Reprinted from WSWS
The Obama administration ratcheted up the pressure Friday on the isolated Stalinist regime in North Korea, with the FBI formally accusing North Korea of responsibility for the hacking attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment and Obama declaring that the US government would carry out an unspecified "proportionate response" against Pyongyang at "a time and place of our own choosing."
Obama made no mention of the cyberattack or North Korea's alleged responsibility in his opening statement at his end-of-the-year White House press conference, waiting until a suitable question was posed by the media to raise the issue.
The FBI offered no proof of a North Korean link to the hacking attack on Sony, which led to the studio's cancellation of the planned December 25 release of the Seth Rogen film The Interview, a comedy whose premise is that two American journalists are contracted by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
The FBI statement claimed several similarities between computer code used in the malware deployed against Sony and that used in previous attacks linked to North Korea, but these claims are unsubstantiated and computer security experts interviewed in the press have cast doubt on whether any definitive links can be established.
The American public is asked to take on faith the FBI's declaration that it "now has enough information to conclude that the North Korean government is responsible for these actions." The statement continued: "North Korea's actions were intended to inflict significant harm on a US business and suppress the right of American citizens to express themselves."
Such language is ironic coming from a federal agency that plays a central role in the build-up of a police state apparatus in America. A recent report in the Wall Street Journal, citing figures from the National Center for State Courts, found that the FBI has accumulated criminal record files on 80 million Americans--more than one-third of the adult population.
Obama likewise provided no evidence of North Korean involvement, merely citing the FBI statement as authoritative. He criticized Sony Pictures for withdrawing The Interview from circulation in response to threats from the hackers, who called themselves "Guardians of Peace."
"We cannot have a society where some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States," Obama said, "because if somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they'll do when they see a documentary that they don't like, or news reports that they don't like."
He continued, "That's not what America's about. Again, I'm sympathetic that Sony as a private company was worried about liabilities and this and that and the other. I wish they'd spoken to me first. I would have told them, do not get into a pattern in which you're intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks."
This pretense of alarm over the threat to the civil liberties of Americans is just as hypocritical coming from Obama as from the FBI. His administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers for leaking information about government crimes to the press than any other in American history. Obama has presided over dragnet surveillance of the telecommunications and email of every American by the National Security Agency, trampling on the Bill of Rights. And he has asserted the unprecedented "right" of the president to order the drone missile assassination of anyone in the world, including American citizens.
As for censorship, this is a government that doesn't hesitate to demand that major newspapers and television networks withhold information from the public, including information on massive violations of the Constitution by the government itself, in the name of "national security." The media routinely complies, allowing the government to vet and/or censor articles and news reports before they are aired.
The latest charges against North Korea have provided yet another example of the American press corps' readiness to function as a de facto sounding board for state propaganda. There has been no pretense of critical independence in the vast bulk of reporting on the hacking attack on Sony and the alleged responsibility of the North Korean regime, which has denied any involvement. The government's claims are simply reported as facts, whether by the television networks and cable channels or newspapers such as the New York Times and Washington Post.
The government's record of lying, whether on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, NSA spying, or, more recently, CIA torture, is simply ignored.
The daily newspapers and television networks have largely dropped any reporting on last week's Senate Intelligence Committee report documenting systematic torture by the CIA of prisoners held in secret prisons overseas. Not a single question was raised about the torture report at Obama's hour-long press conference.
Obama made it clear that the US government would retaliate against North Korea for the alleged hacking attack on Sony. "They caused a lot of damage, and we will respond," he said. "We will respond proportionally, and we'll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose."
While the tone was matter-of-fact, Obama refused to rule out military action in response to a follow-up question by a reporter, saying only that he would not expand on his previous statement about an indeterminate future response.