Sony decision to cancel 'Interview' was mistake, Obama says

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President Barack Obama said during his year-end news conference that Sony's decision to cancel the release of 'The Interview' was a mistake. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes))

President Barack Obama said during his year-end news conference that Sony's decision to cancel the release of "The Interview" was a mistake.

"Sony suffered significant damage. I'm sympathetic to their concerns ... Having said that, yes, I think they made a mistake," Mr. Obama said.

The data breach at Sony Pictures Entertainment escalated to threats that led Sony to cancel the Christmas release of the movie "The Interview," a comedy about a plot to assassinate North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un.

Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton disagrees with the president. In a television interview, he said Sony did not cave or back down.

"The movie theaters came to us one by one over the course of a very short period of time -- we were completely surprised by it -- and announced that they would not carry the movie. At that point in time, we had no alternative but to not proceed with the theatrical release on the 25th of December," Lynton said.

The president said he had hoped Sony would talk to him before making the decision to pull the film, adding that he would have told Sony, "Don't get into pattern in which you're intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks."

Earlier on Friday, the Obama administration formally accused the North Korean government of being responsible for the devastating hacking attack, providing the most detailed accounting to date of a hugely expensive break-in that could lead to a U.S. response.

"They caused a lot of damage, and we will respond. We will respond proportionally and we'll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose," Mr. Obama said.

The FBI said in a statement it has enough evidence to conclude that North Korea was behind the punishing breach, which resulted in the disclosure of tens of thousands of leaked emails and other materials.

"North Korea's actions were intended to inflict significant harm on a U.S. business and suppress the right of American citizens to express themselves. Such acts of intimidation fall outside the bounds of acceptable state behavior," the statement said.

The FBI's case cited, among other factors, technical similarities between the Sony break-in and past "malicious cyber activity" linked directly to North Korea.

Meantime, a new message from the hackers sent to Sony executives said it was a "very wise" decision to cancel the movie's release, and they don't want it released in any form.

Screenings of "The Interview" canceled due to online threats
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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