16.02.2015 Author: F. William Engdahl

Why Now North Korea?

R33333I try to start from the premise that people do certain things for a reason, although often not for the reason they claim. This is certainly the case with US Presidents, especially since the CIA and Pentagon ganged up to assassinate John F. Kennedy a US President who was deviating from their program. Since that time if a US President, whether his name was Lyndon Johnson or Dick Nixon, Gerry Ford or Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan or George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton or George W. “Baby” Bush, stated a reason for a major US action in the world, I took that as a starting point to find out what the true reason behind such an action might be.

So it is, when the current White House occupant, Barack Obama, suddenly demonizes tiny, poor, far away North Korea, sanctioning them and claiming without evidence, that they “hacked” the computer system of Sony, a Japanese electronics giant that owns a chunk of Hollywood, I become interested in digging deeper behind the surface .

On January 2, 2015 US President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order that declared:

In response to the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s numerous provocations, particularly the recent cyber-attack targeting Sony Pictures Entertainment and the threats against movie theaters and moviegoers, President Obama today signed an Executive Order (E.O.) authorizing the imposition of sanctions against the Government of North Korea and the Workers’ Party of Korea. This step reflects the ongoing commitment of the United States to hold North Korea accountable for its destabilizing, destructive and repressive actions… 

There are many things bizarre about the US President’s swift move to declare the pariah state, North Korea, guilty for a hack attack of the internal computer systems of a Hollywood company, Sony Pictures. First, the evidence that the Government has released, by the FBI, is anything but convincing. The attacks first began in late November when reams of internal email data from Sony Pictures in California were dumped online, including data of salaries of top executives and employees.

Jacob J. Lew, Obama’s Treasury Secretary, made a revealing statement about the US sanctions noting, “Even as the FBI continues its investigation into the cyber-attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment, these steps underscore that we will employ a broad set of tools to defend US businesses and citizens, and to respond to attempts to undermine our values or threaten the national security of the United States.”

In plain English, Obama has acted on the Wild West principle—“Shoot first, ask questions later…” The FBI has not concluded its investigation, nor has the Bureau released any solid evidence proving Sony was hacked by North Korean Intelligence.

On November 24, Sony revealed that some entity or person identifying itself as “Guardians of Peace,” hacked some 100 terabytes of data from Sony servers. The very Hollywood-looking image of a stylized skull with long skeletal fingers flashed on every employee’s computer screen at the same time, accompanied by a threatening message warning that, “This is just the beginning. We’ve obtained all your internal data,” and warned that if Sony doesn’t “obey” their demands, they will release the company’s “top secrets.”  Nothing about North Korea or the Sony comedy film, The Interview, about the assassination of Kim Jong-un.

It was several days later that stories began in mainstream media saying Sony executives “think” that the attack was in retaliation for a yet-to-be-released Sony movie, The Interview, a comedy about a bumbling plot by the CIA to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. On December 1 the FBI confirmed it was investigating the Sony attack. On December 3 Sony issued a statement that a report by re/code that North Korea has been identified as the source of the attack is “not accurate.”

On December 5, hackers claiming to be the Guardians of Peace e-mailed Sony employees a poorly worded threat, vowing to hurt them and their families if they don’t sign a statement repudiating the company. Then on December 8 another email posted by someone calling themselves the Guardians of Peace on a file-sharing site, warns Sony to “Stop immediately showing the movie of terrorism which can break regional peace and cause the War!” That letter also denied responsibility for the December 5 threats against Sony employees and their families.

So it seems at least two “Guardians of Peace” exist, and the newest one seems to draw attention to, “the movie of terrorism which can break regional peace and cause the War!” But no mention which movie of terrorism…Sony releases many films including James Bond.

The Interview first mentioned

On December 11 Sony premieres their new comedy film in Los Angeles about a fictional CIA assassination of North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-un, the 32 year old “supreme leader” of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), heir of the Kim dynasty–son of Kim Jong-il and grandson of Kim Il-sung. Before the film begins, Seth Rogen, the movie’s writer and director takes the stage and thanks Sony Pictures chairman, Amy Pascal, “for having the balls to make this movie.” Curious, because Amy is clearly a woman.

Then only on December 16 an email surfaces purporting to be from the Guardians of Peace again. It’s addressed to reporters. In this email, the “Guardians of Peace” threaten to attack movie theaters that show The Interview. It’s the first time the film is named in the communiqués: “We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places The Interview be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to…” The next day Sony announces it has canceled the planned Christmas Day release of The Interview, after the purported email threat to blow up theaters that show the film.

Hollywood drama?

If we step back and view this all as an unfolding Hollywood movie drama, the attention is maximum. All American eyes are on Sony, on “bad” North Korea and on The Interview. Now the stage is set for the FBI and the US President to come on screen.

On December 19, Friday afternoon just before Christmas, the FBI issues a statement that North Korea is behind the hacker attacks on Sony.

The FBI stated that it used “sensitive sources and methods” to identify the party behind the attack, and refused to describe those sources and methods. It merely stated that “Technical analysis of the data deletion malware used in this attack revealed links to other malware that the FBI knows North Korean actors previously developed; the FBI discovered that several Internet protocol (IP) addresses associated with known North Korean infrastructure communicated with IP addresses that were hardcoded into the data deletion malware used in this attack. Separately, the tools used in the SPE attack have similarities to a cyber attack in March of last year against South Korean banks and media outlets, which was carried out by North Korea.”

Proof?

Cyber security experts who have examined the Sony hack are very skeptical about the FBI claim of North Korean “proof.”

The cyber skeptics note that the few malware samples they have studied indicate the hackers routed their attack through computers all over the world. One of those computers, in Bolivia, had been used by the same group to hack targets in South Korea. But that computer, as well as others in Poland, Italy, Thailand, Singapore, Cyprus and the United States, were all freely available to anyone. Hardly conclusive proof.

Then to add to the mistrust of the Obama and FBI North Korea blame game, Sony’s attackers constructed their malware on computers configured with Korean language settings, but those settings could have been reset by anyone, even by FBI hackers (should, God forbid, there be any such), to deflect blame to North Korea. The skeptics also note the attackers used commercial software wiping tools that could have been purchased by anyone.

But the real telling item is the fact that, as the New York Times noted, “whoever attacked Sony had a keen understanding of its computer systems — the names of company servers and passwords were all hard-coded into the malware — suggesting the hackers were inside Sony before they launched their attack. Or it could even have been an inside job.” Marc Rogers, director of security operations for DefCon, an annual hacker convention, declares, “Combine that with the details of several layoffs that Sony was planning, and you don’t have to stretch the imagination too far to consider that a disgruntled Sony employee might be at the heart of it all.” Indeed, that would fit the pattern of threats and data releases by the hackers pertaining to personal salaries, medical records, internal emails commenting about President Obama’s liking for black-theme movies or employee disgust at making Adam Sandler comedies or about working with “spoiled brat” Angelina Jolie.

It is very, very, rare for the US Government to step in in such a private hacker case. It is even that much rarer for the US President to order sanctions against a country with whom it has ostensibly been trying to get into a negotiated deal to abandon its nuclear weapons arsenal.

The North Korean Government denied responsibility and proposed a joint independent investigation into the matter together with the United States Government, an offer Washington rejected with a contemptuous statement from White House National Security Council spokesperson Mark Stroh: “We are confident the North Korean government is responsible for this destructive attack. If the North Korean government wants to help, they can admit their culpability and compensate Sony for the damages this attack caused.”

Next we will look at what smells more and more like a US intelligence False Flag attempt to demonize North Korea anew and what in fact might be the real reason for President Obama’s bizarre new North Korean sanctions.

F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.


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