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North Korea's Next Move?; Tension in New York; Perry Prepping for Possible Presidential Bid; Wolf Blitzer Traces Family's Role in World War 2

Aired December 26, 2014 - 18:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: The NYPD is poring over hundreds of threats against police and making arrests.

North Korea's next move. Will Kim Jong-un fire back now that "The Interview" is on screen or was someone else behind the Sony hack and threats of a 9/11-style attack?

And terrorist transfers. We're learning about new U.S. news at the Guantanamo Bay detention center as President Obama tries to clean up a stain on his legacy.

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

We're following two major stories this hour. Right now, New York City police officers are out in force in a show of mourning and unity after the execution-style killing of two colleagues.

Crowds are gathering for a memorial service for slain officer Rafael Ramos as the NYPD scrambles to respond to new death threats against officers. And we're also monitoring any backlash from the release of the controversial movie "The Interview." It earned $1 million in theaters on Christmas Day and more from its release online.

Tonight, there are growing questions about whether the U.S. was too quick to blame North Korea for the crippling cyber-attack that initially convinced Sony to pull the film.

Our correspondents and analysts are standing by covering all the new developments.

First, we go to CNN's Brian Todd -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, tonight, there are very serious questions being raised by cyber-security experts who have investigated the Sony hack independently, and they're poking holes in the FBI's case against North Korea and at least one security firm points to a possible inside job at Sony.


TODD (voice-over): The forensic trail of the Sony hack, it's mysterious, difficult to follow, and tonight is sparking increasing doubt over the FBI's belief that hackers working for North Korea are responsible.

SAM GLINES, NORSE CORPORATION: It's clear to us based on both forensic and other evidence that we have collected that unequivocally they are not responsible for orchestrating or initiating the attack on Sony.

TODD: Sam Glines' cyber-security firm Norse did its own investigation of the Sony hack. Norse and another leading security firm called CloudFlare raised serious questions about the FBI's claim that the malware used in the Sony attack is similar to malware used in other attacks by North Korea.

These firms say that malware was leaked a long time ago and could have been used by hackers anywhere in the world. Previously, U.S. investigators said they have evidence hackers stole the computer credentials of a Sony insider. But Norse believes it was given out and they tracked the attack to one potential suspect, a woman code named Lena, a former Sony employee who Glines says worked for Sony for several years.

Glines says Lena has ties to the hacking group Guardians of Peace, which claimed responsibility for the Sony hit. Glines says Lena was a security staffer with Sony who had what he calls super user access to the company's cyber-secrets, user names and passwords to critical systems. He says Lena had two motives for the hack.

GLINES: First of all, how Sony treated its employees, layoffs that were going on in the department, but also a bigger issue around piracy and how Sony was treating those who had pirated music, had been -- and movies and other content and how they had been prosecuted in the U.S. and other countries.

TODD: Experts have lingering doubts about North Korea's ability to carry out such sophisticated attack.

SCOTT BORG, U.S. CYBER CONSEQUENCES UNIT: It's beyond the skill level we have been able to observe.

TODD: But if North Korea did commit the Sony hack, analysts say it would have been done by a shadowy unit of the government called the Reconnaissance General Bureau, which they say conducts cyber-warfare.

It's commanded by General Kim Yong Chol, a very influential former bodyguard for Kim Jong-un's father and grandfather.

MICHAEL MADDEN, NORTH KOREA LEADERSHIP WATCH: So they have somebody that's intimate to the Kim family who is also a very effective manager supervising this. That actually shows the importance that North Korea's national security apparatus places on these -- on electronic and cyber-capabilities.


TODD: North Korea has emphatically denied hacking Sony. As for the tracking of the hack to a former Sony employee named Lena, Sam Glines of Norse Corporation says his firm has shared that information with the FBI.

We reached out to the FBI and to Sony regarding the findings on Lena and we asked the FBI for comment overall on all of the doubts that North Korea did this. Neither the FBI nor Sony would comment on any of it -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, well, we will keep following this. Brian Todd, thank you.

North Korea threatened attacks on the U.S., including the White House and Pentagon, as controversy boiled over the Sony hack and the film "The Interview."

Our global affairs correspondent Elise Labott is here with this part of the story.

That's really what people want to know. Is North Korea going to respond to this?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: No one really knows right now, but they are expecting it. Brianna, it's been very quiet, North Korea, even today, a diplomat saying we're not going to have a physical reaction. We're just going to condemn it.

But anybody that studies North Korea knows that the regime will not stay silent for long. It may not be this weekend, but at a time of their choosing. North Korea likes the element of surprise. People are expecting something and it might not be in cyberspace. It could be a nuclear or missile test. They are continuing to make these military threats. So everybody is on alert.

KEILAR: This is supposed to be a comedy. I think some people -- I talked -- I haven't seen it, but I talked with some people who have seen it and they say it's so dumb, but that's the point, this sort of over the top typical Seth Rogen movie that you would expect.

At the same time, you're talking about assassinating the leader of a country. It is supposed to be a comedy, though. How are North Koreans approaching this?

LABOTT: They're really bothered by it. This cuts to the very heart of the North Korean system. The North Koreans are fed this diet of lies their whole life to revere the leader, propping him up as this confident and benevolent leader of the North Korean people.

And to put out a movie not just that shows an assassination plot against him, but also the storyline -- I don't want to give too many...

KEILAR: Spoiler alert.


LABOTT: Spoiler alert right here.

KEILAR: We have to deal with that. LABOTT: That the North Koreans kind of throughout the course of

the movie, Kim Jong-un loses face among his people. That goes to the very heart. This really cuts very close to home for the North Koreans.

KEILAR: So the other thing is, and I understand that China, people in China have been consuming this. They are interested in this. What's the reaction there?

LABOTT: Well, the people love it. Tens of thousands of Chinese flocking to the Internet, downloading it. A lot of it is bootlegged. But they're downloading it, tens of thousands of posts on Web sites. They got a rating on this popular Chinese Web site of about eight, which is very high.

And interesting enough, the title was translated into assassination of Kim Jong -- of the North Korean leader. And so while the Chinese people are loving it, the Chinese government is saying, listen, this is a very controversial movie. They get how the North Koreans are offended by this and they're warning North Korea and the U.S. both, listen, calm down, calling for calm in tension. They certainly don't want a provocation here, Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, trying to bring it down a notch.

Elise Labott, thank you so much.

Now to New York and the memorial service for a murdered police officer that begins in less than an hour. While mourners are coming together, we're still seeing enormous tension between the NYPD and the mayor there, Bill de Blasio.

Alexandra Field has more on all of that as well as the latest death threats against officers.

So many feelings that these officers are experiencing today, Alexandra.


But most overwhelmingly, you just have to be moved by the sea of blue that we have seen out here, a tremendous showing of solidarity and unity. We have seen thousands of police officers come to this church, some of them waiting for hours at a time to go inside and pay their respects. Later this evening, a memorial service followed by a final farewell tomorrow morning.


FIELD (voice-over): The final salute for one of New York's finest, officer Rafael Ramos, his casket brought for his wake to his family's church attended by his brothers and sisters in blue.

RALPH CASTILLO, CHRIST TABERNACLE CHURCH: As a community, nevertheless, it's one thing to pray for something in another part of the country. It's a whole other thing when it hits this close to home.

FIELD: Ramos was set to graduate from a chaplaincy program the same day he was gunned down in his patrol car, his partner, Wenjian Liu, by his side. He joined the force two years ago. He turned 40 this months. The married father of two remembered as a hero by his oldest son, Justin, who said, "I'm going to miss his loving presence and I can't even begin to fathom what life's going to be without him."

Despite the tragedy, the hate and rhetoric continues.

BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Any statements suggesting violence towards the police need to be reported to the police, so we can stop future tragedies.

FIELD: This week, seven people arrested for allegedly making threats against officers, one person targeting the 84th Precinct, home of the fallen partners.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Make no mistake about it, they died for you, they died to keep you safe. This isn't a matter of, oh, a little charity here and there. You owe them this money.

FIELD: The Tunnel to Towers Foundation announcing the mortgages of both officers will be paid. The New York Yankees will pay for the children's education.

JetBlue airlines says it's working to fly in more than 600 officers from around the country for Ramos' funeral Saturday, the airline also working to bring in officer Liu's family from China once arrangements are made. His widow, racked with grief, comforted by loved ones, both families seeing an outpouring of support from an entire city.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is sad. It's really hurt me. I know I'm not a police officer. But it just -- it really got to me to watch this on TV with my family.


FIELD: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is not scheduled to attend the wake this evening, but he is scheduled to be at the funeral tomorrow.

We do understand that he will be making remarks along with New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Vice President Joe Biden, all of them coming to Queens, New York, to pay tribute to a fallen officer -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, an extraordinary man. Alexandra Field, thank you so much.

I want to bring in now CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes. We also have HLN legal analyst Joey Jackson and community activist John Gaskin. First, Tom, you hear the story coming out of Glendale, New York.

So much emotion. So many people, so many officers who are just beside themselves with the loss of officer Ramos. At the same time, they're dealing with the possibility of these threats against their lives.


I think a big part of the emotion is that lately, there's been so much rhetoric that's polarized the police against the communities and people are protesting and being very critical that police are overly brutal, overly aggressive.

So they felt very defensive over those issues for several months now. Then two of their own are deliberately assassinated, citing those very political reasons in the Instagram, that rest in peace, you know, to the fallen people that have died, and then I'm going to put pigs in a blanket and give pigs wings.

So that's made them just realize that, look, to that people, do you see what our lives are like as police officers when this kind of an assassination can happen any time and there's really nothing they can do about it? There's no amount of preparation. They could be led down a dark alley and ambushed. They could be called to go provide a service at a residence, family disturbance, and get ambushed when they go there and knock on the door.

There's all these vulnerable situations they're in, and this then happens.

KEILAR: We have seen, Joey, the strife between police and communities just build and build between Ferguson, between Staten Island. Even some protests, many of them peaceful, but some protesters being violent with police and we see that exchange. Are we going to see more of this, do you think?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Brianna, I certainly hope not. We live in a different generation, a different day and age. Why? Because we have the immediacy of communication with Facebook, with Instagram, with Twitter, with so many mediums where we can put information out there.

Threats against anybody, particularly the police who are protecting and serving are not certainly warranted. And there are two separate issues and I certainly get, Brianna, and I understand that there is a major, particularly in light of Ferguson, as you mentioned, in light of Eric Garner in Staten Island and in light of just in general what's happening throughout the country, that there appears to be some disconnect.

And there's a great deal of concern about trust for the police and trust for the community and mutual respect. That's one issue. But another issue, taking matters into your own hands and engaging in these kind of threats against the police, they just have no place and it really dilutes the message about being constructive, making things work, making things matter, and really building a better relationship of trust between the police and the community, which we need moving forward, Brianna, if we're going to get to the crux of this issue and stop the violence and stop the hate.

KEILAR: Yes. It really does pull away from the nonviolent message.

John, I want to get your reaction to something President Obama said recently in an interview with NPR. He said he thinks the U.S. is less racially divided than when he first took office six years ago. When you look at all of these controversial events recently though, do you agree?

JOHN GASKIN, NAACP BOARD MEMBER: Well, I think we have certainly come a very long way in this great country, but we certainly have a long way to go.

You know, when we elected our first African-American president in this country, unfortunately, many people were under the thought that we live in a post-racial society, which clearly is not the case. As we take a look at protests that are going on across the country, I don't think it's fair to necessarily say that police are under attack.

In my opinion and many other activists' opinion, I believe systemic injustices are under attack right now, which is taking place. You have people that are protesting not just what's taking place in Ferguson, but what's taking place in Minneapolis, what's taking place in Cleveland, seeing that these injustices have, for so many years, been swept under the rug, if you take a look at history and this nation.

I agree with Joey 100 percent. We have to be very careful regarding the optics and regarding the message of the protests. They have to remain peaceful or they're going to lose credibility. But I believe people need to continue to protest and you can do it in way that is peaceful, in a way that there's a clear message regarding what it is that people want to change.

KEILAR: Yes, great discussion, guys.

Joey, thank you some. John, thanks for being with us. Tom, thanks for being with us again. Have a great weekend, you guys. Thanks.

JACKSON: You too.

KEILAR: Still ahead, some terror suspects may be on the move from Guantanamo Bay. Stand by for some new information about the president's plans for the controversial prison camps.


KEILAR: Tonight, we're learning about the Obama administration's new plans for the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba.

It's been almost six years since the president promised to close the controversial camp housing terror suspects.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, joining us now. Barbara, you have Congress, which has refused to close the

prison, so what is the administration planning here?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The strategy now is to basically empty out Gitmo as much as possible as fast as possible.

Look for several detainees to be transferred either to their home country or a third-party country by the end of the year and then several dozen more in early 2015. The feeling by the administration is, if they can get the numbers way down and you only have only the hard-core terror suspects, and some who are still deemed a risk, not able to be transferred, if you just have several dozen left at Guantanamo, then maybe it's shown to be so expensive that Congress will have a change of heart and let some of those people be transferred to the U.S. prison system.

KEILAR: This obviously isn't without risk, this releasing prisoners back onto the battlefield. How can the U.S. ensure that they don't just go right back to it?

STARR: Well, this is the big problem right now. In fact, dozens of prisoners that have been already been approved for transfer will not be because they are from Yemen, Yemen, a country where al Qaeda is very strong and a lot of concern about those people going back to Yemen, rejoining the battlefield.

We have already seen it in Afghanistan, and in Yemen, in fact, one of the detainees that was released, there's now something like a $5 million reward on his head back in Yemen. He's now a top senior leader in the al Qaeda organization there. So none of this is foolproof.

It's a big concern. But the president's position is that they can't keep Guantanamo Bay open forever. Congress still has to weigh in and we will see if they agree -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, it's a big if. Barbara, thank you so much.

I want to talk more about this now with CNN's global affairs correspondent Elise Labott. We have CNN military analyst and retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling and we're joined by CNN national security analyst Rob Baer -- Bob Baer, Robert Baer.

Sorry about that, Bob. I know you as Bob.

But, Elise, I guess how many dangerous prisoners are there? Is it really just a few dozen?

LABOTT: That's just a few dozen of what Barbara is calling those hard-core.

Those are the ones that are biggest problem right now. What do you do with them? They're not really safe enough to be scheduled for release. They don't qualify for a military trial. Congress is giving the administration a very hard time about moving them to federal prisons. So the question is, what do they do? The easier thing right now is these some 64 detainees that are

able to be transferred for release, and the administration thinks it's going to have a lot more luck there. They have already, as Barbara mentioned, expected to release a lot more, and they're hoping that this rapprochement with Cuba with really help out, Latin American countries may step up. The Vatican...


KEILAR: And say, hey, we will take some of these.

LABOTT: Exactly. And so they're having a lot more luck. They feel by the end of the day, they will be able to get rid of those detainees.

KEILAR: Bob, let's talk about the timing here. The president says he wants to release dozens of these detainees over the next six months, these ones that we just heard Elise talking about. What is the rush here? Why now?

BOB BAER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think with the Republican Congress and the presidential elections coming up, we just have to remove this as a political issue and deal with it based on fact. I think we should close that prison.

A lot of these people, there's not enough evidence against them to bring them to trial. They haven't killed Americans and so forth. And, yes, we run the risk of they're going to go back and join the jihadi ranks. So, it really doesn't matter at the end of the day. I think the ones that have killed Americans, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, should be brought here and put on trial. We have done this in the past, the blind sheik many years ago.

Nothing has happened since. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has no religious standing. He's just a murderer and let's put them in jail for life.

KEILAR: But you say let's put the politics aside here, Bob.

Part of this is that this is -- if President Obama were to choose a time to do this, this politically was the really only time, right, that he could do this. So you can't really put -- politics are in play here. Isn't that part of the reason why we're seeing this rush to do this during this window?

BAER: I think the president, myself, was timid for the first six years of his administration and should have got to these problems earlier on and just worked it out with Congress or just done it unilaterally.

I think he's waited way too long for most of these releases. President Bush started this, very rightly, and it should have continued at a much quicker pace. So I fault him for not having moved faster, but now that he's got two years, let's do it.

KEILAR: General Hertling, when you look at the numbers here, U.S. intelligence officials say that 17 percent of the more than 600 Guantanamo Bay detainees that have been released or transferred since 2002, they have gone back, they have been involved in military activity. There's 12 percent more who are suspected of doing so.

So all together, you're looking at three in 10 really who may have gone back to the battlefield. Is there any way around that? Maybe you think the numbers are higher.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think those numbers are about right. You really can't tell, though, Brianna. And there's really nothing you can do about that.

And 18 percent is what the DIA says of the remaining 132 that are there. It's problematic, no matter what you do. But a great many more of the percentage, a larger part of the percentage are people who truly did very little and need to be released.

The president is working that. And one of the big problems, I would suggest, is of the 64 the release said are going to be released, 54 of them come from Yemen. That's not a place we want to send people back to right now, because it's just a cauldron of insurgency there at this time.

So they're going to accept them potentially in Eastern Europe, in South Africa, Central America, but I agree that we have to get those prisoners released, but there are still going to be a few left.

KEILAR: Real quick, Elise, you have Cliff Sloan, the administration envoy for closing Guantanamo Bay, he stepped down earlier this week. What does that mean for all of this?

LABOTT: It's not just Cliff Sloan. It's Alan Liotta, a senior Pentagon official, who is dealing with Guantanamo.

I don't think that's the big issue, because a lot of the prep work has been done. And now it's really the hard slog of diplomacy, which President Obama is taking a much bigger role as he tries to wind this down. He's calling a lot of the leaders himself.

So I think that this will continue to go on. I think the real opposition right now is going to be Congress. Again, President Obama is going to have to take that personal role. Cliff Sloan said, listen, we're not going to stop. It doesn't matter who the envoy was. It's the support that the president is going to put behind it and that's really going to be key.

KEILAR: He's working the phones and calling in those favors.

Elise Labott, thank you. General Hertling and Bob Baer, thanks to both of you as well. Have a great weekend.

HERTLING: Thank you.

KEILAR: And just ahead, a former GOP presidential contender is fessing up to CNN about the mistakes that he made in 2012 as he tests the waters for 2016. We have an exclusive one-on-one -- our Dana Bash does -- with Governor Rick Perry next.


KEILAR: We're seeing some very early moves in the 2016 presidential race, even before 2014 ends. CNN chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash speaking to one possible Republican contender, the soon-to-be former governor of Texas, Rick Perry.

And what did he tell you?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's really interesting. He's been in office for 14 years, and he's leaving in January. He's talking openly now about a 2016 run.

But remember Perry's 2012 run? Didn't go so well.

I found him confident if -- that if he runs again he can go from political punchline to presidential nominee.


GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: That is a Union general's saber, and -- which is an odd thing to be in a southern state.

BASH (voice-over): Rick Perry, eagerly giving a history lesson of the Texas governor's mansion. Like what Sam Houston did in this very room, with a telegram from Abraham Lincoln.

HOUSTON: And he wadded it up, and he stepped over and threw it in that fireplace.

BASH: This is not the Rick Perry the country saw during his ill- fated, at times embarrassing 2012 presidential campaign.

PERRY: The education, the -- commerce, and let's see, I can't -- the third one I can't. Sorry. Oops.

BASH: He's about to step down as Texas governor after 14 years, the longest serving in Lone Star state history. And he's trying to reintroduce himself as competent and charismatic as he test drives his message for a probable second White House run.

PERRY: Americans are begging for a positive view of the future, for an individual who's got a record of being able to make the future better for their families. And that's exactly what we've done in Texas over the last 14 years. More jobs created than any other state. A third of all the jobs created in America since I've been governor were created in Texas.

BASH: He will carry some baggage, like an indictment for abuse of power his advisers call politically motivated. Still, Perry spent most of December hosting potential 2016 donors and supporters in a series of lunches and dinners here at the governor's mansion, prepping his pitch.

PERRY: Americans are looking for competent leadership, and sometimes it shows itself in ways that you can never have dreamed of.

The disease of Ebola coming onto our shores, and the first city, and they saw how we dealt with that.

BASH: He blames his poor performance in 2012 on pain and medication from back surgery. And he admits he was just plain not prepared. So he's spent the last two years doing his homework.

(on camera): You have been spending a lot of time boning up on foreign policy, on economic policy, on every kind of policy that you would imagine. Tell me about that process.

PERRY: Running for the presidency of the United States requires an inordinate amount of preparation.

Sitting at the feet of Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, picking their brains about what's going on in the world, that has paid great dividends. If I'd make the decision to run for the presidency, I will be prepared.

BASH: But this is the second largest state in the union, and you have talked about the great strides that you've made with this state. So why isn't that enough experience?

PERRY: Well, there's a great deal of difference between putting economic policies into a state and being very cognitive and versed in foreign policy, in monetary policy, or domestic policy for that matter.

BASH (voice-over): Last week, Jeb Bush became the first Republican to make official moves toward a 2016 run.

PERRY: Jeb's a good man; he's a good friend. Great family, good governor of Florida. As a matter of fact, I think Jeb getting into the race will help the field.

BASH: How so?

PERRY: He's been a successful governor and, again, having a person of his background in the race makes a lot of sense. But it won't make a difference about whether I get in or not.

BASH: In Texas, there are a lot of donors that Jeb Bush might well be dipping into that you might need to fund a Perry presidential race. So doesn't that concern you?

PERRY: Well, if I decide to make the race, this will be about our vision. This will be about talking about the future of this country.

BASH: Perry was lieutenant governor of Texas when Jeb's brother, George W. Bush, was governor, and they didn't always get along.

(on camera): It is an open secret that Rick Perry and the Bush family have had some tension with George W. Bush, more obviously than his brother. Is that going to play into any potential competition going forward?

PERRY: This is a great family. You look back at George H.W. Bush, who chose Texas A&M as his site of his library, and comes to practically every Aggie football game. And to George living in this state, they're a great family. And I respect them greatly, always have, and always will.

BASH (voice-over): Perry is taking 2016 prep beyond policy to performance, working with a company called Podium Masters, run by a former head of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

(on camera): Why did you choose that?

PERRY: I guess so my "Hamlet" would come out right when I decide to quote "Hamlet" on the stage.

We use a lot of different people, and I mean -- and I think that's an appropriate thing to be engaged with folks to help in all aspects of public speaking. I think if you -- I desire to be better at what I do. And I think that's a very important part of it.

BASH: And I'm guessing also, too, avoid an "oops" moment if you run in 2016.

PERRY: That would be preferable.


BASH: And Perry insisted to me that he is not in a rush to officially jump into the 2016 race. He is leaving the Texas governor's mansion January 20 and wants a few months in the private sector first.

And Brianna, Perry sources say it's probably going to be May or June before he officially decides and declares.

KEILAR: Does he seem more ready this time?

BASH: Oh, yes, no question about it. Last time he wasn't ready. He completely admits that. He says it was humbling, and the list goes on of the words he uses.

But to watch the way that he has prepared to discuss it with him on camera, off camera, is kind of remarkable. He's preparing for himself. He's preparing a team. It seems very unlikely that he won't run, given what we saw.

KEILAR: Doing his homework. Dana Bash, great interview. Great report.

BASH: Thanks.

KEILAR: Thank you.

And you can see more of Dana's exclusive interview with Governor Perry this Sunday on "STATE OF THE UNION." And just ahead, Wolf Blitzer's emotional journey home, tracing

his roots to one of the darkest moments in world history.


KEILAR: It's the season for family and for reflection. So we wanted to give you another look at Wolf Blitzer's extraordinary journey, tracing his roots here in the U.S. and in Poland. Take a look.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM (voice-over): It's Saturday in Buffalo, New York, my hometown.

(on camera): Hi. How are you? The Blitzers.

(voice-over): And these guys, well, they're fans of FC buffalo Blitzers. That's a soccer team that somehow was named after me.

(on camera): Thank you. Hey, thanks.

(voice-over): Something I find both flattering and a little embarrassing.

(on camera): "THE SITUATION ROOM."


BLITZER (voice-over): CNN has asked me to come here to trace my roots.

(on camera): This is downtown Buffalo.

(voice-over): A task I found daunting. I grew up here in the 1950s and '60s with my sister and parents. A lot has changed since then. My dad passed away in 2002. And my mom, she's 92 years old, and she now lives in Florida. But some things here never changed, like the Anchor Bar, the birthplace of the buffalo chicken wing.

(on camera): Brings back my memories from my youth. Two weeks ago I was on the Israel-Gaza border.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now you're in buffalo eating...

BLITZER: Now I'm in Buffalo eating chicken wings.

All right. So we're in Jerusalem...

(voice-over): My journey to learn about my family's history has been months in the making. Delayed in part because of this.

(on camera): The smoke that has just...

(voice-over): The war between Israel and Hamas. I'm in Jerusalem reporting for nearly a month. But a friend suggests I take some time to visit Israel's National

Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem.

(on camera): Let's go to my father's side first. Last name is Blitzer.

(voice-over): I, of course, knew my grandparents died during the Holocaust. But I wanted to learn more.

(on camera): Circumstances of death, it says that -- "K.Z." is concentration camp.


BLITZER: And lager, which means camp. Auschwitz.

(voice-over): My dad, David Blitzer, wrote a testimony for the museum detailing what he knew about the fate of his family in Poland during World War II.

(on camera): You know, I didn't know till I came here to Israel this week that on my father's side my grandparents died at -- were killed at Auschwitz. I just see it now. I feel like I've been robbed of an experience of having grandparents.

Six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust. And I saw the documentation there. Place of extermination, if you will, whatever it was called, Auschwitz. It really hit me, and I knew that's where I wanted to go.

GRAPHIC: Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp

BLITZER: Arbeit Macht Frei (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Work will set you free. Meaning was that that was a place for working, which was not true.

BLITZER: It was for slave laborers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. It was this kind of camp. But work was the instrument of extermination prisoners here.

BLITZER (voice-over): It's one thing to learn about the Holocaust in school or from books. But to see these places firsthand, some untouched since the war, can be overwhelming.

(on camera): Most of the Jews who were brought here came by cattle car.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then began selection.

BLITZER: Who lives and who dies.


BLITZER: In my particular case, my grandparents died here. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Probably they were driven right away to the

gas chamber. People who walked in, they really believed they were in the shower room.

BLITZER: So they thought maybe they were going to get a shower. But instead --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was the gas chamber.

BLITZER (voice-over): While many Jews were brought to Auschwitz from far away, my dad's family was unique. He grew up in a neighborhood in the town of Auschwitz, which is also called Hasvenshiman (ph) in Polish and Auschwitzem (ph) in Yiddish.

ARTHUR SCHINDLER, LOCAL HISTORIAN: The great synagogue and all Jewish --

BLITZER: Arthur Schindler, a local historian, agreed to help me find my dad's childhood home.

SCHINDLER: We have some school records. You see, this is the information about Rachael Blitzer. Born --

BLITZER (on camera): Rachael. That's my aunt.

SCHINDLER: And this is address. Legionow 26 --

BLITZER: Now we've looked over here. There's no Legionow 26 --

SCHINDLER: No. Many houses in this whole area were taken down by the Nazis.

BLITZER: They were destroyed.

(voice-over): Like much of my journey so far, I'm struggling to find remnants of my father's life.

(on camera): Did this house exist before World War II?

Do you remember by any chance a family named Blitzer?

(voice-over): None of the neighbors remember the Blitzers or the house in which they once lived. But I did find a place where my family once stood. The town square.

(on camera): In the testimony that my father provided, he has three sisters; only one sister survived. Rachael survived the war. But two of his other sisters, Freya and Hinda, when the Nazis came in, they were brought to this area. Two sisters, they were killed. They were young girls.

(voice-over): It's pretty much the same story on my mother's side. She survived, but her parents died during the Holocaust.

(on camera): I'm named after my grandfather, Wolf Zilberfuden (ph). People always ask me. It's the most frequently asked question I get, is Wolf your real name? And I say yes, it's my real name. I was named after my maternal grandfather.

(voice-over): That's my cousin, Peppy Dotan (ph). We grew up together in Buffalo. She's here to help me find my mother's roots.

(on camera): We're at the Zilberfuden (ph) residence. What number was it?


BLITZER: Whatever house they had is gone.

DOTAN: Yes, it's closed.

BLITZER (voice-over): Together, we found what's left of my grandfather's old factory that produced clay pipes. Not far from that factory was the slave labor camp where my mother, her sister Paula, and two brothers, Mike and Urich, worked.

This was the land where the Skarzysko labor camp, Camp A, was.

DOTAN: In this camp, 24,000 Jews came in for labor. Almost 18,000 died here. There was no crematorium here, but they simply burned the bodies, and they -- we're told that they buried the ashes here in this place. So, it's conceivable that our grandparents -- their ashes are here.

BLITZER (on camera): We have no idea.

DOTAN: We have no idea, no.

BLITZER: When you look at my mom now, she's 92 years old. You wouldn't realize how courageous she was when she was liberated in 1945 from the slave labor camp. They told all the Jewish workers, you're going to be marching on this death march. My mother knew that if they were on this forced death march, they would die.

DOTAN: This remarkable woman took her siblings and hid in the basement of the factory, and they stayed there for a few days until they were finally liberated by the Russians.

BLITZER: Yes. Pretty amazing story.

DOTAN: Pretty amazing. Amazing woman.

BLITZER: To this day, I'm very aware of the really courageous moves that my mom made. She's obviously a very wonderful woman.

(voice-over): Before we leave Poland, we visit the only Jewish cemetery still left in the town of Auschwitz, and I see a tombstone that says Blitzer. I don't know if this woman was related to me. But I do what my father would have wanted. I say the special prayer for the dead, the Kaddish.


So after the war, after my parents were liberated -- my mother by the Russians, the Russian troops; my dad by the French troops -- they did what most Holocaust survivors immediately did once they were strong enough. They went and started looking for family members who may have survived. And so, they were on a train, and all of a sudden, they saw each other. Their eyes met, and they fell in love.

Within a few months, they were married by an American military chaplain, a rabbi. My dad found work in Augsburg, Germany, where my sister and I were born.

My dad always said, in those days you didn't know what was going to be happening a week from now, two weeks. After what they went through during the war, they said, you know, you had to grab life when you could.

When my dad was visiting nearby Munich one day, he saw a long line, so he got in it. It turned out it was a line for visas to America, the result of a law signed by President Truman to bring Holocaust survivors and displaced persons to the United States. A few months later, we were moving to upstate New York.

When he came to Buffalo, people helped him get that job. They said oh, you have a job at Bethlehem Steel, you'll make some money, and they thought it was pretty cool. But it was awful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's ungodly hot, it's going constantly, and it will not stop if you're injured.

BLITZER (voice-over): My dad hated the steel mill and left after a year or so. He and my uncle, Sam Friedman, decided to open a small deli.

(on camera): 1434 Hurdle Avenue. It used to be Blitzer's Delicatessen. Now it's Buffalo Airbrush Tan.

I'm Wolf. Jessica, nice to meet you. So, this was the deli. This was -- I used to pack eggs here. I would come in on Sunday mornings and pack eggs.

So I would walk in over here -- all right, guys, keep going. Work. We're working. Yes, so this is where we used to pack the eggs.

A lot of memories. Blitzer's Deli. Hard to believe.

(voice-over): My dad didn't like the deli business much, either. Then one day, he was talking to friends he knew from the concentration camp. They were buying land.

(on camera): Developed all these homes.

(voice-over): And building homes for GIs returning from the war. My dad decided to give it a try.

(on camera): My dad actually built this house. This is one of the first houses he built when he became a builder. That's my house. Somebody is living there. (voice-over): It turns out my father had a knack for

homebuilding. And with a lot of hard work became a successful developer.

(on camera): I went to school here. This is where they taught me to be a journalist.


BLTIZER: This is my roots. That's right, exactly what it is.

That's me, Wolf Blitzer. Wolf I. Blitzer, student council secondary representative, concert band, dance band, debate club, German club, humanities club, Chem torial (ph), advertising staff, marching band, national honors Society, football jayvee. That was me.


BLITZER (voice-over): So, after months of following my family tree, I'm right back where I started, my hometown.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We watch you everyday!

BLITZER: It's a place where I grew up, where I went to college, where I met my wife, Lynn. And where, well, I also learned a lot about eating good food.

(on camera): How can we not have -- we've got to have Anderson's custard -- frozen custard. We're here, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wolf, where are we going right now?

BLITZER: Ted's. What do you want on it? Mustard, relish, ketchup, pickles. The cool people say everything you got.

UNIDENFIED MALE: Would you like any French Fries or onion rings?

BLITZER: Yes, we would. We'd like all of the above.

You know, it's amazing, my parents, after all they went through, the losses that they went through, I never sensed a vindictiveness. You know, they wanted to move on.

My dad, when he died in 2002, he was 82 years old. He was always upbeat. Whenever he would see me on television and my mother would see me on television, they would always say the same thing, you know, this is the revenge. This is the revenge to Hitler and the Nazis.

(voice-over): I'm very proud of the new roots my parents planted here in America. Those roots have grown. And during this visit back to Buffalo and indeed throughout my life, I realized a lesson I learned from my parents. Like them, I try to grab life wherever I can.



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Now, this "Impact Your World".


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY (voice-over): From international hip-hop star, to creator of a multimillion-dollar empire. Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson remembers a time when things weren't so easy. That's why he says he's paying it forward by working with Feeding America.

50 CENT, MEDIA MOGUL: I had it pretty rough, but not to the point where there wasn't something to eat. But now seeing a lot of kids that have even tougher stories than what I experienced. Feeding America, it is the best charitable organization to be a part of if hunger's your cause.

ANGELA DEPAUL, FEEDING AMERICA: Feeding America is the nationwide network of food banks. We have more than 200 members who help provide food to low income people in need. More than 49 million Americans are food insecure in this country and we're feeding more than 46 million.

CUOMO: 50 recently joined other celebrities to volunteer at the food bank for New York City.

50 CENT: During the holidays, food is a big part of how to enjoy yourself. You know, to be able to have people provide these meals for them in this time period is great.

CUOMO: For many, it's a lifeline.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have kids and I really need help right now as far as food is concerned. And I'm so grateful. Very grateful.

CUOMO: Now, a partnership between Feeding America and 50's company means every pair of SMS audio headphones purchased online provides 250 meals to those in need. And proceeds of 50's energy drink Street King goes to help the U.N. World Food Programme.

50 CENT: When you look at hunger itself, it takes so much to solve it that the only place that I see enough finances to do it is in business itself. This is the real part where you give back.


KEILAR: Thanks for watching. I'm Briana Keilar in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll see you on Monday.

And "THIS IS LIFE WITH LISA LING", stay tuned for that.