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Guns Smuggled on Flights; Independent Theaters to Show 'The Interview'; New York Protests

Aired December 23, 2014 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: Defiance on the streets. Protesters in New York City refuse to follow the mayor's advice as tensions flare over the murder of two NYPD officers.

Plus, screening security. Will moviegoers be at risk now that Sony Pictures is releasing "The Interview", the film?

And an AK-47 on board a plane. Studying new details about dozens of guns smuggled on to Delta flights as Americans travel for the holidays. Could this be happening now?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Two breaking stories tonight.

Fears of retaliation by North Korea now that Sony Pictures has changed course, announcing the limited release of the movie, "The Interview", about a plan to assassinate Kim Jong-un. Some independent theaters now plan to show the comedy on Christmas Day despite the crippling cyberattack on Sony and the new threats against the United States.

We're also watching a protest against racism and police violence now under way in New York City, despite the mayor's plea for a pause in demonstrations.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is trying to diffuse tensions after the execution-style killing of two members of the NYPD. He visited a memorial for the murdered officers today.

And we learned just a short while ago that Vice President Joe Biden will attend the funeral on Saturday for one of the police officers.

The head of the National Urban League, Marc Morial, he's standing by live along with our correspondents and our analysts. They're all covering the breaking news.

First, let's to go CNN's Martin Savidge. He's on the scene for us in Brooklyn with the very latest -- Martin.


Yes, this is the crime scene of three days ago that now has become the memorial site for so many people. There's a large crowd here this evening. Both the police officers, but also of the general public, they're drawn here just simply as a place where they can reflect on what's happened. The city of New York is asking public buildings as well as landmarks to dim their lights at 9:00 for five minutes, again, another tribute to the fallen officers, just one of several today.


SAVIDGE (voice-over): At New York City Hall, everything stopped at 2:47 p.m.

BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: We now bow our heads in memory of officer Ramos and officer Liu.

SAVIDGE: The moment, Saturday, when two New York City police officers were shot to death when they sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn. After days of angry words and political finger-pointing over who beyond the shooter was to blame, today, silence said the most.

Earlier, Mayor Bill de Blasio made an unannounced visit to the street memorial on the site where officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were shot. Like so many New Yorkers, de Blasio was drawn to an ordinary corner, now turned almost sacred. Last night, with tears streaming down their faces, the family of officer Liu spoke, the most powerful words coming from his wife of just two months.

PEI XIA CHEN, WIDOW OF WENJIAN LIU: This is a difficult time for both of our families. But we will stand together and get through this together.

SAVIDGE: Among those offering condolences, the family of the gunman, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who later took his own life. Brinsley's estranged sister said her brother's actions were not revenge but the result of untreated mental problems.

JALAA'A BRINSLEY, SISTER OF ISMAAIYL BRINSLEY: I feel so bad for the family. We give our condolences to the family.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But we are grieving.

BRINSLEY: This has nothing to do with police retaliation. This was a troubled, emotionally troubled kid. He needed help. He didn't get it.

SAVIDGE: Also drawn to the street memorial, the daughter of Eric Garner. The death of her father at the hands of New York police helped spark public protests against the NYPD which some say triggered Brinsley's attack. Garner's daughter said she knows what the officers' families are going through.

EMERALD GARNER, DAUGHTER OF ERIC GARNER: We just want to let everybody that we're not anti-police. We just want to let everybody know that we support them and we're out here to lay the wreath and light the candles and do a moment of silence for the families.

SAVIDGE: And once again, silence became the loudest tribute.


SAVIDGE: And again, Wolf, those tributes continue to come in here. It seems many people just simply either want to look at what has been put down, the candles, the notes, the gifts, or they just want to reflect on what's happened and maybe where their city is headed next.

BLITZER: A somber situation over there. Thanks very much, Martin Savidge in Brooklyn.

Now to the scene of the latest protest journal way right now in New York City.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is there.

Miguel, tell us where you are and what's going on.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are at Fifth Avenue headed north now on Fifth Avenue.

The number of protesters here may be 500. They are staying on the sidewalk. I want you give you an idea. Ken, just go all the way up. You can get an idea of just how many protesters are here. They walked down Fifth Avenue to begin with. This is shopping central this time of the year here.

So they are sending a message that the system in general, not only the law enforcement and the justice system, but that the economic system here is also broken. And they want to see change. About 500 protesters, I can say, there's probably as many police along this route as well, some of them in riot helmets and face shields.

They are walking along the sidewalk here, keeping the protesters from going out in the street. The protesters have said they are going to stay off the street. They are not going to shut down traffic as they have in previous protests -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Miguel, what are they saying about killer cops over there? I see some of those signs referring to that phrase, killer cops. What are they saying? What is their message?

MARQUEZ: The message tonight is that they are calling the system racist, that they want change. They are calling the cops who have killed black men racist, that the system itself is racist. A sort of institutional racism that they're sick of and they want to see change.

So right now they're chanting, for instance, that they want to send the killer cops to jail, the whole damn system is guilty as hell. That's sort of level they're seeing now. You're not seeing them saying kill cops specific by, but they are very, very upset at what they see as racially motivated deaths of black men at the hands of white police officers, officers who have not been indicted either here in New York, in Cleveland, in Ferguson, Missouri, and now in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What do they say to Mayor de Blasio, yesterday appealed to everyone for a pause in these demonstrations until both the police officers are buried? What do they say about that?

MARQUEZ: They want the mayor to stand up for what they believe are their First Amendment rights to protest and to send this message to power, to the government that they want change.

They want the mayor to understand that they want his police commissioner, Bill Bratton, that they blame for a lot of the concerns that they have here with the broken window policy that he employed in the 1990s against crime here. They want him to step down. They want the mayor here to stand up for their rights to what they say is peacefully protest.

And they want to make very clear that they are not against cops, a lot of them say. They feel very badly for the two cops who were killed. And they draw a sharp line between the protest that we see going on here and the deaths of those two comes in Brooklyn -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Miguel Marquez on Fifth Avenue, walking with those protesters. He said about 500 or so, ignoring an appeal from the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, for a pause in those kinds of protests.

Joining us now is the president and CEO of the National Urban League, Marc Morial.

Marc, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: What do you make of these protesters marching today, even though the mayor appealed to them don't do it for a few days, let these two police officers be buried in peace?

MORIAL: Let me express my condolences and those of the National Urban League to the families of these two fallen officers.

I think we have to start the conversation by continuing to remember that two sworn officers, two men who had a mission to protect and serve, had lost their life in the course of duty. I do believe, however, we have to no matter for whomever it is uncomfortable reaffirm the First Amendment right which is an American value for people to protest and express their opinion.

The mayor, I think, however, must stay the course on his support for police reform in New York City. He ran on police reform. He had an overwhelming mandate to make changes to the New York Police Department. And he has got to stay the course on that very specific policy. I think that the people of New York will stay behind him, and I

really believe that some of the comments of the head of the police union were beyond the line, if you will, Wolf, in terms of their criticism of the mayor. But they have got a First Amendment right to speak, too. And while I think they were across the line, they have a right to express their opinion.

And this conversation may be difficult for many at this time. But it has to continue because at the end of the day, relationships between police and communities across the nation do need significant change and improvement.

BLITZER: Because we're showing our viewers the live pictures coming in from the demonstrators on Fifth Avenue. In the upper right- hand part of the screen, we're showing the memorial, the candlelight vigil in Brooklyn where these two police officers, Rafael Ramos, Wenjian Liu, were murdered on Saturday, brutally executed, assassinated, whatever term you want to use.

I just want to be precise. Marc, you're saying you disagree with Mayor de Blasio when he says, have a pause. Stop the demonstrations until at least both these police officers are buried. You say it is OK for these demonstrators to continue right now.

MORIAL: I think, from my perspective, I always have to associate myself with people's First Amendment rights and their right to speak, their right certainly to express their opinion.

The mayor from his perspective may have believed that it was in the best interests of all to ask the protesters to certainly stand down. Perhaps if I were mayor, that may have been the call I make. But as a leader of a civil rights organization today, Wolf, I believe very strongly that whether it is a Pat Lynch on one side or the protesters on the other side, they have a right to speak. They have a right to speak forcefully.

While I may disagree with Pat Lynch and some of his characterizations, I'm going to always stand up for people's right to speak and their right to speak out.

BLITZER: Earlier, a little while ago, I spoke with the former New York Governor George Pataki. I want to you listen to what he had to say.

I will play this little clip and then we will discuss.


GEORGE PATAKI (R), FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR: I think it is really unfortunate that Mayor de Blasio talked about centuries of racism in the NYPD. I think we should have heard from both of them, and from President Obama, during the course of the last year some commendation for the sacrifice our police officers make, the fact in any given year, over 100 of them are killed in the line of duty.

Where was that support until today? It should have been there. There should have been a balance in the rhetoric. It didn't exist with the president. I didn't exist with the attorney general, nor with the mayor.


BLITZER: You want to respond to the former governor?

MORIAL: George Pataki is trying to change the conversation.

And part of the conversation we have been having in this country right now has been a difficult conversation and it's about the relationship with, between police and communities and the overall racial disparities within the criminal justice system.

And I think to come out and make it about President Obama, to make it about, if you will, people with whom you do not agree with politically is an effort to score cheap political points. What the governor should be doing, the former governor should be doing is saying I want to be part of a conversation about change and not a conversation about whether this is about saying, I will stand up for police officers and support their mission, which I do and which many of us do.

But that doesn't mean that police officers are beyond criticism or if as an institution, law enforcement cannot be asked, cannot be forced to change some of its practices. We can have both conversations. It is not one indeed or the other. And I think those that want to score political points by attacking those with whom they may politically have differences is exactly the kind of conversation that ought to stay sometimes in that Beltway lack of partisanship arena and not be a part of what has to be a tough conversation in many local communities to bring about change.

BLITZER: The president is being criticized by some. He did issue a written statement after the two police officers in Brooklyn were shot and killed. But he didn't go before the cameras and make a statement in support of the police officers, in support of New York City, the police department, if you will.

Should he have gone before the cameras as he did after Ferguson, as he did after the chokehold case in Staten Island?

MORIAL: Well, I think the president, number one, is on vacation. Number two, I think that the statement he put out took place in the late hours of Saturday night.

And I think -- this effort to try to create an issue where there is none. He squarely, I believe, made a very forceful statement, whether it was before the cameras or whether it was in writing. It was a statement by the president. So it is an effort to promote, if you will, a distinction without a difference.

BLITZER: Marc, I'm going to ask you to stand by. I have more questions about what's going on. A very tense situation in New York City right now.

Much more with Marc Morial, the head of the National Urban League, right after this.


BLITZER: We're back with National Urban League president and CEO, Marc Morial.

Marc, look at these live pictures we're showing our viewers. Stop the war, you see what's going on over there. These are protests in New York City. A few hundred people are marching down the sidewalk on Fifth Avenue. They're angry about what they call killer cops.

They want justice, they say, and they're protesting despite the appeal from the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, for a pause, at least until the two police officers who were gunned down on Saturday, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, are buried. But they're moving ahead.

You're a former mayor of New Orleans, Marc. Did you ever have problems? When you were mayor of New Orleans, did you ever walk, and police officers would turn their back on you and refuse to look at you in the face?

MORIAL: I had police officers call me names. I don't think that's ever happened.

If you look at the history of the PBA, they have had tensions and battles with New York City mayors in the past. But I do think turning your back on the mayor who ultimately is your commanding officer went beyond, I think, what was appropriate, again, a First Amendment right to do so. And I might add for the PBA...


BLITZER: That's the Police Benevolent Association.


BLITZER: The union of the police.

MORIAL: Pat Lynch is running for reelection as president. The PBA collective bargaining agreement is now in arbitration. There are changes to the pension system that are as a result of actions of the state government of New York.

There are certainly some underlying issues that may raise the level of tension. But I thought again that that went beyond the appropriateness. And police officers criticizing the mayor, criticizing their elected officials, taking issue with policy decisions, that is nothing new. It happens in cities all across the nation each and every day.

But important to remember about Mayor de Blasio, he won with a commitment to end stop and frisk. He won with an overwhelming vote in excess of 65 percent, if I recall. And so I think there is a square mandate for him to bring about changes in the department. That's not a universal mandate. But I think it is a strong mandate. And because you want to

change a department doesn't mean that the department, all is wrong. It means now is the time I think to draw together a stronger relationship with police and communities, particularly communities of color in New York City.

BLITZER: Marc Morial, the head of the National Urban League, thanks very much for joining us.

MORIAL: Thanks, Wolf. Happy holidays.

BLITZER: Thank you. Merry Christmas to you.

I want to show our viewers what's going right now. It looks like some of those protesters are no longer on the sidewalk simply, but they have marched onto the streets. I think this is Fifth Avenue. They will be blocking traffic. And police are telling these protesters, don't block traffic. People have to get to where they're going. There could be emergency vehicles taking people to hospitals. Get back on the sidewalks.

We will see what happens, but potentially this is not necessarily a good situation that we're seeing. We will continue to watch these live pictures.

Let's bring in our panel.

Joining us, our law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, the community activist John Gaskin, our senior legal analyst Sunny Hostin and our CNN anchor Don Lemon.

We're going to watch this, Don. It could get ugly. Let's hope it doesn't. But they're on the streets now. The police say you can go ahead and walk on the sidewalks, but don't block traffic, because that's against the law. What do you think, Don? What is going to happen here?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I don't know what will happen. And I want everyone to hear me. I don't want this to be misinterpreted.

I think people have the absolute right to protest peacefully on the streets. That's their constitutional right. But I also think that we must be aware of tone no matter which side we're on. We must be aware of optics. I think that there are days to come where people can protest.

But I think that the protesters must think about the families at this point, because the families are really going through a lot. Whether you like the police department, hate the police department, however you feel about them, they did lose their comrades. So there will be next week and there will be the week after that and the week after that and the month after that where people can protest.

But I think at a certain point, you must be aware and you have to be sensitive. So continue to protest. Do your thing, but just think about what I just said. BLITZER: Tom Fuentes, if the protesters go into the streets,

block traffic, I assume that's some sort of legal violation, if you will. Should the police officers just let it pass or should they go ahead and arrest these people?

TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That will be up to the command officers, up to Commissioner Bratton and the mayor to decide how much latitude they give them. Do they let them shut down streets and stores and bridges like they have in the past and then allow increasing amounts of violence against their police officers being punched in the face and things like that, or do they try to contain it more?

We don't know. I don't know what the mayor has decided at this point.

BLITZER: That's a serious issue right now.

Sunny, I want to play for you a little clip. I interviewed Eric Garner's daughter, Emerald, earlier today. It's an interview that is going to air later tonight on "A.C. 360."

Let me play a little clip because I want to discuss it with you.


BLITZER: Emerald, there are those who point fingers at that tiny, tiny number of people who were saying really ugly things during the protests about dead cops and stuff like that. What do you say to those people?

GARNER: I tell people, I want to get the message out there that's there's not all bad cops. Like, all cops are not bad.

I have FDNY and NYPD in my family. That doesn't make me look at them like they're bad because they're cops. They are still my family. Once you take off that uniform, you're a regular person. Just because you have a uniform doesn't define you as a bad cop.


BLITZER: She is the daughter of Eric Garner, as you know. Sunny, what do you think about what's going on right now? These protesters, and several hundred of them ignoring an appeal, a very urgent appeal that Mayor de Blasio made yesterday, at least hold off on the demonstrations until after these two police officers are buried.

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think a lot of people that agree with Don, which is tone is everything and that the city is really reeling after the murder of these two police officers.

But, Wolf, there are a lot of other people that say, you know what? This is about freedom of speech. This is about your right to peacefully protest. And let's remember that while 50,000 people protested on the million march in New York City, only one person was arrested.

Just because you are protesting against injustices does not mean that you are anti-police. And because this one mentally ill lone wolf shot down two police officers in such a tragedy does not mean the overwhelming amount of people that support the right to protest and support the issues that the protesters are trying to, I guess, put forth in terms of effecting change, it doesn't mean they're anti-cop.

So there is a place for protesting. Whether or not right now is the time, I think it is certainly up and open to debate. But I fear there will be a chilling effect on our rights as Americans to protest if you have people saying, well, now is not the time. When is the time then?


BLITZER: Hold on one second. I just want to let John Gaskin weigh in. And then I will bring Jeffrey Toobin in.

John, go ahead. You're a younger activist out there. What do you think?

JOHN GASKIN, NAACP BOARD MEMBER: I think Sunny is striking the right tone.

As I have spoken with protest leaders today, and I agree with them. As long as the protests remain civil, they remain nonviolent, and I do think, I agree with Don to some extent. I believe optics is a major issue here as well as the tone, what is being said.

You know, Eric Garner's daughter is on the right track there. Police officers are people as well. So I believe that the vast majority of officers out there are good people. But you have to take a look at why people are protesting. They're protesting these injustices that have now been brought from up under the rug.

They're asking for reforms. They're asking for accountability. And so now is the time to protest. No one is saying that those officers that were killed were bad individuals. From what we understand, they were compassionate individuals that laid down their lives for the city of New York and they were good officers.

And those are the types of officers that we're calling for within our communities to police us, and we understand that. But now is the time to protest. Now is the time to do it in a peaceful way and in a way that is dignified to continue to shed light on this issue as we continue to openly discuss it.

BLITZER: John Gaskin, thanks very much. Sunny Hostin, thanks to you, Tom Fuentes of course. Thanks to you.

Don is going to have a lot more coming up later tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, "CNN TONIGHT." He is working the story. Check him out, 10:00 p.m. Eastern later tonight.

Just ahead, Kim Jong-un's next move. Will he retaliate now that Sony is releasing nationwide the film "The Interview" on Christmas Day?

And AK-47S and dozens of other weapons smuggled on to commercial airliners. Some of them were loaded. Authorities just revealed the scope of this crime.


BLITZER: More breaking news tonight. President Obama is praising Sony Pictures for allowing some screenings of the film, "The Interview." The company reversed a decision to pull the film after being hit by a major cyberattack that's been blamed on North Korea.

The question now: will Kim Jong-un's regime follow through on threats against the United States vowing attacks if the movie is released?

Let's go to our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown. She's got the very latest on what's going on. And what are you learning, Pamela?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is really a stunning development. As you said there, the White House releasing a statement today saying that President Obama applauds the decision.

Sony says it has been trying to find ways to distribute "The Interview" all along, and now it has found that with independent theaters.


BROWN (voice-over): A shocking turn of events in the growing Sony saga. Tonight, Sony announcing it will roll out a limited theatrical release of "The Interview," a controversial movie about the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a gift for you.

BROWN: Sony's about face coming after a backlash from celebrities like George Clooney and even President Obama, who criticized the studio's initial decision to delay the movie's release.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I wish they had spoken to me first.

BROWN: Tonight a growing number of independent theaters announcing they would be showing the movie. First to announce, the Plaza Theater in Atlanta.

MICHAEL MUSTO, COLUMNIST, OUT.COM: I think now they are seeing that the right thing to do is to be bold. Go forward and see what happens. And it's starting on a small level.

I think the larger theater chains, which are very corporate and cautious, are going to eventually see that OK, it seems to be working all right, and we can make money off this movie. And they'll jump on the band wagon.

BROWN: After major movie chains pulled the plug last week, following a threat by the hackers, Sony's powerhouse attorney, David Boies, hinting on Sunday's "Meet the Press" that the studio was not backing down.

DAVID BOIES, SONY ATTORNEY: Remember, Sony only delayed this. Sony has been fighting to get this picture distributed, and it will be distributed.

BROWN: Now the stars of "The Interview" speaking out on social media, James Franco posting, "Victory! The people and the president have spoken." And Seth Rogen tweeting, "Freedom has prevailed."

In a statement, Sony's CEO, Michael Lynton, said, "We're excited our movie will be in a theater on Christmas day. While we hope this is only the first step of the film's release, we are proud to make it available to the public and to have stood up to those who attempted on suppress free speech."

As tensions are heightened between the United States and North Korea, which the U.S. blames for the hack, reports that the reclusive country's Internet went down at least twice in the past 24 hours and remains spotty, according to an Internet monitoring company.

REP. ED ROYCE (R-CA), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Whoever shut it down, and we don't know yet, it doesn't really matter that much, because there's only several thousand users in North Korea.


BROWN: And the U.S. officials denied for CNN that the U.S. had any involvement with North Korea's Internet outage.

Meantime, the FBI says it was fully engaged with Sony on the decision to release the film on Christmas day. Apparently, Sony advised the FBI of its plans. And law enforcement sources tell me, Wolf, that there's still no actionable intelligence indicating a threat against moviegoers. So we'll have to see what the turnout is like on Christmas day -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I suppose the turnout will be very good at those theaters that are screening the film. Pamela, thanks very much.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman, who's from California. He's a key member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Congressman, you've asked Sony to allow the "The Interview" to be shown on Capitol Hill. You want a special screening here in Washington, right?

REP. BRAD SHERMAN (D-CA), HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Yes. It would be a couple weeks from now when Congress reconvenes. We've had quite a number of movies screened for members of Congress when they had a particular human rights or environmental or other issue involved. And everybody is talking about this movie. Congress ought to know what we're talking about. We ought to see it, Wolf. BLITZER: There's a screening room at the White House. You'd

like to see the film played at the White House, as well?

SHERMAN: Absolutely. I think that, now that North Korea has waged an attack on our First Amendment, we ought to stand with Sony and stand for this film and demonstrate that it's going to be shown in Atlanta. I look forward to being -- it being shown in Northridge, and it will be shown, hopefully, at the White House, and in the United States Capitol.

But in order to stand up for the First Amendment, it's not enough to just get this one film out. We need to give Kim Jong-un a double dose of the First Amendment by doubling our radio broadcasting into the people of North Korea. That is something that will put this regime on notice. They are very concerned. They've done everything possible to wall their people off from the rest of the outside world. And we've got the broadcasting resources that I think can get the message in.

BLITZER: What do you say to those who would say, you know what? All of these steps: showing the film in Congress, showing the film at the White House, stepping up Voice of America broadcasts, all the other things you're recommending are simply provocative measures that will only make this bad situation even more dangerous?

SHERMAN: You know, you don't have to do anything to provoke North Korea. They'll act on their own. This is a country that uses its diplomatic pouches to smuggle drugs into various countries. This is a country that is counterfeited United States currency and is engaged in countless terrorist acts around the world. They kidnapped ordinary Japanese civilians just to have people teach them the cultures and manners of Japan.

So this is a regime that doesn't need an excuse to act in the most barbaric ways. And what we saw at the United Nations today in the Security Council was an expose on the incredible cruelty that they show their own people.

So the idea that, "Oh, my God, you'd better not touch them. That will make them do bad things." They're doing bad things around the world and in North Korea every day.

BLITZER: Are you 100 percent convinced the North Koreans are responsible for the hacking of Sony Pictures?

SHERMAN: Absolutely. As is the president.

BLITZER: Are you planning on going to see "The Interview" on Christmas day?

SHERMAN: You know, I'm not in Atlanta. I'm not in Austin, Texas. I look forward to seeing that movie just -- just as soon as I can. And I look forward to theaters stepping forward and showing it around -- around the country. I think there was a natural fear the first few days when these threats from North Korea blowing up multiplexes were first heard. But I think that after it shows in a few of these independent theaters, people will calm down and they'll realize, good movie or bad movie, it's a movie that we as Americans need to stand up and see.

BLITZER: Congressman Brad Sherman of California, thanks very much for joining us.

SHERMAN: Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's get some more now. Joining us, Christian Whiton. He's the former deputy special envoy for human rights in North Korea.

Also joining us, our global affairs analyst, Lieutenant Colonel James Reese, retired. Kim Masters, she's the editor at large for "The Hollywood Reporter." Senior media correspondent Brian Stelter, he's also the host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."

Brian, you have an update. You're just getting new information on how many theaters across the country are actually going to be showing this film on Christmas day?

BRIAN STELTER, HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": And some good news for Congressman Sherman. He can be right near -- right near his district to see the movie on Thursday. It's going to be playing in Los Fila (ph) and in a number of other parts of California.

I'm told, Wolf, that the total number of theaters that have agreed to play it is 190. And it's going to get a little bit higher in the next few hours. There's a deadline of about 8 p.m. Eastern Time. Movie theaters have to tell Sony they want a copy of the movie by then so it can get to them in time for Christmas. And I think it will top out at around 200 independently owned theaters that will show it.

BLITZER: That's pretty impressive. How safe, Colonel Reese, is it for folks to go to the movie theaters and see "The Interview"?

LT. COL. JAMES REESE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Wolf, it's absolutely 100 percent safe. Everyone needs to go, enjoy Christmas, enjoy the movie, and have a good laugh.

BLITZER: Why did Sony change their minds?

KIM MASTERS, EDITOR AT LARGE, "THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER": I think it became an untenable position to say we're not showing the movie. I mean, as much as they were afraid, as much as they are -- hacking has devastated their company, as much as they have tattered relationships, maybe the hackers have already done their worse.

But with the president of the United States calling them out and, really, the theater owners around the country saying, "It's not true that we're unwilling to show this film," then Sony had to do something, and they did it.

BLITZER: Christian, you're an expert on North Korea. It certainly is going to anger Kim Jong-un and his regime. What can they do to retaliate? Do you think they will? CHRISTIAN WHITON, FORMER DEPUTY SPECIAL ENVOY FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN

NORTH KOREA: Yes, I think they will eventually. What we're seeing is part of a cycle of aggression that North Korea enters from time to time, because it wants recognition or it wants foreign assistance or something like that.

I don't think it will be direct. It won't be another cyberattack. Relatively low tech, as this one was, against a company dependent on intellectual property. But this is not a regime that can be ignored. In fact, when it's ignored, it tends to act out the most.

BLITZER: And Brian, is Sony at risk for more of these cyberattacks? The initial cyberattack basically destroyed their entire computer system, all their hard drives. They wound up with nothing. They couldn't even figure out how to do payroll, because all their systems were down.

STELTER: And they are still struggling to get back online in some cases.

I think there is very real threat of more private data being leaked. We know that the hackers have not published everything they have.

I think Pamela Brown's reporting was very important a couple of minutes ago. She said that maybe this is a signal that Sony and the FBI do not believe the hackers are still inside the systems. The fact that they are choosing to release this film shows some confidence that they are not still inside the systems and are still able to do new damage.

So yes, there might be more leaks from the hackers but not actually new intrusions and new attacks inside Sony's servers.

BLITZER: So far those big chains, though, the big movie distributors, they're not jumping up and saying, "You know what? We'd like to show them in a thousand -- a thousand theaters" or anything.

STELTER: That's right. That's right.

MASTERS: Definitely looking at a much smaller profit than it would have made. They were going on release on it a few thousand screens, not a few hundred screens. And there also was talk that they're going to release it some kind of on-demand format.

BLITZER: Can they make money on that?

MASTERS: Not anything like they would have made. I mean, they're going to lose money on the film, I think. You know, a lot of people will see it, but it's still only...

BLITZER: But the irony, Brian, I'll let you weigh in -- the irony, a lot more people want to see this film now than probably would have gone to see it a few week ago.

STELTER: I had no interest in this movie, Wolf, and I think I'm in the demo. I'm a young guy. It's a Seth Rogen comedy. But I think that's why they are still trying to find some way to release this online.

Kim is right: they're not going to make as much money online as they could have in theaters, but I do think they are working on some sort of on-demand deal, where you can stream it via the Internet or buy it through your remote control on your cable box. It hasn't been announced yet. It's probably not going to be announced tonight. But I think by Christmas we might hear about some sort of streaming deal.

BLITZER: But out of an abundance of caution, Colonel Reese, you would recommend tighter security at these independent movie theaters which will screen the film on Thursday.

REESE: Absolutely. And those theaters will do that. They'll probably have some extra police there screening, watching for people; but I'm 100 percent confident.

BLITZER: One final word from you, Christian. What's your biggest fear right now?

WHITON: My biggest fear is that we won't listen to the excellent advice Mr. Sherman gave in the last segment. That type of cultural warfare. Pushing back on North Korea with free information. Not just Radio-Free Asia, which Congress pays for, but defectors. People who can speak to those left behind in North Korea as we did in the Cold War. That is our most effective tool to shape this regime over the long term.

BLITZER: All right. Good discussion, guys. Thanks very much.

Just ahead, how easy was to it smuggle dozens of guns on Delta flights, including AK-47s. What's going on?

And racy political theater, real-life sex scandals relived on stage. Stand by for that.


BLITZER: Tonight, as millions of Americans are flying somewhere for the holidays, we're learning more about a terrifying airline security breach, dozens of weapons including AK-47s and loaded handguns, smuggled on board passenger planes.

Our aviation correspondent Rene Marsh is here with me. She is working this story.

This is shocking stuff, Rene.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: It absolutely is. We're talking about a five-man operation according to prosecutors, in New York City. And you said it right off the top. This is a busy airport. This is the world's busiest airport. They say this operation involved an airline worker abusing their access to the airport and then using commercial planes to smuggle guns, some of them loaded. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH (voice-over): hundred and fifty-three firearms recovered, smuggled on board nearly 20 commercial passenger planes from Atlanta to New York. That according to federal investigators.

KEN THOMPSON, KINGS COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: They put guns on the plane this time. They could have easily put a bomb on one of those planes.

MARSH: Here's how authorities say it ham: Delta baggage handler Eugene Harvey with a backpack full of guns uses his badge to enter the secure area of the Atlanta airport, bypassing check points. Most airport and employees like baggage handlers undergo security vetting and recurring background checks, but they do not go through daily TSA screening to gain access to secure and restricted airport areas.

The accomplice, the former Delta employee, Mark Henry, clears TSA and arrives at the Concord. The two men communicate by text message and meet in an airport bathroom. Once inside out of the camera view, the guns are handed off.

CHAD WOLF, FORMER TSA OFFICIAL: TSA, the airports and the airlines after 9/11 IS there to prevent this type of incident occurring.

MARSH: According to prosecutors, Henry seen here in surveillance video boarded flights from Atlanta to New York with handguns, AR-15s and AK-47s. Some of the weapons, loaded. It was all part of a five- man operation.

THOMPSON: This gun can shoot through a car door, can shoot through an apartment door, can shoot through a bullet-proof vest. In November, Mr. Henry brought this gun on a Delta commercial airliner to New York.

MARSH: This kind of breach in security has happened before. In 2010, an American Airlines baggage handler helped smuggle 12,000 pounds of marijuana on board a flight to New York. In 2013, an airline employee sentenced after agreeing to smuggle a machine gun and cocaine on to a commercial plane. And a 2009 government audit says workers with access to security airport areas is one of the greatest potential threats to aviation.

WOLF: Everyone who's involved in aviation and aviation security know that this is a gap and vulnerability.


MARSH: Well, Wolf, I spoke with a spokesperson for the airport in Atlanta, Hartsfield-Jackson. At this point, they have not changed the security procedures. However, they do tell me that they are reviewing the process they have in place and if changes are appropriate, they will make them. They do point out that all of these employees get extensive background checks and they say there is recurring vetting. So, they believe they are doing the best they can, but leaving

the door open to change some things.

BLITZER: Yes, they've got to learn from what happened here and make sure it doesn't happen again. Rene, thanks very, very much.

Just ahead, some of America's most disgraced politicians expire off-Broadway pay. Even one of the show's stars finds the material shocking.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is -- this is beyond many of my sexting skills. No, these guys were pretty dirty dogs.



BLITZER: Some of the most notorious names in political sex scandals are appearing on stage together.

Gloria Borger went behind the scenes.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never have been gay.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I tweeted a photograph of myself.

REP. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: As much as I did talk about going on the Appalachian Trail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That isn't where I ended up.

BORGER: No, it wasn't. And now, Mark Sanford and three fellow infamous politicians are the stars of "Tail Spin", an off-Broadway comedy about their sexual exploits.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, how is my favorite young son doing?

BORGER: The entire script is verbatim, the word exactly as they were spoken, texted and tweeted.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This thing is ready to do damage.

RACHEL DRATCH, ACTRESS: It was instant chemistry. BORGER: And standing next to the offending pols is Rachel Drach.

You may remember her as "Saturday Night Live's" Debbie Downer.

Now, she is live again.

DRATCH: Come on, I'll show you.

This is life in the theater. When you leave TV or temporarily -- you leave TV temporarily. You put on your own makeup.

BORGER: On stage, Dratch plays the wronged wives and the other women too. From one of Anthony Weiner's buddies.

DRATCH: Hey, I'm not a stripper, I'm a person. That's just sometimes.

BORGER: To Mark Sanford's Argentina soul mate, now his former mistress.

DRATCH: I guess(INAUDIBLE) to him. Buenas noches.

BORGER (on camera): Can you believe all of this stuff was real?

DRATCH: The thing I was most shocked at was the graphic nature of the talk. Like you hear, like oh, they were sexting, and then you feel like, what were they sexting, like whoa. This is beyond any of my sexting skills. These guys were like pretty dirty dogs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hear liberal girls are very accommodating.

DRATCH: Hey, it's all about taking care of the little guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Little? Ouch. You'd be surprised how big.

BORGER (voice-over): The bigger surprise is the size of their electronic trail of flirtation.

(on camera): What makes these guys think they can get away with this?

MARIO CORREA, PLAYWRIGHT, "TAIL SPIN": Power. And really, the show is not about sex, but about power.

BORGER (voice-over): Mario Correa is familiar with the combination. He is a former congressional staffer who wrote the play.

CORREA: A lot of us make mistakes in our personal lives. I know I have. The reason we don't take crazy, sort of outlandish risks and expect to get away with them is because we don't have power to protect us. But these guys are like, I'm a member of Congress, you know. Of course, it's not going to come back to me. I've got a business card like Larry Craig who shows his card to the cop --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you think of that?

DRATCH: He's always been the hero of our family.

BORGER: Senator Craig was still arrested for solicitation in an airport men's room.

DRATCH: Mrs. Craig, we want to tell you and your husband to hang in there.

BORGER: His wife remained loyal, standing by her man, as did most of the others.

(on camera): What on earth do you think they were thinking?

DRATCH: I imagine like when the scandal hit, probably just want to like err on the side of -- I'm going to believe what he says and keep the family together, blah blah. Let's sort it all out later with a skilled therapist, you know?

BORGER: Which was the most fun for you to channel?

DRATCH: Well, the most fun of the show for me is Barbara Walters. And the Mark and Jenny Stanford interview thing. They stood next to their husbands. You did not stand next to your husband.

UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: Did you think of doing that?

DRATCH: Did you think of doing that?

NO, I didn't.

And by that time, the audience is like whoo hoo. So, ready for that. So I like doing that.

Barbara Walters is, like, he gave you a used bike.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He drew me a picture of a half a bike.

DRATCH: Another time --

BARBARA WALTERS: He gave you a diamond necklace.

DRATCH: Which she loved. And then --

Took it back.

BORGER (voice-over): Truth maybe stranger than fiction, but in this case, it's also really funny, although Mark Sanford may not think so.

(on camera): So, in the end, after doing this show, what does hiking the Appalachian Trail mean?

CORREA: I do feel bad for folks who actually got to hike the Appalachian Trail. Who can say that now?

DRATCH: If you're really going to go, you have to show, you know, receipt or something. (LAUGHTER)


BLITZER: That's it for me.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.