The PJ Tatler

Earnest: Obama Has 'Certainly Been on Receiving End of Expressions' Like The Interview

The White House vaguely promised a “proportional response” toward the “sophisticated actor” who hacked Sony and brought down the planned Christmas release of The Interview.

Press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters yesterday that the cyber-crime “is still under investigation, both by the FBI and the National Security Division of the Department of Justice.”

“I for, I think, pretty obvious reasons, am not going to get ahead of that investigation or any announcements that they may make about that investigation,” Earnest said.

President Obama will undoubtedly be asked about the North Korean threat at his year-end press conference this afternoon.

“But I can tell you that consistent with the president’s previous statements about how we will protect against, monitor and respond to cyber incidents, this is something that’s being treated as a serious national security matter. There is evidence to indicate that we have seen destructive activity with malicious intent that was initiated by a sophisticated actor,” Earnest continued.

“And it is being treated by those investigative agencies, both at the FBI and the Department of Justice, as seriously as you would expect. It has also been the subject of a number of daily meetings that have been convened here at the White House that have been led by both the president’s homeland security adviser and occasionally by his cyber coordinator. This includes senior members of our intelligence community and homeland security officials, military, diplomatic and law enforcement officials.”

However, he wasn’t ready to say how the U.S. might respond to an attack.

“Before we start publicly speculating about a response, it’s appropriate that we allow the investigation to move forward. I do understand that the investigation is progressing. And that as the members of the national security team meet to discuss this matter, they are considering a range of options,” Earnest said.

“As they do so, though, they’re mindful of the need for a couple of things. They’re first of all, as we would be in any scenario, strategic scenario like this, they would be mindful of the fact that we need a proportional response. And also mindful of the fact that sophisticated actors when they carry out actions like this are oftentimes, not always, but often seeking to provoke a response from the United States of America… So we want to be mindful of that, too.”

As far as Sony canceling The Interview, Earnest would only say that “as a general matter is that the president and the administration stand squarely on the side of artists and other private citizens who seek to freely express their views.”

“Sometimes those views can be laced with criticism, or are sometimes intended to provoke either some kind of either comedic response or one that is intended to be some element of some pretty biting social commentary,” he added.

“All of that is — is appropriate and well within the rights of private citizens to express their views. And the president has certainly been on the receiving end of some expressions like that. And while we may not agree with the content of every single thing that is produced, we certainly stand squarely on the side of the right of private individuals to express themselves. And that is a view that we — that is strongly held by this administration as it has been throughout the history of our country.”