read the report. It's all in this report. You've got to read three reports. You have to read the minority report which debunks much of the information.

BLITZER: That was the Republican report?

HARLOW: Republican report. Which debunks much of the information in the Feinstein Democratic report. You need to read the CIA's rebuttal, which also takes on many of the things which are said in this report; asserted in this report and take it off the table.

BLITZER: I want to take a quick break, because we have a lot more questions to ask you, Bill. But specifically, is it true, as some of the critics of the Obama administration are saying, they don't want to capture any terrorists anymore, they just want to go ahead and kill them?

HARLOW: I've not been part of this administration. I can't say for sure. I know it's very difficult to capture terrorists, but I do know that when you box yourself in and you say we don't want to take them to a black site; we don't want to add anybody else to Guantanamo Bay. It's very hard to figure out what to do with them when they capture them, and it's easier for them, if it comes to be a tough decision, to just take them out.

BLITZER: There's been a lot of drone strikes, as we know, over these past six years of the Obama administration. Bill Harlow, stand by. I have a lot more questions on what we

heard today from the CIA director. Dianne Feinstein's very tough response to what we heard today. Much more of our special coverage coming up right after this.


BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. An unprecedented news conference today by the CIA director John Brennan strongly defending his agency against torture allegations. Brennan is drawing a sharp rebuttal from the committee chair, Dianne Feinstein.

We're back with a former CIA spokesperson Bill Harlow. Among other things, she is saying -- she was tweeting -- I don't know if she personally, but her staff was...

HARLOW: I think it was her staff who was doing it, because she relies heavily on the staff.

BLITZER: In her name -- in her name, they were tweeting during the course of the news conference, which went on for 45 minutes, tweeted this, Senator Feinstein: "CIA says unknowable if we could have gotten the intel other ways. Studies show it is knowable. CIA had info before torture."

In other words, she's saying that there's no positive benefit from the enhanced interrogation, that that information could have gotten in other ways. What the director of the CIA said today, it's possible that they could have gotten it in other ways, but that's not knowable.

HARLOW: Well, she's wrong again. And in fact, if you go to the other studies, if you go to minority study, if you go to the CIA study which are available on, you can find a link to it. That there was valuable information which was gotten from them. And maybe if we had the luxury of time, we might have developed another way of getting this information. We didn't have the luxury of time. We were a ticking time bomb situation. We got very valuable information from these detainees only after they were subjected.

BLITZER: The nuance is, what Brennan says, yes, the U.S. got very valuable information from these detainees who had been waterboarded or had gone through some of these enhanced interrogation techniques. But they don't know if that information was a result of that so-called torture or if that information was received because some interrogator was playing nice with them and trying to smooth -- using other techniques which were not physical.

HARLOW: We do know. Go to the CIA study, and it will talk about detainee who provided limited information about bin Laden's whereabouts. After he was subjected to EITs, he provided much more information, information which allowed them to track that person down, information which gave them details about where he -- how he was communicating with bin Laden, how he was serving him outside of Afghanistan. That was new information. He didn't provide when they were using the nice guy techniques. It wasn't only after they... BLITZER: Why wouldn't Brennan say that today?

HARLOW: He has three constituencies to serve. The president, who hired him; the Senate, who pays the bills; and his workforce, who does the work. And he was struggling, trying not to annoy any of them. And I think he succeeded with the exception of Senator Feinstein, perhaps, in not going too far in any side.

He had a very difficult road to hoe there, and I think he did OK, did a fine job in doing that. But he had to be very careful he didn't go too far or he would annoy some of his other constituents.

BLITZER: He's the CIA director now, and before that he was an adviser on counterterrorism for the president. But when you were at the CIA, he was the No. 4 official at the CIA. He acknowledged today -- and I'll play the clip for you -- that serious mistakes were made by the CIA. Listen to this.


BRENNAN: In a limited number of cases, agency officers used interrogation techniques that had not been authorized, were abhorrent and rightly should be repudiated by all. And we fell short when it came to holding some officers accountable for their mistakes.


BLITZER: Should those officers have been held accountable for their mistakes?

HARLOW: I don't know which ones he's talking about. Let me give you one example. There was a mention of somebody who held an unloaded gun near the head of one detainee. That person was on an airplane out of that site where he was 24 hours after that incident happened. He was held accountable.

How does the committee know about these things? Because the committee was briefed about it in real time. The CIA went to Capitol Hill, briefed the committee in 2002, 2003, 2004 about these incidents. They were reported to the I.G.; they were reported to the Justice Department. Justice looked into it. They found none to be prosecutable.

So there were things that were done that were not right. But they were taken care of at the time by the people in charge.

BLITZER: You won't be surprised that Senator Feinstein disagrees. Among other things, she tweeted this today: "When senators were finally briefed of the information, they were provided extensive inaccurate information and were repeatedly stonewalled by the CIA, which refused to provide documents or answers to questions."

HARLOW: Again, if you go to our website,, there's a time line there. There are documents in there, showing some information that was briefed to Capitol Hill back in 2003. The incident with the cocking of the gun and the drill was -- the director of operations briefed Senator Roberts at the time. And he was appalled by it. It's in all in there, reported in documents highly classified until a few days ago. In some cases -- it's on the web site. They were briefed.

She says that she wasn't briefed on this stuff until 2006. That's true, because the president of the United States and the White House decided it would be held only to the senior leadership. And she wasn't among the senior leaders until much later. But it was the White House's responsibility to decide who gets briefed. The CIA followed White House guidance. They did it then; they follow White House guidance today.

BLITZER: Because you saw this time line that they released today. Senator Feinstein and her committee, they said the CIA began using its enhanced interrogation techniques in August of 2002. In September of 2002, a month later, the chairman of the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee were first briefed on the program. Senator Bob Graham -- he was the chairman -- requested more information in order to conduct oversight. The CIA refused.

HARLOW: The reason they weren't briefed in August is because the Senate was on vacation. As soon as they came back, they were briefed. If you go to "The Washington Post" in 2009, there was an op-ed by Porter Goss, who was the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee at the time. And he talks about how he was briefed in great detail and how he was stunned to find people now claiming that they weren't briefed on it and that they had somehow developed amnesia. You can ask him about it.

He later became the CIA director. If he had been misled as the House intelligence chairman, he would have found out about it when he got to the CIA, and he would have done something about it.

BLITZER: But what she says...

HARLOW: He was briefed, and so were the Senate.

BLITZER: When Senator Feinstein says they were provided extensive inaccurate information and stonewalled by the CIA, you respond to her by saying...

HARLOW: I have no reason to believe that to be true.

BLITZER: You were there at the CIA at the time?

HARLOW: I didn't go to those briefings, but I was at the CIA at the time. The people who went to those briefings tell me that they were extensively briefed, and I have no reason to believe...

BLITZER: John Brennan, who was the No. 4 official at the CIA, was he extensively briefed on what was going on? Do you think he knew what was going on?

HARLOW: As you said in his press conference today, he was aware of the program in general. He was not in the line of chain of command for it, and so I wouldn't expect that he would have been up to speed on every intimate detail of it.

But the people who were briefing, people from the operation's director, at the counterterrorism center briefing, the Capitol Hill did so, I think, completely and fully and responsively. It was a highly classified, highly sensitive program. And so it's understandable that not everybody around knew about it. But the fact is some members of Congress developed amnesia is...

BLITZER: Like who? Who developed amnesia?

HARLOW: Well, Nancy Pelosi claimed not to have been briefed about it at all. And then she said, "Well, yes, they briefed me about it, but they never mentioned that they were doing waterboarding." And then later, she said, "Well, maybe they did. But they" -- So a lot of people have developed amnesia. I think it may be because they're embarrassed about having known about it early on and not objecting.

But whatever the reason is, there's no reason that I know of to believe that the CIA didn't do what it was supposed to do, as directed by the White House, in briefing Congress.

BLITZER: All right. Bill Harlow, who was the spokesman for the CIA during those critically important years before and during and after 911, thanks very much for joining us.

Coming up, we're watching a new round of protests against police tactics, including a walkout just moments ago up on Capitol Hill.

Plus, Sony's nightmare gets more embarrassing. Is North Korea behind the theft of scandalous e-mails? We'll update you on this part of the story. Lots of news happening right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Happening now, new demonstrations.

Take a look at this, including a walkout this afternoon up on Capitol Hill to protest police tactics and the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. Capitol Hill staffers and at least one U.S. congressman stood on the Capitol steps. They held up their hands, saying, "Don't shoot."

With us here in THE SITUATION ROOM is Cornell William Brooks. He is the president and chief executive officer of the NAACP.

Cornell, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: Let's talk about this. What did you think of the demonstration today up on Capitol Hill? A lot of young African- American staffers. They walked out and they got into this demonstration. They are angry. BROOKS: Yes. I think it's extraordinary for congressional

staffers to walk out of this temple of democracy and to put their hands in the air and to say -- and to assert to the world, hands up, don't shoot. It is a testament to the fact that you have people from all generations, all races, all ethnicities saying we have to do policing differently in this country. It's being heard in the very seat of power, our Congress.

BLITZER: Are we in a new stage in our country right now in the civil rights movement as a result of what's happened in Ferguson, Missouri, and now in Staten Island?

BROOKS: I believe so. I mean, where you have people in all walks of life, all across the country who engage in civil disobedience, who are making their beliefs, their convictions about this democracy known, namely, we believe policing can be done differently. Our children do not have to be profiled. It is not a prerequisite for public safety.

And so the fact that you have a congressional staffers walking out, the fact that you have a representative walking out, and standing on the steps of the Capitol, saying, we can do differently, we can do better, we are in the midst of a civil rights movement. The likes of which we don't know the end yet but it's happening.

BLITZER: How do we make sure, though, the protests, you know, as long as they're peaceful are excellent, how do we make sure they remain peaceful, that there aren't, you know, provocateurs or anarchists, or others who simply want to make violence if you will? How do you make sure, in other words, there's no looting, nobody hurt, police officers are safe, civilians are safe?

BROOKS: Well, Wolf, what the NAACP has been saying is gasoline, matches, and Molotov cocktails do not persuade. Nonviolence, logic, reason and even love persuades. We've seen over and over again, over the court of our constitutional democracy that when you can mobilize the public, when you can persuade the public, when you can move policy makers, you make things happen.

And so we see all across this country, 99 percent of the people are engaged in nonviolent protests. We need to focus on that. The 1 percent who are engaged in anarchy and destruction, they are not helping the cause. They are not acting on the wishes of the families of these victims. They are certainly not acting in accord with the spirit of this democracy. So the point being is look at the majority. The majority of people understand we can move public opinion and we can move our policy makers.

BLITZER: I know you've got a big -- you're going to be part of this march on Washington this weekend, right?

BROOKS: Absolutely.

BLITZER: All right. We'll be covering that obviously as well.

Cornell William Brooks is the president and CEO of the NAACP. Thanks very much for joining us.

BROOKS: Wolf, thank you. Thank you.

BLITZER: Up next, we check on a report that middlemen may be trying to sell the body -- get this -- sell the body of the remains of an American killed by ISIS.

Also, a major movie maker's embarrassing and scandalous secrets go viral on the Internet. Is North Korea to blame? There's new information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: A shocking story coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. Middlemen possibly connected with ISIS may be trying to sell the body of a beheaded American for $1 million.

Brian Todd is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A grotesque development if this story is accurate, Wolf. Tonight we are told U.S. officials are looking into this report of a possible negotiation with ISIS involving shadowy middlemen and fixers for the remains of James Foley.


TODD (voice-over): He was the first American beheaded by ISIS.


TODD: Now four months after the killing of American journalist James Foley, State Department and National Security Council officials tell CNN they are looking into a report that ISIS is trying to negotiate the sale of Foley's body.

MIKE GIGLIO, MIDDLE EASTERN CORRESPONDENT, BUZZFEED NEWS: ISIS is trying to sell the body of James Foley for $1 million.

TODD: BuzzFeed's Mike Giglio first reported the story. He spoke with three sources, who he won't name, middlemen who he says were in contact with ISIS or its associates.

Why does he think his sources are credible?

GIGLIO: I would say that each of these sources are people that I've known before that have reputations for being in connection with ISIS.

TODD: Giglio says, according to his sources, ISIS and its associates have a specific plan for transporting Foley's body.

GIGLIO: They said ISIS was offering to provide DNA sample. Once it was confirmed that the body was Foley's, ISIS would receive $1 million in exchange for it, and someone, most likely a middleman associated with ISIS, would deliver the body across the Turkish border.

TODD: CNN cannot independently verify the BuzzFeed account but James Foley's brother tells CNN, quote, "There is absolutely no truth to it." We asked Giglio about that.

GIGLIO: The report doesn't say anywhere that the Foley family is aware of this. And I was pretty careful to make sure that this just focuses on ISIS' intentions.

TODD: U.S. intelligence and military officials tell CNN, if the report is true, it's another example of what they call ISIS' depravity.

Analysts say the Middle East is full of shady operators trying to arrange deals like this.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: You often find middlemen involved promising perhaps the Western powers and governments and families that they may be able to get access -- get a deal done but also going back to ISIS and saying, well, they also have been in touch with government's family members and sort of playing both sides and trying to make money out of it.


TODD: But Paul Cruickshank says anyone thinking they can make money from such a deal right now isn't dealing in reality, especially since there was never any successful negotiation for James Foley while he was still alive -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I know there are some precedence out there.

TODD: Yes.

BLITZER: And gruesome and then shocking and sordid as all this sounds, but there are precedence. I know the Israelis, for example, they've traded for the remains for Israeli soldiers who were held by various groups out there, they've gotten the remains back, they've released some Palestinian prisoners in exchange.

TODD: They have, Wolf. The Israelis negotiated for the remains of soldiers. We're told that Iraqi families have negotiated for the remains of loved ones. The U.S. is now reviewing its policy of never negotiating with hostage takers but given this war with ISIS and given ISIS' documented brutality at this point, it's unlikely that any real negotiations for the remains or anything else is going to come about or it won't be divulged publicly likely if it ever did.

BLITZER: Yes. And I know the U.S. has been in negotiations for year s with North Korea.

TODD: That's right.

BLITZER: For example, looking for the remains of American soldiers missing in action.

TODD: Correct.

BLITZER: Whose remains are in North Korea, at some places. And sometimes they've allowed officials from the Pentagon to go into North Korea to search for those remains. The North Koreans I guess have received stuff from the United States in exchange for that.

TODD: Yes, they have. Yes.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much. Brian Todd, reporting.

Up next, secrets, insults and opinions never intended to see the light of day. They are going viral right now on the Internet. Is North Korea actually behind the costly attack on Sony Pictures?

And defectors reveal new details about the life -- of life inside Kim Jong-Un's brutal regime.


BLITZER: New and scandalous secrets from a top movie company are now showing up on the Internet even as the FBI and other investigators are trying to determine if North Korea is behind the computer attack that stole the information.

Let's bring in our justice correspondent Pamela Brown. She's working the story for us.

What's the latest, Pam?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, tonight we're hearing the first apology from a Sony executive after the latest leaked bombshell involving racially charged remarks and President Obama in an e-mail exchange. And tonight the FBI is looking at clues in the hack such as coding written in Korean to see if North Korea is behind the attack or if someone else who has a vendetta against Sony and Hollywood.


BROWN (voice-over): Hollywood's elite have been rubbing elbows with President Obama for years, making millions in fundraising dollars for him. Now a major plot twist. One of Hollywood's biggest players, Sony exec Amy Pascal forced to apologize for e-mails in which she wrote racially charged jokes about the president, e-mails made public by hackers.

In one e-mail to producer Scott Rudin, Pascal, despite being a prominent Democratic Party donor and Obama supporter, insinuates that Obama only likes films with black actors like "Django Unchained."

JAMIE FOXX, ACTOR: Django. The D is silent.

BROWN: Pascal, shortly before attending an event with the president, wrote, "Should I ask him if he liked 'Django'?". "Twelve Years,'" Rudin responded, referring to the film "Twelve Years a Slave." Pascal wrote back, "Or 'The Butler'"? BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: She said, even

though this was a private communication that was stolen from me, she takes full responsibility and she apologizes for it.

BROWN: Today, Pascal released a statement saying the hacked e- mails are, quote, "not an accurate reflection of who I am. I accept full responsibility for what I wrote and apologize to everyone who was offended."

It's just the latest embarrassing leak after hackers, calling themselves Guardians of Peace, infiltrated Sony's computer systems in an unprecedented breach, also revealing celebrities' Social Security numbers and salaries, the studio's secrets about budget-busting movies, like the next James Bond film "Spectre." The leaked memos reveal it's already $50 million over budget. Other newly surfaced e- mails bashed stars like Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie and Adam Sandler.

HOWARD BRAGMAN, FIFTEEN MINUTES PUBLIC RELATIONS: Behind the scene, you're seeing a lot of phone calls being made to talent, to their representatives, trying to mend fences.

BROWN: Hollywood insiders say the leaks are causing prominent producers, directors and Sony executives to go on major damage control.

BRAGMAN: They're embarrassed, they're humiliated. It's very awkward situation.

BROWN: A big concern is that the leaks could continue to spill out and haunt Sony and its thousands of employees for months, possibly years to come.

STELTER: Some people at Sony think this was basically a terrorist act, that this was the equivalent of a physical bombing but only, you know, via cyberspace instead.


BROWN: And sources with firsthand knowledge of the investigation say the hack is believed to be politically motivated and the hackers are intent on embarrassing Sony by slowly trickling out this confidential information and private e-mail exchanges to the public.

And in the meantime, Wolf, we're told the company is still not fully back online. Employees are communicating mainly by text messages and phone calls. Probably a good idea.

BLITZER: I'm sure they got a lot more information if they want to release. It could be very, very embarrassing.

All right, we'll stay on top of this story for our viewers.

Pamela Brown, thank you.

Some deeply disturbing new details are also emerging about life inside North Korea. Defectors are speaking out about the brutality of the Kim Jong-Un regime and the deadly tactics it uses against its own people.

Our global affairs correspondent Elise Labott is joining us with details.

What's the latest over in North Korea, Elise?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, Wolf, the North Korean government in the last few days, including today, has been accusing the United Nations of ignoring inhumane human rights abuses by the CIA while spending too much time focused on North Korea. But now there are shocking accounts of the inhumane treatment by North Korean regime against its people from those who escaped.


LABOTT (voice-over): Kim Jong-Un carefully crafts an image of a confident and beloved leader. But beneath the pomp and circumstance, North Koreans live in fear and die of hunger.

On Capitol Hill, defectors shared new details of the regime's brutality. Yeonmi Park came from an elite family before her world came crashing down.

YEONMI PARK, NORTH KOREAN DEFECTOR: My father, my hero, got arrested for his illegal trading business, and sent to a gulag, on labor re-education camp. And he was beaten so badly he couldn't even go to the bathroom by himself.

LABOTT: She escaped to China with her parents but her family back home still faces retaliation.

PARK: Some are fired from their jobs and others were interrogated and tortured. Of course if I go back, they will kill me immediately.

JOSEPH KIM, NORTH KOREAN DEFECTOR: Hunger is humiliation. Hunger is hopelessness.

LABOTT: Joseph Kim's father starved to death before his eyes.

KIM: I saw my father wither away and die. And after he passed, things became even more difficult for our family.

LABOTT: His mother and sister escaped to China looking for work.

KIM: My sister was sold to a man. But it was only because my mom thought it would be a better life for her than returning to North Korea.

This is important part of my story that I hope illustrates how difficult and desperate the life is. And how many North Korean mothers who are forced to make these kind of heartbreaking decisions.

LABOTT: A student in New York, Joseph worries about those who weren't lucky enough to make it out. KIM: I can't stop thinking about some of my friends who also

lost their families. Those friends who also used to sleep with me on the street in North Korea. I am wondering where they are now you and what they are doing today.

LABOTT: From the top U.S. human rights official, a warning to the regime.

TOM MALINOWSKI, ASST. SECRETARY OF STATE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: We see you, we know who you are, we know what you are doing. You can't hide it anymore. And it is interesting, the North Korean regime does have shame because they deny this, which tells me that they know on some level that it is wrong and potentially dangerous for them in the future if we know it.


LABOTT: And that official, Assistant Secretary Tom Malinowski, at this Hill hearing, Wolf, showed pictures of North Korean prison camps and says he has specific instructions from Secretary of State John Kerry to increase the pressure on North Korea, including speaking out a lot more often about human rights abuses by the regime -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. What a story, Elise. Thanks very much.

Coming up, California is being battered by the most ferocious storm to hit the state in years. We're going live to California.

Also the breaking news. The CIA director's unprecedented move, defending his agency against allegations of torture.


BLITZER: Happening now. War of words over torture. New reaction to the CIA director's rare public response to a bombshell Senate report. We have top Intelligence Committee members in Congress. They are standing by.