Obama chides Sony’s decision to nix film, says US must retaliate and pass cyber act
Sony Pictures Entertainment should have touched base with the White House before deciding to cancel the release of a controversial movie, United States President Barack Obama said Friday.
Weighing in on the major Sony scandal only hours after federal investigators attributed the recent hack to North Korea, Pres. Obama said the Hollywood studio was wrong to pull “The Interview,” a satirical film containing a plot to kill North Korean Pres. Kim Jong Un that was scheduled to be released on Christmas Day.
At the same time, though, Obama said the attack should serve as a wake-up call to Congress and prompt lawmakers in Washington, DC to get serious about implementing cybersecurity legislation in the wake of what is only the latest hack to be endured by a major American company.
“Sony is a corporation, it suffered significant damage [and] there were threats against its employees,” Obama said during an end-of-year press conference at the White House. “I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced. Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake.”
“I wish they would’ve spoken with me first. I would have told them: do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks,” he said.
After hackers infiltrated Sony’s network last month and then released pilfered data, threats were made against movie theaters that planned to show “The Interview” starting next week. On Thursday, Sony said the film would not be released.
Earlier Friday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it’s concluded that the Kim Jong Un regime has indeed, in the FBI’s opinion, was responsible for the attack.
“We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can starts imposing censorship here in the United States,” the president added during his address later that day. “Because if somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they’re going to start doing when they see a documentary they don’t like, or news reports they don’t like or, even worse, imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of somebody whose sensibilities probably need to be offended. So that’s not who we are — that’s not what America is about.”
"We will respond proportionally and we will respond in a place and time and manner that we chose," Obama said.
But on the heels of similar breaches that brought significant harm and embarrassment to retail giant Target last year, and other companies in the interim, Obama said lawmakers should use the latest breach to go about getting a cybersecurity bill finally approved by Congress.
“In this interconnected digital world, there are going to be opportunities for hackers to engage in cyber-assaults both in the private sector and in the public sector,” Obama said.
“We’ve been coordinating with the private sector, but a lot more needs to done. We’re not even close to where we need to be,” the president said.
In the wake of the Sony hack, both Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Michigan), the outgoing chair of the House Intelligence Committee, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), the chair of the Senate’s panel, said Congress must pass a bill that will more easily allow the private and public sectors to share threat information, the likes of which may prevent future attacks from ever unfolding.
“This is only the latest example of the need for serious legislation to improve the sharing of information between the private sector and the government to help companies strengthen cybersecurity,” Sen. Feinstein said in a statement. “We must pass an information sharing bill as quickly as possible next ."
In October, Rep. Rogers said that the US government is in dire need of developing rules for waging offensive cyber operations, like the kind the president suggested could soon be launched against North Korea.
"This is a new dangerous form of warfare and international relations that, candidly, the United States, as a whole, is not prepared to handle," Rogers said. "We are not prepared if the federal government decides that they want to take an offensive action or disruptive action in any significant way, even in response."