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Obama: Sony Should Have Talked To Him Before Pulling 'The Interview'

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

President Obama criticized Sony Pictures for not issuing "The Interview," a satirical James Franco and Seth Rogen film that depicts the fictional assassination of Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea. Sony scrapped release of the movie after computer hackers penetrated the company's computer network and threatened a 9/11 style attack on movie theaters that showed the film. The FBI has concluded that the North Korean government is responsible for the attack. North Korea denies that and has called for a joint investigation. NPR's Scott Horsley joins us.

Scott, thanks for being with us.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning.

SIMON: The president was pretty blunt when was he was asked about this, wasn't he?

HORSLEY: He was. The president said it was a mistake for Sony to give in to this kind of pressure. While he's sympathetic to the company's concerns after the damaging attack on its computer network, he argued the U.S. has to stand up to that kind of attack, just as Boston stood up and held another marathon after last year's bombing, and he said he wished Sony had asked him before pulling the plug.

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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I would've told them, do not get into a pattern in which you're intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.

HORSLEY: Now, the CEO of Sony Pictures says Sony still wants to find an outlet for its movie and he blamed the big theater chains for their decision not to screen the picture.

SIMON: We obviously focused a lot on this this week, but there were reports about Sony's computer network being hacked that go back to November, weren't there?

HORSLEY: That's right. Hackers broke into Sony's network, stole personal information about Sony employees, publicized private often embarrassing emails from company executives and actually disabled thousands of computers, really disrupting Sony's business. So the cyber damage alone was serious, but one security expert I spoke with said, you have to distinguish the hack from the cave-in. And it was the real-world decision by Sony and the movie theater chains not show the picture that really took this to a whole other level.

SIMON: Now, North Korea has said that it is not responsible for the computer hack. It wants the United States take part in a joint investigation. What evidence has been cited by the FBI, by President Obama, by anyone to reassure the public that North Korea is in fact behind the attack?

HORSLEY: Well, the FBI is not giving a lot of detail of what went into its conclusion, saying it doesn't want to compromise its sensitive sources and tactics. But they do point to some digital fingerprints. Some of the malware planted on Sony's computers shares of lines of code with malware that North Korea is known to have used in the past. There are links to certain IP addresses associated with North Korea. And the tools used by the hackers are similar to those used by North Korea in a previous attack on South Korean banks.

SIMON: How does the Obama administration amount what they call a proportionate attack in response to the hack on a major corporation on a country that doesn't really have an Internet?

HORSLEY: Good question. The president says the U.S. will respond in a manner of our choosing, but he did not say what that would involve.

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OBAMA: We have been working up a range of options. They will be presented to me. I will make a decision on those based on what I believe is proportional and appropriate to the nature of this crime.

HORSLEY: Now there are not a lot of obvious targets. It seems very unlikely you would escalate this to a military response. And as you point out, North Korea does not have a great deal of its own computer infrastructure to go after. What's more, the country has already been hit with so many economic sanctions, there's not a lot of economy there left for the U.S. to target. So it's going to be interesting to see. One thing the administration will certainly do is use this incident as a wake-up call, if one were needed, to encourage other companies to harden their computer networks against this kind of cyberattack.

SIMON: NPR's Scott Horsley. Thanks so much for being with us.

HORSLEY: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.