Barack Obama says Sony decision to pull ‘The Interview’ was a mistake, vows revenge against North Korea

Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — — President Barack Obama said Friday that Sony Pictures Entertainment “made a mistake” in deciding to shelve a film about a plot to assassinate North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un even though the studio suffered significant damage in a hack attack the FBI blames on the secretive Communist regime.

“I wish they had spoken to me first,” Obama said of Sony executives at a year-end news conference in which he said, “we cannot have a society in which some dictatorship someplace can start imposing censorship …”

Envisioning other potential flashpoints, he summoned situations in which dictators “start seeing a documentary that they don’t like or news reports that they don’t like.”

“We will respond” to the attack,’ he added, although he offered no details.

The president spoke a few hours after the FBI formally accused the North Korean government of being responsible for the devastating hacking attack against Sony, providing the most detailed accounting to date of a hugely expensive break-in that could lead to a U.S. response.

The FBI said in a statement it that it now 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 behaviour,” the statement said.

The FBI’s statement cited, among other factors, technical similarities between the Sony break-in and past “malicious cyber activity” linked directly to North Korea, including a prior cyberattack against South Korean banks and media.

Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty ImagesWorkers remove a poster-banner for The Interview from a billboard in Hollywood.

A group identifying itself as Guardians of Peace has taken responsibility for the Sony breach, which was reported in late November and involved the use of destructive malware that caused the studio to take its entire computer network offline left thousands of computers inoperable and “significantly disrupted the company’s business operations,” the FBI said.

The break-in has had wide-ranging ramifications for the studio, spilling into public view candid and confidential discussions among executives and leading to lawsuits from those who say their personal and financial data was exposed online. This week, the cyber-attack escalated with terrorist threats against movie theatres that planned to show the movie “The Interview,” a comedy starring James Franco and Seth Rogen that for months has been condemned by the North Korean government.

In response to the threats, Sony cancelled the Christmas Day release of the film — a comedy about a plot to assassinate Kim Jong Un and said it had no further plans to distribute it.

After Sony shelved the film’s release, hackers sent a new email praising the studio’s decision as “very wise” and saying its data would be safe “as long as you make no more trouble.” The message warned the studio to “never” release the film “in any form,” including on DVD. The email was confirmed Friday by a person close to the studio who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the matter and requested anonymity. An FBI spokesman said authorities were aware of the email and were investigating.

The Motion Picture Association of America called the Sony attack a “despicable, criminal act” that threatened the lives of thousands of people in the film and television industries.

North Korea has denied responsibility but earlier this month referred to the cyberattack as a “righteous deed.” A North Korean diplomat to the United Nations, Kim Un Chol, declined to comment Friday about the FBI’s accusations.

Obama administration officials had until Friday declined to openly blame North Korea but had said they were weighing various options for a response. The statement Friday did not reveal what options were being considered but did say the government would look to “impose costs and consequences.”

At first glance, the options for a U.S. response seem limited. Bringing the shadowy hackers to justice appears a distant prospect. A U.S. cyberretaliation against North Korea would risk a dangerous escalation. And North Korea is already targeted by a raft of sanctions over its nuclear weapons program.

The FBI did not indicate whether it has identified any individual hackers who might be culpable. In May, the Justice Department announced indictments against five Chinese military officers accused of vast cyberespionage against American corporate interests, but none of those defendants has yet to set foot in an American courtroom.

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Calgary police warn the public after thieves steal $70,000 worth of key-making equipment from locksmith

Police are warning business owners and motor vehicle dealerships after a Calgary locksmith company was broken into and culprits made off with thousands of dollars worth of key-making equipment.

Police say between 11 p.m. on Saturday and 5 a.m. Sunday, four men broke into the business and grabbed approximately $70,000 worth of tools and equipment used for lock manufacturing and safe maintenance.

“The equipment can be used to cut and activate vehicle keys, including electronic chip keys and vending machine keys,” police said in the release, adding the intruders also stole a device that can unlock combination safes.

“Dealerships and businesses with combination safes are asked to keep a close eye on their properties and report anything that may appear suspicious.”

Police describe the first suspect as a Caucasian man, who was wearing a Nike sun visor, dark clothing, dark gloves, and a black bandana.

The second man is Caucasian, wearing a dark hoodie, jeans, a baseball cap and dark gloves.

The third suspect was wearing a grey hoodie and a mask bearing a skull.

Police do not have a description for the fourth man.

The quartet fled the scene in a stolen white 2010 Nissan Xterra SUV without a licence plate.

Investigators have released CCTV images of the persons of interest and the suspect vehicle, and urge anyone who recognizes them to contact police.

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‘Santabomb’ storm may be nightmare before Christmas for Ontario

It may have an unfortunate Twitter-dubbed name, but ‘Santabomb’ may totally rain or snow on your Christmas plans if you are travelling in the Greater Toronto Area.

While the forecast isn’t quite as dire as 2013’s (unfortunately-named) “Snowmageddon,” Environment Canada says it looks “pretty messy” for southern Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Geoff Coulson, a warning preparedness meteorologist for Environment Canada, says while there is still a “a fair amount of uncertainty,” they are tracking two systems that are expected to interact and affect the area between Chicago and the East Coast in the days before Christmas.

“For Toronto itself, it looks like a rain event, when this thing starts, late on the 23rd and into Christmas Eve,” he said.

“The concern for Toronto is a change into snow by Christmas Day at this point. By Christmas Day, this complex system is going to move east of us and that means the winds are going to snap around to come more out of the west. And that’s going to bring down some cold air with it.”

Warm conveyor belt associated with #SantaBomb via GFS. If this was the Pacific you’d hear “atmospheric river”.

— Josh Timlin (@joshtimlin) December 19, 2014

Coulson says wind gusts of up to 80 kilometres are forecasted for the holiday season, which could affect travel, both on the road and in the air.

“It’s not just snow falling, it’s snow blowing around, reducing visibility,” he said.

There is still a lot of movement in the weather model for next week and Environment Canada says it should be more clear by late Sunday.

“The best advice I can give out to folks who are planning to travel around the Christmas time frame is to stay in touch with the latest information from Environment Canada as forecasters get a better sense of what the storm track is going to be,” Couldson said.

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Palestinians tell Canada to back Geneva Conventions meeting on Israel

OTTAWA — The top Palestinian diplomat in Canada says the Harper government should not have boycotted a United Nations conference this week that harshly criticized Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Said Hamad says Canada should have joined other countries at a conference in Geneva examining the Fourth Geneva Convention, which governs the rules of war and military occupation.

Some 126 countries of the 196 international parties to the convention adopted a resolution Wednesday saying Israel’s construction of settlements does not conform to its international legal obligations as an occupying power.

Along with Israel and the U.S., Canada boycotted the conference, another example of unwavering Conservative support of Israel — a position that has exposed deep differences with the majority of the United Nations.

“We had hoped Canada would participate in this conference, given its long-standing policy that ‘Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The settlements also constitute a serious obstacle to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace,”’ Hamad said in a written statement.

“We urge all countries absent from the conference to rejoin the international community’s efforts to enforce the rule of law.”

Hamad was quoting from Canada’s written foreign policy, posted on the Foreign Affairs Department website — a written policy that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird have been reluctant to repeat out loud.
Hamad did not respond to a request for an interview.

In his own statement, Baird said Canada stayed away from the Geneva meeting to avoid lending credibility to a process it views as one-sided and politicized.

The meeting “serves only to single out one country, Israel, for criticism,” Baird said.

“Canada has complete faith in the strength of the rule of law in Israel, and we believe the Israelis are capable of
investigating matters surrounding the events that took place in Gaza in the summer of 2014.”

The 50-day war between Israel and the Islamic militant group Hamas left more than 2,100 Palestinians dead, most of them civilians, says the UN. In Israel, 72 people were killed, most of them soldiers.

The UN Human Rights Council has appointed a commission of inquiry to look into the Gaza war, and is to table a report in March. Baird has criticized the council for singling out Israel and ignoring the Hamas rocket attacks, and generally regards its work as being biased against Israel.

Baird said the UN’s latest examination of the issue this week risks “undermining the integrity and credibility of the Geneva Conventions and the neutrality of their application. Such a misguided approach will neither serve the cause of peace nor bring the parties closer to a negotiated settlement.”

Israel says the Geneva Conventions don’t apply to the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem because the Palestinians have never had their own sovereign state.

However, Canada’s own written foreign policy statement says they do.

“Canada does not recognize permanent Israeli control over territories occupied in 1967 (the Golan Heights, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip),” says the statement on the Foreign Affairs website.

“The Fourth Geneva Convention applies in the occupied territories and establishes Israel’s obligations as an occupying power, in particular with respect to the humane treatment of the inhabitants of the occupied territories.”

The intractable Middle East conflict has also driven a wedge between Canada and the European Union this week.
Baird said he was “deeply concerned” by a decision by the EU’s General Court to take Hamas off its list of terrorist organizations. Canada has listed Hamas as a terrorist organization.

“We understand that restrictive measures remain in place for the time being, and we call on the EU to take the immediate remedial steps necessary to keep Hamas listed as a terrorist entity,” Baird said in a separate statement.

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