John McCain Calls Sony Hack "New Form of Warfare"

John McCain Speaking - H 2012
Alex Wong/Getty Images

John McCain Speaking - H 2012

"When you destroy economies, when you are able to impose censorship on the world, it's more than vandalism," McCain told CNN on Sunday

Sen. John McCain on Sunday called the Sony cyber-attack a "new form of warfare" that merits a "vigorous" response, including re-imposing sanctions against North Korea that were lifted under the Bush administration.

In an interview with CNN's Candy Crowley, McCain took also took issue with President Barack Obama's description of the North Korean attack, which led to the canceling of the movie The Interview, as "cyber vandalism."

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"When you destroy economies, when you are able to impose censorship on the world, especially the United States of America, it's more than vandalism," McCain said. "It's a new form of warfare that we're involved in, and we need to react and react vigorously — including reimposing sanctions that were lifted under the Bush administration, including other actions that will squeeze them more economically, but most of all, we have to really work together with the president and the Congress to come up with counters and abilities to respond and more to prevent cyber attacks."

McCain told Crowley that hackers in China have also been able to access "important military secrets" on government sites. "We've identified a building in Beijing that's run by the People's Liberation Army," McCain said. "We've lost billions of dollars in industrial capabilities and secrets that have been transferred to this. We need to harness the best minds in America, including those out in Silicon Valley, to help us devise ways of countering this."

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McCain has been sharply critical of Obama's handling of the Sony hacking situation from the start, saying in a statement issued last week that the White House has failed to "satisfactorily address the use of cyber weapons by our nation's enemies."

"Indeed, North Korea's cyber-attack on Sony Pictures is only the latest in a long and troubling list of attempts by malign actors to use cyber to undermine our economic and national security interests," McCain said, adding that he hopes to address the issue if he's elected chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee under the new Republican-controlled Senate.