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Obama slams Sony for canceling 'The Interview'

Obama says launching an attack because of a comedy speaks to North Korea's lack of seriousness as a state power, but added Sony made the wrong move by caving to the demands of the hackers.

By Scott Smith and Matt Bradwell

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama criticized Sony Pictures on Friday for canceling the release of The Interview as giving in to threats from hackers connected to North Korea.

"We cannot have a society in which some dictator some place can start imposing censorship here in the United States," he said in his year-end news conference. "Imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary they don't like, or news reports they don't like -- or even worse imagine if producers and distributors and others started engaging in self-censorship because they don't want to offend the sensibilities of somebody whose sensitivities ought to be offended. That's not America. That's not who we are."

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Earlier Friday, the FBI announced that it has connected North Korea to the hackers who stole data from Sony Pictures Entertainment.

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The hackers have released damaging emails and most recently threatened the company with terror attacks on theaters if it didn't halt the release of the movie The Interview, a comedy by Seth Rogen that depicts the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

"The FBI now has enough information to conclude that the North Korean government is responsible for these actions," a press statement read.

Obama said he understood the damage Sony has suffered, but wishes the company had consulted with the State Department before canceling the movie.

"I am sympathetic to the concerns they face -- having said all that, yes I think they made a mistake."

In a briefing Thursday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters the administration was considering a "proportional response." On Friday, the president declined to address the specifics of what that response would entail, but offered dismissive words for Kim and North Korea.

"It says something interesting about North Korea that they decided to have the state mount an all-out assault on a movie studio for a satirical movie staring Seth Rogen," Obama said.

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The FBI reports that its investigation confirmed that malware used to attack Sony's computers is linked to other attacks previously linked to North Korea. The investigation also tracked computer IP addresses back to North Korea, and linked the tools and methods used in an attack against South Korean banks and news outlets in March.

The FBI notes that this attack "reaffirms that cyber threats pose one of the gravest national security dangers to the United States."

U.S. Sen. John McCain called the attack an "act of war" and "the greatest blow to free speech that I've seen in my lifetime." He announced plans to hold hearings on Internet security when Congress returns in January.

Obama also called for greater cybersecurity, saying he felt it was an issue both sides of the political aisle could find common ground on.

"In this interconnected digital world, there will be opportunities for hackers to engage in cyber assaults in both private and public sector," Obama said. "A lot more needs to be done, we're not even close to where we need to be."

Now that's it's been pulled from a Christmas Day release in theaters, 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney said that Sony should provide the movie online for free.

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