WH denies it used tech meeting for O-Care 'PR pitch'

White House adviser Valerie Jarrett denied a report that President Obama "hijacked" his meeting with technology executives Tuesday to discuss ObamaCare, saying that the president and technology executive spent "99 percent" of the meeting discussing concerns about government surveillance programs.

The Daily Mail reported that some participants at the meeting were upset that the president used the meeting to discuss issues surrounding the botched rollout of his signature healthcare law.

ADVERTISEMENT
"That wasn't what we came for," the vice president of a company whose CEO attended the meeting told the paper. "We really didn't care for a PR pitch about how the administration is trying to salvage its internal healthcare tech nightmare."

But Jarrett insisted that Obama initiated the conversation about the National Security Agency surveillance programs, which mine databases from technology companies like Google, Facebook and Yahoo.

"I don't think there was a disconnect at all," she said at a Politico breakfast.

Following the meeting, technology companies issued a terse, one-sentence statement calling on Obama to "move aggressively" to implement reforms limiting the surveillance programs.

"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 companies said.

The tech firms have complained that the NSA's data mining operations, revealed earlier this year in the Edward Snowden leaks, have hurt consumer trust in their services and led users to flee their networks.

And the White House's defense of the programs was complicated further by a federal judge who ruled Monday that the administration's phone surveillance program appeared to be unconstitutional. The judge's order has been stayed pending appeals, but the ruling has again thrust the controversial programs into the spotlight.

In a statement Tuesday, the White House said that the meeting was an "opportunity" for Obama to "hear from CEOs directly" on their concerns about the intelligence programs.

"The President made clear his belief in an open, free, and innovative internet and listened to the group’s concerns and recommendations, and made clear that we will consider their input as well as the input of other outside stakeholders as we finalize our review of signals intelligence programs," the White House said.

The meeting included Apple CEO Tim Cook, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson.

Last week, the White House said it had received an outside review commissioned by the president examining the NSA’s surveillance program against privacy considerations. The report includes more than 40 recommendations in light of the Snowden disclosures, which the administration is now evaluating.