U.S. imposes sanctions on North Korea while ‘FBI continues its investigation’ into Sony attack

“Ongoing investigation” is a stock phrase frequently used by government officials when they want to duck awkward questions.

“I can’t really comment on that while there is an ongoing investigation …” etc, etc.

When it comes to the Sony hacking however, we’ve entered new political and legal territory.

Secretary of the Treasury Jacob J. Lew announced today that, “Even as the FBI continues its investigation into the cyber-attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment,” the U.S. has already decided to impose sanctions on North Korea.

This is like a trial in which midway through the proceedings, the judge interrupts the prosecution and defense and says, “I still intend to complete the trial but first I’ll pass sentence on the accused and then we can continue.”

The New York Times reports: The Obama administration doubled down on Friday on its allegation that North Korea’s leadership was behind the hacking of Sony Pictures as it announced new sanctions on 10 senior North Korean officials and several organizations. Administration officials said the action was part of what President Obama promised would be a “proportional response” against the country.

But White House officials said there was no evidence that the 10 officials took part in ordering or planning the Sony attack, although they described them as central to a number of provocative actions against the United States.

“It’s a first step,” one of the officials said. “The administration felt that it had to do something to stay on point. This is certainly not the end for them.”

I guess the rationale here is that the North Koreans deserve to be punished, because even if it turns out they didn’t commit the crime, this is the kind of thing they would do if they could.

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