Tech CEOs to Obama: ‘Move aggressively’ on spying reform

Olivier Knox, Yahoo News
Yahoo News
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Obama meets with technology company executives

Top Silicon Valley CEOs pressed President Barack Obama behind closed doors Tuesday to “move aggressively” on reforming electronic surveillance practices by the National Security Agency.

The executives — including top executives from Apple, Twitter, Netflix, Google, Facebook and Yahoo — met with Obama in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.

"We appreciated the opportunity to share directly with the President our principles on government surveillance that we released last week and we urge him to move aggressively on reform,” they said in a brief group statement.

Notably, that release did not include much of what the White House had said would be on the agenda — including efforts to get the federal Obamacare website working smoothly, federal information-technology improvements, boosting the economy and fighting income inequality.

Instead, they zeroed in on their biggest source of frustration with the White House: the unprecedented electronic spying on Americans and people overseas who are not suspected of criminal or terrorist acts or connections.

The White House, which is in the middle of reviewing the National Security Agency’s policies and has vowed to make some changes to American surveillance, said it would take the CEOs’ concerns into account.

But the White House summary of the meeting, unlike the version from the CEOs, insists that the group “discussed a number of issues of shared importance to the federal government and the tech sector, including the progress being made to improve performance and capacity issues with HeathCare.Gov.”

Obama also announced that former Microsoft executive Kurt DelBene will take over from Jeff Zients as the top troubleshooter for the botched federal health insurance website.

And “the group discussed the challenges (surrounding) federal IT procurement,” according to the White House.

Here is how Obama’s press office summarized the NSA component of the meeting — the only part the CEOs described in their summary:

“Finally, the group discussed the national security and economic impacts of unauthorized intelligence disclosures. This was an opportunity for the President to hear from CEOs directly as we near completion of our review of signals intelligence programs, building on the feedback we’ve received from the private sector in recent weeks and months. The President made clear his belief in an open, free, and innovative internet and listened to the group’s concerns and recommendations, and made clear that we will consider their input as well as the input of other outside stakeholders as we finalize our review of signals intelligence programs.”

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