Tech leaders had one thing on their minds Tuesday morning during their meeting with President Obama: the National Security Agency’s surveillance program.
The Obama administration tried to pass the meeting off as a broad conversation on on tech challenges facing Washington, but the executives — including CEOs from Apple, Google, Twitter, and Dropbox — were determined to keep the NSA’s spying activities at the top of the agenda.
According to The Guardian, one executive said, “We are there to talk about the NSA,” and called any other issue “peripheral.”
Obama was joined by Vice President Joe Biden and more than a dozen of the high-tech industry’s most prominent executives to discuss the NSA’s surveillance program, challenges facing HealthCare.gov, and government IT, as well as the state of the economy.
The meeting is in the shadow of U.S. District Judge Richard Leon’s ruling Monday that the government surveillance program appears unconstitutional.
Many of the tech companies in attendance are vocal critics of the NSA’s spying activities. Just last week, seven of the attendees launched a united effort to pressure the government to curb its surveillance program.
The economic power of the tech lobby makes it a formidable force in Washington, and Tuesday’s meeting indicates tech companies are over their former reticence to get involved in politics. Obama was in the San Francisco Bay Area last month to discuss the economy and immigration as well as to attend various fundraisers, including one at the house of Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff.
Among the attendees expected at Tuesday’s meeting were: Apple CEO Tim Cook; Twitter CEO Dick Costolo; Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson; Reed Hastings, cofounder and CEO of Netflix; Drew Houston, founder and CEO of Dropbox; Marissa Mayer, president and CEO of Yahoo; Burke Norton, chief legal officer of Salesforce; Mark Pincus, founder and chief product officer and chairman of Zynga; Shervin Pishevar, cofounder and co-CEO of Sherpa Group; Brian Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast; Erika Rottenberg, vice president, general counsel, and secretary of LinkedIn; Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg; Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt; Brad Smith, vice president and general counsel of Microsoft; and Randall Stepehenson, CEO and chairman of AT&T.