Sony Entertainment sought consultation from a defense analyst and U.S. Government officials on the film The Interview, according to leaked emails obtained by The Daily Beast website.
The emails, which cannot be independently verified by NK News, reveal that Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton spoke with U.S. Department of State officials as well as North Korea specialist Bruce Bennett from the RAND Corporation, to seek opinions on the film and potential threats posed by North Korea.
The Daily Beast article claimed to have “unearthed several emails that reveal at least two U.S. government officials screened a rough cut of the Kim Jong-Un assassination comedy The Interview in late June and gave the film—including a final scene that sees the dictator’s head explode—their blessing.”
The emails are part of a mass leak of internal data obtained from Sony’s systems following a sophisticated cyber attack, which a group called Guardians of Peace has claimed responsibility for.
Senior U.S. administration officials told mainstream media outlets on Wednesday that they believe North Korea was “centrally involved” in the attack, however North Korea has previously denied any involvement.
CONSULTATION AND DISCUSSION
Within the leaked emails quoted by The Daily Beast, are conversations between Lynton and Bennett on the likelihood of the threats issued by North Korea being carried out.
“The North has never executed an artillery attack against the balloon launching areas. So it is very hard to tell what is pure bluster from North Korea, since they use the term ‘act of war’ so commonly,” one email from Bennett is quoted as saying on June 25.
Bennett was referring to the launch of balloons – which contain anti-Pyongyang leaflets – across the border dividing North and South Korea. The launches, usually conducted by South Korean civil and human rights groups, have been a target of constant North Korean threats.
The following day Bennett also passed on an assessment from the office of the U.S. special envoy for human rights in North Korea, Ambassador Robert King.
“Michael, I talked with Amb. King a few minutes ago…Their office has apparently decided that this is typical North Korean bullying, likely without follow-up, but you never know with North Korea. Thus, he did not appear worried and clearly wanted to leave any decisions up to Sony,” Bennett said.
Bennett, drawing on his own analysis and a publication on preparing for the possibility of North Korea’s collapse, also said that the final scene might depict the likeliest event to spark the regime’s collapse.
“When I have briefed my book on ‘preparing for the possibility of a North Korean collapse (September 2013), I have been clear that the assassination of Kim Jong Un is the most likely path to a collapse of the North Korean government,” Bennett said.
“Thus while toning down the ending may reduce the North Korean response, I believe that a story that talks about the removal of the Kim family regime and the creation of a new government by the North Korean people (well, at least the elites) will start some real thinking in South Korea and, I believe, in the North once the DVD leaks into the North (which it almost certainly will).
“So from a personal perspective, I would personally prefer to leave the ending alone,” he added.
Lynton responded by saying that he had spoken with others in the state department and that they agreed with Bennett’s assessment.
“Bruce – Spoke to someone very senior in State (confidentially)…He agreed with everything you have been saying. Everything. I will fill you in when we speak,” Lynton said.
U.S. RESPONSE TO LEAKS
In the wake of the leaks, the U.S. Government has been keen to distance itself from claims that officials signed off on the film or were involved in any creative decisions.
“We have no involvement in such decisions. We’re not in the business of signing off on content of movies or things along those lines,” U.S. Department of State spokesperson, Jen Psaki said at a press briefing on Wednesday.
Psaki did however confirm that Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Daniel Russel, spoke with Sony executives but said the contact that occurred is indicative of regular exchanges between public and private entities.
“I can confirm for you that Assistant Secretary Russel did have a conversation with Sony executives, as he does routinely with a wide range of private groups and individuals to discuss foreign policy in Asia,” Psaki said.
According to Reuters, which saw an internal Sony email dated June 26, Lynton told Russel that the studio was “concerned for the safety of Americans and American and North Korean relations.”
During the press briefing Psaki also made sure to point out that King did not have any direct contact with Sony.
King himself had previously spoken to media outlets about The Interview outlining the governments position that does not get involved in the decision making process of private film productions.
“We don’t tell American moviemakers how to make their movies,” King was quoted as saying by Yonhap News Agency on December 6.
“There are a lot of movies I’ve seen that I think probably would have been better not made … We are in a society where people would want to show movies and want to create movies,” King added.
Despite public statements claiming that standard procedure was followed in the course of discussions between Sony executives and government officials, the level of contact revealed in the emails will likely anger North Korea and raise further questions.
North Korea previously claimed that the U.S. government was deeply involved in the production of the film and the leaked emails seem to show some involvement, albeit far less explicit than North Korea envisioned.
“The U.S. has gone reckless in such provocative hysteria as bribing a rogue movie maker to dare hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK,” a state media editorial on the film claimed in June.
Featured Image: The Interview
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