Our Legal Analysis of U.S. Response to Sony Attack

Hollywood and the entertainment industry are not critical infrastructure. The cyber attack on Sony’s computer networks and data is not, yet, a matter of national security. The attack is also not a use of force or an armed attack, the prerequisites for use of military force in self defense under international law. Thus, talk of military retaliation is inappropriate. The attack on Sony’s computer networks and data is first and foremost a law enforcement issue. Of course, as with any major crime with nation state involvement, diplomatic and economic responses also are legal and appropriate. The language of “proportional response” used recently by some U.S. Government officials echoes military terminology. It should not.

The U.S. has the legal tools to prosecute hacks and digital thefts like what happened to Sony. The crimes created by Congress are very broad and powerful, and Congress has made them applicable world-wide. The indictment in May of five Chinese military hackers for computer hacking, economic espionage and other offenses directed at six American corporate victims shows that the U.S. is willing to prosecute even foreign military officers. In October, the Department of Justice reorganized to increase its ability to handle cases just like this, especially state-sponsored economic espionage. The forensic abilities to prove these cases are surprisingly good. The problem is getting the defendants physically into a U.S. courtroom. Extradition for state-sponsored crimes is almost never possible until there is a regime change, but the indictment alone can cause real problems for the persons charged, limiting their ability to travel or to hold wealth outside of their home country. The legal tools are very powerful, but practical barriers make it very hard to put handcuffs on these defendants. Nevertheless, obstacles to prosecution do not legally elevate economic crime to warfare.

– Professor William C. Snyder

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Professor William Snyder

Professor William C. Snyderis a member of the faculty of the Institute for National Security and Counter-terrorism at Syracuse University after fifteen years with the United States Department of Justice.

Ryan D. White

Ryan D. WhiteRyan is currently a third year law student at Syracuse University College of Law, and is also pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Ryan spent time with Homeland Security Investigations while pursuing his undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University, and spent his first summer of law school as clerk for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of New York. He is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and participates in the Veteran’s Legal Clinic. Full biography

Shelby E. Mann

Ryan D. WhiteShelby is a second year law student at the Syracuse University College of Law. During her final year at the University of Missouri, she served as a full-time news producer for ABC 17 News. Shelby spent her first summer of law school at the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office in Memphis, Tenn., in the Public Corruption and Economic Crimes Unit. She is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and the senior editor for the Syrian Accountability Project. Full biography

Christopher w. FolkChristopher W. Folk

is a 2017 graduate of SU College of Law. A non-traditional student, Christopher returned to academia after spending nearly twenty years in the high tech industry. Christopher served in the Marine Corps, graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. In Applied Economics and Business Management, attended Northeastern University’s High-Tech MBA Program and received a M.S. In Computer Information Systems. Christopher previously worked in Software Engineering. Christopher is currently serving his second term as Town Justice for the Town of Waterloo. Christopher externed with a Cybersecurity firm in the Washington, D.C. area between his first and second year at SU College of Law. Full biography

Anna Maria Castillo

is 2016 graduate of Syracuse College of Law. She also holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She has interned at a London-based think-tank that specializes in transnational terrorism and global security and at the legal department of a defense contractor. She served as an executive editor in the Syracuse Law Review. Full biography

Jennifer A. CamilloJennifer A. Camillo

is a 2015 graduate of Syracuse College of Law and is a prosecutor. She has served as a law clerk in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York and the Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office and as an extern in the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office. She was a member of the Syracuse National Trial Team and was awarded the Tiffany Cup by the New York Bar Association for her trial advocacy achievements.

Tara J. PistoreseTara J. Pistorese

holds Juris Doctor and Masters of Public Administration degrees from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and its College of Law. She wrote for this blog when a student. She is now a member of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps.

Benjamin Zaiser

is both a scholar and a Federal Agent of the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany. (Opinions expressed here are his own and not any part of official duty.) Full biography

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