Apple CEO Tim Cook and Other Tech Leaders Press Obama for NSA Surveillance Reform

Apple CEO Tim Cook was one of several tech executive who met with President Barack Obama to press their case for reform of sweeping surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency (NSA). The group met in a mostly private meeting, and despite attempts by the White House to turn the meeting to other topics, including Obamacare, the tech tycoons weren't having it.

White House Meeting

“That is not going to happen. We are there to talk about the NSA,” an unnamed executive of one of the companies told The Guardian, the UK newspaper at the forefront of publishing leaks about the U.S. surveillance programs.

Another unnamed executive representing another company in attendance said that all other issues except surveillance reform were "peripheral," adding, "There’s only one subject that people really want to discuss right now."

That was the rhetoric before the meeting, but what happened during the meeting has so far remained private outside of a video of introductory remarks published by CBS (via The Verge). In that video, President Obama jokes with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings about his company's mega-hit House of Cards.

As noted above, the rest of the meeting was private, but the assembled companies issued a one-sentence statement:

We 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 "we released last week" portion of that statement referred to a letter jointly published by the companies in attendance at Tuesday's meeting, as well as others. In that letter, the companies said:

We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer's revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide. The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual — rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It's time for a change.

In addition to Tim Cook, who can be seen in the video sitting across from President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, and Reed Hastings, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson, and lower ranking executives from Microsoft, Twitter, Comcast, and Facebook were also there.