By Pete Williams
U.S. officials have concluded that the North Korean government ordered the hacking attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment — a breach that led to the studio cancelling the planned release of “The Interview” — and a U.S. official told NBC News that the country “can’t let this go unanswered.”
The officials told NBC News the hacking attack originated outside North Korea, but they believe the individuals behind it were acting on orders from the North Koreans.
“We have found linkage to the North Korean government,” according to a U.S. government source.
An official said the U.S. is discussing what form a response could take, and couldn’t detail what options the government has available.
The security breach embarrassed several high-profile Sony executives and led to the studio cancelling the Dec. 25 release of “The Interview,” a comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco that depicts a fictional assassination attempt on North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Amid fallout from the Sony hack, a New Regency film tentatively titled “Pyongyang” and starring Steve Carell “will not be moving forward.”
Sony on Wednesday dropped its plans to release “The Interview” on Christmas Day after some of the country’s largest theater chains said they were holding back or dropping the movie following threats of violence made by the same group that claimed it hacked Sony, Guardians for Peace.
“Sony Pictures has been the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault against our employees, our customers, and our business,” Sony said in a statement Wednesday, saying that it reached the decision after the top cinema chains pulled out. Regal, Cinemark, Carmike and Cineplex were among the chains that said it would not show the film on the planned Dec. 25 premiere, citing security concerns.
The White House National Security Council said in a statement Wednesday that “the U.S. government is working tirelessly to bring the perpetrators of this attack to justice” and expressed support for Sony. “The United States respects artists’ and entertainers’ right to produce and distribute content of their choosing. … We take very seriously any attempt to threaten or limit artists’ freedom of speech or of expression.”
— Jonathan Dienst contributed to this report
First published December 17 2014, 3:15 PM
Pete Williams is an NBC News correspondent based in Washington, D.C. He has been covering the Justice Department and the U.S. Supreme Court since March 1993. Williams was also a key reporter on the Microsoft anti-trust trial and Judge Jackson’s decision.
Prior to joining NBC, Williams served as a press official on Capitol Hill for many years. In 1986 he joined the Washington, D.C. staff of then Congressman Dick Cheney as press secretary and a legislative assistant. In 1989, when Cheney was named Assistant Secretary of Defense, Williams was appointed Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. While in that position, Williams was named Government Communicator of the Year in 1991 by the National Association of Government Communicators.
A native of Casper, Wyo. and a 1974 graduate of Stanford University, Williams was a reporter and news director at KTWO-TV and Radio in Casper from 1974 to 1985. Working with the Radio-Television News Directors Association, for which he served as a member of its board of directors, he successfully lobbied the Wyoming Supreme Court to permit broadcast coverage of its proceedings and twice sued Wyoming judges over pre-trial exclusion of reporters from the courtroom. For these efforts, he received a First Amendment Award from the Society of Professional Journalists.
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