December 17th, 2013
10:02 PM ET
11 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. Anonymous

    But, according to the Daily Mail, one exec whose CEO attended the meeting says, “We really didn't care for a PR pitch about how the administration is trying to salvage its internal health care tech nightmare.”

    The President has failed and now we shall vote the Democrats out of State & Feeral officeS!!!

    December 18, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  2. Keith ..... in Oregon

    I just looked up narcissist in my dictionary. There was a picture of Obama with no words.

    December 18, 2013 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  3. Bootsie Randolph

    These are probably the ones who need to be carefully watched.

    December 18, 2013 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  4. Rudy NYC

    tom l wrote:

    Obama invites them to talk and they believe it's to discuss the NSA. He hoodwinks them, uses them, and tries to talk about a subject that they had no intention of discussing...and all for show, by the way. You then twist into something about "greed". Why do you have such a problem with businesses making money?
    -----------------------------------
    Why do you carry the misguided belief that moderates and liberals have a problem with capitalism? They don't. It's the right wing's blurring of the lines between capitalism and imperialism that they oppose.

    Why do you carry the misguided belief that this country was founded for the sole purpose of being a bastion of freedom for capitalists and imperialists? Imperialism, the Bristish Empire, is what the Founders opposed and revolted against.

    Why do you carry the misguided belief that money and profit is more important than people and liberty? Because you seem like you really don't know what liberty and freedom actually are. It's got nothing to do with the money worshipping that the right wing seems to thrive upon.

    December 18, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  5. Ken

    Actually the correct thing that was done was to outsource the health card website. I think we can all agree that the Gov't is not capable of creating something like this on their own. Where the Gov't fails is they have absolutely no leadership, involvment or understanding of what they want to have created. Why Sebellius is still employed boggles my mind? The fact that her office was not involved in any testing of the website is insane. if she was working in the priviate sector she would have been provided an emply box to pack up her belongs long ago. By the time this website is finally stood up (100%) it will probably hit the $1 billion dollar mark. Since thiis is the Presidents biggest endeavour during his Presidency one would think it would have had oversight to the hillt.

    December 18, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  6. Richard

    Funny. Yahoo and others have ratted-out dissidents to the Chinese authorities in order to save their position in that market. How more complicit can you possibly get? And they want to lecture the White House on cyber-tracking?

    December 18, 2013 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  7. roger

    So the executives come to the WH to meet with the president about snooping and the WH says it's a meeting about the Obamacare website. He just can't stop lying can he?

    December 18, 2013 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  8. Peppy

    @ Tommy p dude, 1st pull your head. 2nd try thinking for yourself, your blogs are dem/lib standard ans. out of oblunders play book, good try. im an indy, but your a sheep and the BIGGEST LIE OF THE YEAR GOES TO ???

    December 18, 2013 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  9. Truth hurts

    I am a middle class american who supported Obama ,and I deeply regret that .he is just a liar when he said he's going to fight for the middle class until his last breath,now he's giving money from the middle class to the wealthiest again .when he said the rich get richer is only temporary .its been 5 years and nothing has changed.some folks try to defend him,but the poll don't lie,he had his moment now people don't trust him anymore,stop with a abseesion on ACA, and trying to deal with the debt and economy,what a looser and liar.

    December 18, 2013 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  10. kurtinco

    Tech executives are concerned about NSA snooping because they want that distinction all to themselves.

    December 18, 2013 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  11. VoiceintheDesert

    Google, Yahoo, Miscrosoft, Apple.... they call collect far more data about the average citizen than the government does. Where's the uproar about that?

    December 18, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  12. Government Waste Rules

    "If you help us build the botched Obamacare site maybe we'll reconsider our illegal spying (yeah right)."

    December 18, 2013 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  13. HEYDUDE

    confusion of what is going on, at the WH, again.

    December 18, 2013 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  14. marcindc

    I see a white house directed IRS audit in the future of these tech CEO's who dared question the community organizer's regime. If only we had laws to protect our free speech!

    December 18, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  15. David

    Pretty stupid executives. Yes. Yes you did fly across country to talk about the HealthCare.org web site. How dumb are these people? Did they REALLY think the President was going to sit down with the head of Twitter and discuss national security matters? Grow up. If you have a problem with the NSA spying, please talk to your members of Congress, who have to pass laws to change oversight of the NSA or change it's charter. And the sudden "shock" about the NSA spying is for public consumption only, they always knew. The NSA worked WITH AT&T to put their link into their hubs a decade ago, there were articles about it then. Everyone knew. Maybe not the "general public" but anything who followed technology. Grow up.

    December 18, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  16. WAKEUPAMERICA

    In essence, someone in our corrupt government is running interference for the BLATANT $397M++ EMBEZZLEMENT OF TAXPAYER funds by calling it a "failed web site". NO. This was theft-by-deception and the culprits are now claiming, "It was a technical problem." NONSENSE. THIS SITUATION IS UNACCEPTABLE.

    December 18, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  17. Ceswho

    No mention of the worst part of this meeting. It was held in secret with no advocate for the American citizens. This was a way to just divvy up the spying so no one would know what is actually going on.if you Obamasupporters think there was ANYTHING going on in this secret meeting that is good gor average Americans, you will be sorely surprised AGAIN one day soon.

    December 18, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  18. Dwayne

    It figures. These mor ons are worried about our government spying on their customers when that's all these companies do. I can't even finish typing in a word on Google without it finishing it for me. They spy on us 100% of the time. I'll trust the federal government over those greedy mothu phuckers.

    December 18, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  19. Fair is Fair

    Rudy NYC

    'Obama is an idiot' posted:

    ..not to mention the Obama administration outsourced the health care website.
    --------
    In other words, the Obama administration are idiots because they outsourced healthcare.gov to the private sector. Right?
    -------
    They COULD have outsourced it to an AMERICAN company in the private sector.

    December 18, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  20. JJ236

    Most of the country is frustrated with the white house too.

    December 18, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  21. jpmichigan

    Obama has much to worry about when it comes to ACA, so it is not surprising that his signature law is his first concern. But he won't have to worry long because in 2014 the Senate will change hands and the ACA will be repealed and/or revised legally the right way not the Obama way without Congress.

    December 18, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  22. rick

    For the last 50 years, Presidents, Senators and Congressmen have been afraid to tell the CIA–> NO and to real them in from their "Big Brother" dreams, Because they are all afraid the CIA will JFK them.

    December 18, 2013 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  23. Mr. Berzerk

    Hey, here is a thought, why don't all the tech companies, if they really feel this is an issue, refuse. You can bet that the gov is toothless shark when it comes to a law that no one obeys. If they arrested and charged all of these major business it would send the economy into armageddon, and so they wouldn't pursue charges. The hard part would be getting them all to aggree, and not one selling out in order to benefit from the destruction of the rest.

    December 18, 2013 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  24. JohnRJohnson

    CONTINUING TO POST COMMENTS ON THIS WEBSITE IS BECOMING less and less appealing because the quality of the comments and replies have deteriorated to the point that it has become schoolyard pushing match. You can't really communicate with people who have willingly stopped using their brains and insist on talking through their anal orifice. The remarks about President Obama here are nothing more than juvenile name-calling, and the continued attacks on the Affordable Care Act are simply verbatim repeats of FOX News sketches. The lack of objectivity and honesty here is breathtaking. One commenter has asserted that the White House is going to have these tech CEOs audited by the IRS. This sort of remark is either tremendously paranoid, or it is just a calculated slur. Either way, it's an example of how stupid many of the comments on CNN have become. Trying to discuss something rationally with these people is like playing handball against a blanket. It's just a waste of time and energy. For everybody.

    December 18, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  25. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair posted:

    "In other words, the Obama administration are idiots because they outsourced healthcare.gov to the private sector. Right?"

    They COULD have outsourced it to an AMERICAN company in the private sector.
    --------------------------
    If you're beating around the bush of the Canadian company, be aware that they were not the only sub-contractor. If you don't like the choice, then blame the system for choosing contractors once again. You did it before, or have you forgotten?

    t is my understanding that the Canadian company was more like a general contractor, the one who's responsible for pulling all of the independently created parts and smarts together, not the ones writing the code. They seemed to get it right at the state level, but somehow managed to completely botch the same problem on the national level.

    December 18, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
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