OTR Interviews

Is a cyber attack an act of war?

North Korea's cyber attack on Sony could represent the new face of war


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," December 19, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Is it an act of war? North Korea caught red-handed. Today the FBI officially blaming North Korea for hacking Sony Pictures. And now the pressure is mounting for the Obama administration to do something and to do that something quickly and severely. This cyber attack could be just the first shot across the bow. But during his year-end news conference, President Obama refusing to announce any specific response.

And at today's Pentagon news conference, Rear Admiral John Kirby was asked if the cyber attack were an act of war.


JOHN KIRBY, REAR ADMIRAL, PENTAGON SPOKESPERSON: I'm also, you know, not able to lay out in any specificity for you what would be or wouldn't be an act of war in the cyber domain.


VAN SUSTEREN: Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North joins us.

Good evening, sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: We've seen the new war nation against nation. Nation against an ideology. And now is this a new war? And will the administration not call it that?

NORTH: Admiral Kirby and the president are in a difficult spot because neither NATO nor the United Nations have defined what an act of cyber war would be. Interestingly enough, they took it up at the Wales summit, NATO summit in September. Agreed that it could be an act of war. But then decided they wouldn't define what an act of war might be.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why would we defer to them to define act of war be and what is an act of war?

NORTH: An act of war has always resulted in a collective action, and the collective actor, in this case, is NATO. So neither the United Nations nor the NATO alliance has quite frankly got the leadership right now, absent ours, to stand up and say this is an act of war. And of course one of the issues --


VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think it is? Do you think it is?

NORTH: Well, no. And I'll tell you why. It was aimed at a specific company, Sony. And the president today decided to blame Sony for it. Said they made a mistake by pulling the movie. There is a time in American history when presidents didn't blame the victims of aggression, and that's 1940. FDR sends U.S. Navy vessels to protect American privately owned ships. Not U.S. Navy vessels. Sends war ships to protect American ships owned by private companies, manned by commercial crews, to protect vessels carrying stuff going to Great Britain under Lend/Lease. So you don't always blame the victim.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. Let me just ask you, though. They went after Sony. If it had been our power grid, banking or --


NORTH: Time out. Time out.


NORTH: Who announced today that it was an act of aggression or a criminal act? They didn't say an act of war. It was the FBI. Because this administration treats almost everything as an act of criminal activity. And so you have the FBI saying it's a criminal act, perpetrated with threats to Americans and threats to do bad things in the future. Then this president says he's going to take a response at the time and place of our choosing, right? This president has no track record of ever following through on those things. He didn't do it with North Korea when they opened --


VAN SUSTEREN: And he didn't do the red line when Assad was gassing his citizens.

NORTH: Didn't do it with Fast and Furious, didn't do it with IRS, didn't do it with Benghazi. He's not going to do it now.

VAN SUSTEREN: You just said it's not an act of war, the FBI's treating it like a criminal act.


NORTH: The Defense Department announced it, pro Admiral Kirby would have had an answer to that question.

VAN SUSTEREN: So my point is, you don't think it's an act of war, though. You think it's a criminal offense.

NORTH: Simply because of the way our government has approached it. You could certainly say these kinds of activities are an act of war and convince NATO to go along with you, invoke Article 569, NATO treaty, and you would have collective action against those who perpetrate these kinds of acts. We've done none of that hard work before. This administration's been sitting on its hands now for six years.

VAN SUSTEREN: I fear this is the tip of the iceberg. I fear and a lot of other people who've been working on cyber warfare for a long time fear this is the first warning shot.

NORTH: I think it's certainly that. But this administration's treating it as a criminal act.

VAN SUSTEREN: Colonel, nice to see you. Always good to see you.

NORTH: Always good to be with you, Greta.