Silicon Valley Goes to Washington

US President Barack Obama smiles as he walks to shake hands with greeters after arriving at Moffett Federal Airfield in Mountain View, California, on June 6, 2013. Obama arrived in California to attend DNC events.
National Journal
Laura Ryan
Dec. 17, 2013, 4:42 a.m.

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. 

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