Sony Hack Needs Tempered Response, White House Says

It’s important the United States government not play into the hands of those responsible for the cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment by over-reacting, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at today’s White House press briefing.

Earnest declined to pin the attack on the North Korean government — an announcement the media is expecting to come today from the Justice Department. The investigation by the FBI and the Department of Justice in to who is behind the attack, which also included a threat on the lives of anyone who attended the Christmas Day opening of the studio’s movie, is progressing, Earnest said.

“I can tell you that, consistent with the president’s previous statements about how we will protect against, monitor and respond to cyber incidents, this is something that’s being treated as a serious national security issue,” he said. “There is evidence to indicate we have seen destructive activity with malicious intent that was initiated by a sophisticated actor. And it is being treated by those investigative agencies, both the FBI and the Department of Justice as seriously as you would expect.”

Those who are conducting the government’s investigation “first of all — as we would be in any scenario like they…they would be mindful of the fact that we need a proportional response,” Earnest said. “Sophisticated actors, when carry out actions like this, are often times …seeking to provoke a response from the United States of America,” he said. “They may believe that a response from us, in one fashion or another, would be advantageous to them. And so we need to be mindful of that.”

The media this morning is impatient for a headline about North Korea’s role in the cyber attack on Sony, over the release of its comedy movie The Interview, about a bumbling talk show host and his producer who are recruited by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Asked at the briefing what is President Obama’s position on a comedy movie that depicts the assassination of an actual leader of a country, Earnest responded patiently:

“The president and the administration stand squarely on the side of artists and other private citizens who seek to freely express their views. Sometimes those viewers can be laced with criticism, or are sometimes intended to provoke either some kind of either comedic response or one that is intended to be some element of pretty biting social commentary. All of that is appropriate and well within the right of private citizens to express their views.”

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