Obama: Sony Hack Act of 'Vandalism,' Not War

Tells Crowley U.S. Can't Censor Itself In Face of Threats
Author:
Publish date:

President Obma told CNN's Candy Crowley on State of the Union Sunday that he did not think North Korea's Hack attack on Sony was an act of war.

“No, I don't think it was an act of war," he said. "I think it was an act of cyber vandalism that was very costly, very expensive."

Crowley snagged the Commander in Chief for her final show -- she is leaving the network.

He also suggestsed he was laying down a principle rather than pointing a finger at Sony when he said that he thought it was a mistake to pull the movie. Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lyntoni had told CNN the President did not understand the issues, that Sony was forced to pull it after theaters declined to air it, and that he was disappointed in the President--Lynton is a supporter.

The President responded that he was not saying the Sony was a bad actor. "I was pretty sympathetic to the fact that they've got business considerations they've got to make. And, 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."

"But what I was laying out was a principle that I think this country has to abide by. We believe in free speech. We believe in the right of artistic expression and things that powers that be might not like."

The President congratulated Crowley on an "extraordinary career...You will be missed," he said.

The following is a transcript of the Sony-related portions of the interview:

OBAMA: Well, look, I was pretty sympathetic to the fact that they've got business considerations they've got to make. And, 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.

But what I was laying out was a principle that I think this country has to abide by. We believe in free speech. We believe in the right of artistic expression and things that powers that be might not like.

And if we set a precedent in which a dictator in another country can disrupt, through cyber, you know, a company's distribution chain or its products and, as a consequence, we start censoring ourselves, that's a problem.

And it's a problem not just for the entertainment industry, it's a problem for the news industry. CNN has done critical stories about North Korea.

What happens if, in fact, there is a breach in CNN's, you know, cyberspace?

Are we going to suddenly say, well, we'd better not report on North Korea?

So the key here is not to suggest that Sony was a bad actor. It's making a broader point that all of us have to adapt to the possibility of cyber attacks. We have to do a lot more to guard against them.

My administration has taken a lot of strides in that direction, but we need Congress to pass a cyber security law. We've got to work with the private sector and the private sector has to work together to harden their sites.

But in the meantime, when there's a breach, we have to go after the wrongdoer. We can't start changing how we operate.

CROWLEY: I wonder if maybe it was fear of lawsuit as opposed to fear of North Korea...

OBAMA: Which is possible.

CROWLEY: -- that -- there's that threat right there that -- that people are looking at their theater thinking, you know, anything happens here, I'm -- I'm done.

OBAMA: You know, that's possible. But, look, as I said, you know, the Boston Marathon suffered an actual grievous attack that killed and maimed a number of people. And that next year, we had a successful a Boston Marathon as we've ever had.

You know, 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, cyber hackers.

And I expect all of us to remember that and operate on that basis going forward.

CROWLEY: Do you think this was an act of war by North Korea?

OBAMA: No, I don't think it was an act of war. I think it was an act of cyber vandalism that was very costly, very expensive. We take it very seriously. We will respond proportionately, as I said.

But, you know, we're going to be in an environment in this new world where so much is digitalized that both state and non-state actors are going to have the capacity to disrupt our lives in all sorts of ways. We have to do a much better job of guarding against that. We have to treat it like we would treat, you know, the incidence of crime, you know, in our countries.

When other countries are sponsoring it, we take it very seriously. But, you know, I think this is something that we can manage...

OBAMA: But that's something that I think we can manage through, as long as public-private sector is working together.

Related