59°F
weather icon Clear

US weighing NKorean terrorism threat after Sony hack

HONOLULU — The United States is reviewing whether to put North Korea back onto its list of state sponsors of terrorism, President Barack Obama said as the U.S. decides how to respond to the cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment that law enforcement has blamed on the communist nation.

Obama described the hacking case as a “very costly, very expensive” example of cybervandalism, but did not call it an act of war. In trying to fashion a proportionate response, the president said the U.S. would examine the facts to determine whether North Korea should find itself back on the terrorism sponsors list.

“We’re going to review those through a process that’s already in place,” Obama told CNN’s “State of the Union” in an interview broadcast Sunday. “I’ll wait to review what the findings are.”

North Korea spent two decades on the list until the Bush administration removed it in 2008 during nuclear negotiations. Some lawmakers have called for the designation to be restored following the hack that led Sony to cancel the release of a big-budget film that North Korea found offensive.

Only Iran, Sudan, Syria and Cuba remain on the list, which triggers sanctions that limit U.S. aid, defense exports and certain financial transactions.

But adding North Korea back could be difficult. To meet the criteria, the State Department must determine that a country has repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism, a definition that traditionally has referred to violent, physical attacks rather than hacking.

North Korea threatened to strike back at the United States if Obama retaliated, the National Defense Commission said in a statement carried by the country’s official Korean Central News Agency. The statement offered no details of a possible response.

Obama also leveled fresh criticism against Sony over its decision to shelve “The Interview,” despite the company’s insistence that its hand was forced after movie theaters refused to show it.

While professing sympathy for Sony’s situation, Obama suggested he might have been able to help address the problem if given the chance.

“You know, had they talked to me directly about this decision, I might have called the movie theater chains and distributors and asked them what that story was,” Obama said.

Sony’s CEO has disputed that the company never reached out, saying he spoke to a senior White House adviser about the situation before Sony announced the decision. White House officials said Sony did discuss cybersecurity with the federal government, but that the White House was never consulted on the decision not to distribute the film.

“Sometimes this is a matter of setting a tone and being very clear that we’re not going to be intimidated by some, you know, cyberhackers,” Obama said. “And I expect all of us to remember that and operate on that basis going forward.”

David Boies, lawyer representing Sony Pictures Entertainment, said the movie will come out. “How it’s going to be distributed, I don’t think anybody knows quite yet,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Boies also said theaters “quite understandably” decided not to show the film as scheduled because of threats against them and moviegoers. “You can’t release a movie unless you have a distribution channel,” he said.

North Korea has denied hacking the studio, and on Saturday proposed a joint investigation with the U.S. to determine the true culprit. The White House rejected the idea and said it was confident North Korea was responsible.

But the next decision — how to respond — is hanging over the president as he vacations with his family in Hawaii.

Obama’s options are limited. The U.S. already has trade penalties in place and there is no appetite for military action.

“I think we’ve got to recognize that this is not a Sony security problem. This is a national security problem,” Boies said.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Missouri woman sought after husband’s body found in freezer

The grim discovery was made after a witness told police that Paul Barton’s body had been in the suspect’s freezer since his death on Dec. 30, 2018.

Venice to get $21.7M quickly to recover from record flooding

Italy’s government declared a state of emergency Thursday in flood-ravaged Venice, seeking to release money to repair the historic lagoon city after it was damaged by the highest tide in 50 years.

 
2 dead, gunman in custody after shooting at California high school

A student gunman opened fire Thursday at a Southern California high school, killing two students, wounding three others and shooting himself in the head, authorities said.

Tons of blame to share in California’s wildfire, blackout crisis

The utility that serves more than 5 million electrical customers in one of the world’s most technologically advanced areas is faced again and again with a no-win decision: risk starting catastrophic deadly wildfires, or turn off the lights and immiserate millions of paying customers.

Hong Kong police give warning to protesters out of control, deny curfew

Hong Kong police warned protesters on Thursday that they were moving “one step closer to terrorism” by sinking the city into chaos, as riot squads skirmished with militant students at major universities.

Walmart hires off-duty officers for El Paso store reopening Thursday

Walmart plans Thursday to reopen the store where the attack happened in August and amid ongoing lawsuits over safety. Walmart didn’t have a guard in the store the day of the mass shooting.

US ‘superbug’ infections rising, but deaths dropping

Drug-resistant “superbug” infections have been called a developing nightmare that could set medicine back a century, making conquered germs once again untreatable.