The New York Times and other national outlets are now reporting that U.S. intelligence officials confirm North Korea was "centrally involved" in the cyberterrorism attack on Sony. The news comes right on the heels of the studio's announcement that it won't release the Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy The Interview on Christmas day.
So the feds believe we've been attacked by a foreign government that's an enemy of the United States, that this government has threatened American citizens, released the private information of thousands of people and the proprietary information of a company based largely on our soil, and forced the kind of censorship on us that it regularly subjects its own people to.
The only question then is what happens next. From the Times:
Officials said it was not clear how the White House would decide to respond to North Korea. Some within the Obama administration argue that the government of Mr. Kim must be directly confronted, but that raises the question of what consequences the administration would threaten — or how much of its evidence it could make public without revealing details of how the United States was able to penetrate North Korean computer networks to trace the source of the hacking.
Others argue that a direct confrontation with the North over the threats to Sony and moviegoers might result in escalation, and give North Korea the kind of confrontation it often covets. Japan, for which Sony is an iconic corporate name, has argued that a public accusation could interfere with delicate diplomatic negotiations underway for the return of Japanese nationals kidnapped years ago.
Make no mistake: While this may revolve around a dumb comedy, it's shocking and unprecedented. It's terrorism -- and it's terrorism that actually worked. As my colleague Michael Luciano said earlier today, by capitulating to the hackers, who launched an attack on our freedom of speech and our right to artistic expression, we've sent a dangerous message that all it takes to censor something you don't like is threaten violence and retribution.
That's what these hackers have done. And that threat now has to be answered -- somehow.
Adding: Now that it looks like it's North Korea behind all of this, not only does Sony practically have a moral responsibility to release The Interview, it can do it knowing that no actual lives are in danger. The same goes for the theater chains which chose to drop the film out of fear of the threat made by the hackers on Tuesday. North Korea will not physically attack the United States; the threat of "9/11"-like retaliation is a bluff. Yes, the hackers have proven they can cause a lot of damage through cyber-warfare, but no one going to see this movie would be at risk. And again, to give in to these apparently state-sponsored terrorists for any reason other than the fear of losing lives is unconscionable cowardice. It's not who we are.