“12-17” isn’t nearly as catchy as “9-11” but it’s just as horrific. Before you blast me for minimizing the death and destruction of 9-11, consider the parallels. They’re as potentially devastating to our way of life as the hijacking and crashing of two jetliners into the World Trade Center, and all the death and woe that rained down.
Like the two-pronged attack on 9-11, on Nov. 24, terrorists attacked a powerful, international American entity with one swift frontal assault — not through the air, but through the internet. They penetrated our defenses with ease. Instead of bodies and fire raining down amid burning buildings, private information rained down in the form of email containing personal information, financial data and Social Security numbers, which was then sprayed out in public.
That was the first “tower” going down.
The second hit came on Dec. 17, when towering Sony Pictures received threats of 9-11-like terrorism (yes, the so-called Guardians of Peace actually drew that line!) against any theater showing Sony’s new movie, “The Interview,” and announced that it would not be released at all. Shelved it. Indefinitely. Just ponder that for a moment: With just a whisper of threat, a billion-dollar corporation collapsed, and the second “tower” fell.
The terrorists, whoever they are (does North Korea really have the technological capability to infiltrate Sony Pictures without help? Hello, China? I’m looking at you) surely did a happy dance around their computer monitors when they discovered just how easily Americans can be intimidated. All you have to do is say “Boo!” and we’ll pee our pants and run for our mamas.
On Friday morning, the Associated Press revealed that the hackers sent a follow-up email, in which they patted Sony on the head for its obedience, and warned that the film must never be released “in any form”: “Very wise to cancel ‘the interview’ it will be very useful for you,” read the message. “We ensure the purity of your data and as long as you make no more trouble.”
According to the AP, the email also warned against any release of this goofball comedy about an attempt to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, and insisted that “anything related to the movie, including trailers” be removed from the Internet.
“Now we want you never let the movie released, distributed or leaked in any form of, for instance, DVD or piracy,” wrote the hackers.
And now, here we sit, amongst the ruins and rubble of our First Amendment — and wonder what to do next. We’re stunned, broadsided by an attack on our homeland, and we have no idea what course to take. On Friday, the AP reported that the Obama administration formally accused the North Korean government of responsibility for the Sony attack. So, we’ve pointed a finger. Now what?
We’re already sanctioning the heck out of North Korea for its nuclear weapons program. The country is already isolated from the entire world. It’s impossible to isolate them any further. Are we to go to war with North Korea and try to bring Kim Jong Un to the same fate as Saddam Hussein? Not highly likely, given that China is their ally and not only would China likely turn the U.S. to cinder, it pretty much owns us. We can’t go to war with our creditors. The AP notes, “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.”
In other words, foreigners and foreign governments have been wantonly violating American corporations for years, and there’s little we can do about it. From the foreign phishers who steal your credit card number to the hackers who brought Sony Pictures down in flames, there’s nothing the American government can currently do about any of it. I hate to break it to y’all, but American laws end at our borders. We aren’t in charge of the world. We demand, they laugh.
Seriously. What can we do in the wake of Sony’s collapse, besides stare at the damage in awe and horror?
Still not a 9-11, you say? Consider the ugly ripples of the stone that broke the serene surface of our right to freedom of expression, our privacy and our national security:
* The terrorist didn’t merely attack Sony Pictures. They successfully attacked our Constitution — the very foundation of our democracy. The terrorists have learned how to silence dissent. What if North Korea doesn’t like what Bill O’Reilly or Rachel Maddow and everyone in between has to say, and brings down our televised media? What if Kim Jong Un gets his tights in a twist over an editorial in the New York Times and bumps them offline, and all the other newspapers too, just for good measure? What happens if you can’t even read my humble little column because it irks some fat little jerk with a limited wardrobe and a ridiculous haircut?
* The terrorists demonstrated their ability to easily infiltrate technological barriers via the internet. This time it was a corporation that just makes movies. It wasn’t even anything important. What happens if they do likewise to hospital records? Financial institutions? Power plants and power grids? Communication systems? The very internet itself? You balk and say that no one died in the Sony attack as they did in 9-11, and my response is: Yet. See what carnage occurs when a nuclear power plant is rigged to overload. Terrorists could launch a nuclear attack from the comfort of their own homes without ever dropping a bomb. Push a button and San Luis Obispo goes boom. 9-11 will look like a puppet show.
Concerned? You bet I am. And may our government figure out a solution, because if it can’t, our democracy — our country — may go as dark as the nighttime map of North Korea.
— Email Debra DeAngelo at firstname.lastname@example.org; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.ipinionsyndicate.com