On Thursday, President Obama met with top executives from the tech industry at the White House to discuss the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, which rely largely on the cooperation of tech and telecoms companies to turn over the data of their users.
The meeting Thursday was part of a behind-the-scenes campaign to reach out to the technology and civil liberties communities over the secret surveillance programs revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in June. But the outreach is largely being done behind closed doors.
Among those who attended Thursday were the CEO of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) Tim Cook; the CEO of AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) Randall Stephenson, and Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) computer scientist Vint Cerf, as well as a representative from the Center for Democracy and Technology, a privacy group, according to Politico.
Thursday’s meeting is the second in this outreach campaign. On Tuesday, two of the president’s top aides, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and general counsel Kathy Ruemmler, met with tech lobbyists who represent companies including Facebook, Yahoo and Microsoft. The meeting also included representatives from and privacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
Since the leaks surfaced, the president has said he welcomes a national debate about national security and civil liberties. These meetings, however, have been off-the-record and generally hidden from public view. According to Politico, the White House, as well as the groups who attended, have declined to comment on the meetings.