December 17th, 2013
10:02 PM ET
7 months ago

Tech source: We weren't at White House for health care chat

Washington (CNN) - While President Barack Obama and White House aides may have wanted the nation's top tech executives to help dissect their botched health care website, the industry titans themselves had something else in mind: the federal government's vast cybersnooping.

A source familiar with Tuesday's discussion at the White House said several executives at the meeting were frustrated with the White House's focus on HealthCare.gov, because the chiefs came to Washington to voice their concerns on surveillance issues.
"We didn't fly across the country for a discussion on HealthCare.gov," the source, who represents one of the companies at the meeting, told CNN.

The source added that President Obama didn't offer a full throated defense of the National Security Agency's surveillance activities, which caused some dismay among the assembled CEOs.

After the meeting, the tech companies issued a short joint statement saying they "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."

The statement didn't mention any discussion of the federal health website, which failed at its October 1 launch but has since been vastly improved.

Meanwhile, the White House's readout of the two-hour meeting specified the "group discussed a number of issues of shared importance to the federal government and the tech sector," including HealthCare.gov and the system for hiring technology companies for government projects.

The White House also said Obama heard the executives' concerns about widespread NSA spying and "made clear his belief in an open, free and innovative Internet."

Wednesday morning White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett said she didn't think "there was a disconnect at all," between the President and the CEOs. At a Politico Playbook Breakfast, Jarrett added that before the President arrived at the meeting, the CEOs were given a presentation on HealthCare.gov, but that when he arrived, the bulk of the meeting focused on NSA matters.

"We made it clear it was going to be a two-part meeting," Jarrett added.

The technology industry has pressured Obama to make changes to the federal snooping programs, concerned their bottom lines could take a hit. Last week a group of top firms wrote an open letter to the President alleging the recently revealed programs undermine "the freedoms we all cherish" and declaring "it's time for a change."

However another source familiar with the meeting insisted several of the executives came away satisfied that a discussion on such a sensitive matter had begun.

"We're having a dialogue. And we welcome that," another source familiar with the meeting added.

A source familiar with the meeting told CNN Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper that one of the executives, Mark Pincus, founder of Zynga, which makes on-line social games, suggested to the President that he pardon NSA leaker Edward Snowden, but Obama said he could not do that.  The suggestion of the pardon was first reported by the Washington Post.

And sources told Tapper, anchor of CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper," that Obama shared with the executives that NSA reforms will be announced in January, but those invited to the meeting got the impression from the President that bulk collection from the NSA would not likely stop any time soon, but that more attempts at transparency would be made.

CNN White House Producer Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.


Filed under: Health care • Healthcare • NSA • Obama administration
soundoff (79 Responses)
  1. jerry

    perhaps these guys had better remember they were there in the King's palace, not the peoples house.

    December 17, 2013 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  2. Obama - Liar of the Year

    A source familiar with Tuesday's discussion at the White House said several executives at the meeting were frustrated with the White House's focus on HealthCare.gov, because the chiefs came to Washington to voice their concerns on surveillance issues.
    ----

    You idiots were used as tools for the deceitful Obama administration to use in order to con the low IQ voters into believing that everything was being fixed.

    5 years and counting and Obama is still trying to con the American people.

    December 17, 2013 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  3. Zolicon

    And We the People demand to know why right People.

    December 17, 2013 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  4. Peppy

    This admin cant even open a website, gives a warm fuzzy feeling. What a joke Oblameo always has been its about time America wakes up and impeaches this sorry excuse.

    December 17, 2013 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  5. Evergreen

    I'm concerned with corporations collecting information on my web searches, purchases, etc.

    December 18, 2013 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  6. simplyput

    Forty percent of the healthcare website has not even been built. Am I the only one outraged at this? If the tech giants were "frustrated" with the assumption that they were there for healthcare reasons, they can complain to the WH, who is in charge of handing out the pictures that pass for news from and about this administration. This is truly, transparently embarassing. Just how much propaganda are the news outlets willing to put up with from these tyrants? It makes me sick to think cnn is no better than the rest.

    December 18, 2013 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  7. DixonIV

    The Executives who met with Obama today are masters at collecting our information. I am much more concerned about how much information these people collect about me that what the government does, Every exec in that room collects very private information about me daily and then sell to others companies. Various forms of credit fraud doesn't come from the government. Much of it comes from information these companies sell about us.

    December 18, 2013 01:52 am at 1:52 am |
  8. king

    hey, every time these dems sacrifices to help the american people, they get dragged. when will they learn to just be like the repubs and stand on the side lines and throw stones, then get the credit. look at every time the economy dips the president gets the blame, but all these years of the economic upturn, the president and the dems doesn't get crap. its amazing just watching how foolish the american people have become.

    December 18, 2013 05:15 am at 5:15 am |
  9. A True Conservative

    When will amateur hour at the White House end?It's incredible to me that after the gross incompetence that these people have demonstrated 43% of Americans still don't see a problem. Funny, that 43% is so close to the 47% that Romney talked about....perhaps he was correct all along.......

    December 18, 2013 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
  10. TommytheT

    The statement didn't mention any discussion of the federal health website, which failed at its October 1 launch but has since been vastly improved.

    VASTLY IMPROVED? On what planet?

    December 18, 2013 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  11. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    I predicted yesterday the main topic of discussion will be the NSA snooping. No news here. That thing called privacy is long gone and it was gone before the internet got here.

    December 18, 2013 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  12. Bigdoglv

    All day I heard the press telling me that these folks were at the White House to belp fix the ACA website. Now they are saying they came to discuss the NSA snooping. Why is the truth and the story we were told so far apart?

    December 18, 2013 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  13. William

    "In an angry exchange with Barack Obama, Angela Merkel has compared the snooping practices of the US with those of the Stasi, the ubiquitous and all-powerful secret police of the communist dictatorship in East Germany, where she grew up."
    Theguardian

    We are hated more now than under Bush.
    Progressives are Marxist.

    December 18, 2013 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  14. u laby

    i wonder what lies obama told them. 'nothing to see here.' 'we're not collecting any of your data.' what??

    December 18, 2013 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  15. tom l

    One would think that liberals on here would be very concerned by the NSA overreach and a story like this. Somehow, I think we're going to get the usual whining about CNN trying to start up a "nontroversy". I can only imagine what the "gang" would be saying with a repub as president and this going on...

    December 18, 2013 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  16. American Worker

    It's about time someone took a stand for our contributing U.S. Citizens and common decency.

    December 18, 2013 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  17. Tampa Tim

    Peppykins – have you tried to register on the republican health site? It's about time Americans wake up to the lying right wingnuts and their domestic terrorist agenda.

    December 18, 2013 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  18. Tampa Tim

    The NSA over reach on our liberties occurred under the previous reign of error with the blessing of Alberto Gonzales

    December 18, 2013 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  19. Tampa Tim

    To say we are hated more now than under the reign of error of the shoe ducking back rubber is a lie. World leaders are pleased with our president, and we are back to building coalitions.

    December 18, 2013 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  20. Rudy NYC

    Dutch wrote:

    I predicted yesterday the main topic of discussion will be the NSA snooping. No news here. That thing called privacy is long gone and it was gone before the internet got here.
    --------------------------–
    "The technology industry has pressured Obama to make changes to the federal snooping programs, concerned their bottom lines could take a hit."

    I told you yesterday that their concerns about the NSA snooping has nothing to do with citizen's privacy concerns, and everything to do with their profits. They're worried that their international business will suffer because clients would rather go with non-US based companies, beyond the NSA's reach, because they're worried that the NSA will snoop on them.

    December 18, 2013 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  21. Tampa Tim

    I wonder what lies the Kochs and Fox will tell the brain dead to make this a conspiracy.

    December 18, 2013 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  22. Rudy NYC

    American Worker

    It's about time someone took a stand for our contributing U.S. Citizens and common decency.
    ------------------------
    Those company's concerns about the NSA spying programs has everything to do with their profits, and nothing to do with some narrowly focused, right wing ideology. Trust me, they are not hardly on the side of "U.S. Citizens and common decency."

    December 18, 2013 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  23. Vic Megaro

    See, that's the problem. Whatever comes out of your mouths is a potential lie. You all did it to yourselves. So when some tech says they weren't at the WH for this or that, you just can't believe it. If the WH said it was a blue sky today, one would have to question it.

    December 18, 2013 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  24. Brian

    @William: do you honestly believe the NSA data gathering and spy program STARTED when Obama took office? If you do, you're a dope. That's all.

    December 18, 2013 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  25. Veritas

    This most-recent misfire just seems like a parable of the entire Obama Administration...nearly right...close to being right.. but misses the target and fails. Has there ever been a Presidential Administration that exemplified lost potential more poignantly?

    December 18, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
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