Former UN Ambassador Bill Richardson: Name North Korea a "State Sponsor of Terrorism" (Guest Column)

Sony Theater Hack The Interview - H 2014
AP Images

Sony Theater Hack The Interview - H 2014

The longtime envoy calls for the development of a joint government-Hollywood policy to prevent future attacks

As I was boning up to participate in a Meet The Press panel this past weekend on the North Korea-Sony fiasco, I was struck by all the criticism and hits Sony was getting from every quarter, including the president. Frankly, I was looking for something good to say about about Sony on the program and other news outlets because I felt Sony was caught in a maelstrom of uncharted territory, and after all, as a former governor of New Mexico with strong ties to the movie industry, Sony Pictures had been good to my state and a strong partner. Sony had brought to New Mexico a major element of Sony Imageworks, a top post-production facility creating 100-plus jobs. They worked with universities to create curricula and training programs to get New Mexicans into this business, particularly the high-end digital effects work. They produced Breaking Bad in Albuquerque. Enough said. And as a frequent envoy to North Korea on official and unofficial missions, here are my thoughts.

First, the U.S. government needs to develop a comprehensive strategy to combat this digital terrorism, cyber vandalism and cyber warfare. As a nation, we were caught nearly unprepared. Ad hoc policies and responses need to be replaced by a government-industry national policy that addresses liability and economic cost issues for industry.

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Second, the U.S. must respond in a forceful manner to this hack attack by North Korea, or anyone else involved, with additional punitive sanctions by designating North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, which carries economic costs.

Third, the entertainment industry as whole should develop a coherent policy on future cyber attacks so it is not caught flat-footed again. What happened to Sony is unchartered territory, so mistakes are to be expected. This is a new battleground. Sony initially would have wanted this movie to be released, but once terrorist threats were made, it reached a new level. At first, nobody seemed to be criticizing the theaters for refusing to show the film. Now that Sony has agreed to release The Interview in selected venues, the industry needs to come together on this issue since a door has been opened that affects all future product.

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Artists need to have complete freedom of creative expression without fear. That's what makes America different from repressive societies — that is the big point I believe George Clooney was trying to make. And that’s what we have to find a way to preserve and protect against this new kind of terrorism.  

Bill Richardson was the United States Ambassador to the United Nations from 1997-1998, the Secretary of Energy from 1998-2001 and the Governor of New Mexico from 2003-2011. He has been a frequent official and unofficial envoy to North Korea since helping negotiate the release of American hostage Evan Hunziker in 1996.