President Obama said today that Sony Pictures had erred in backing down to North Korean hackers.
“Yes, I think they made a mistake,” Obama said when asked about the matter during a White House press conference this afternoon.
While saying he sympathized with Sony’s problem and the gravity of the threats lodged against it, Obama said Sony’s decision to pull the movie about an assassination attempt against North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un set a bad precedent. “We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States,” he said.
Obama confirmed that North Korea was behind the hacking attack against the company and vowed that America would respond.
“We will respond,” Obama said. “We will respond proportionally, and we will respond in a place and time and manner that we choose.”
Contrary to a report today that a larger country had helped North Korea with its attack, Obama said there was “no indication” another nation was involved.
Obama said he wished Sony “would have spoken to me first,” suggesting he would have encouraged them not to back down.
Obama deserves credit for criticizing the craven cave-in by Sony and its distributors. While I’m not a fan of the government intruding into decisions made by private companies and people, this is an event that has broad implications for national security, and is therefore within the president’s purview. As Obama said today, if someone can “intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie,” imagine what is next on the agenda of the North Korea and other bad actors.
On the other hand, Obama didn’t need Sony to come to him. The developing situation was clear, and a bold statement by the president – both through private phone calls and public pronouncements – might have preempted the businesses from backing down.
Let’s remember, while pulling the movie was a mistake, Sony was threatened with violence by another nation. That a pretty virulent threat. The company could have used some support from our nation in the form of an assertion that the hacking would be combated and the response to any kind of violence would be fierce.