Cisco chief slams Obama on surveillance

Cisco CEO John Chambers is demanding that President Obama rein in government surveillance, including programs that reportedly involve intentionally putting security flaws in U.S. tech companies’ products.

“We simply cannot operate this way,” Chambers wrote in the letter dated last week and published by Re/code on Sunday.

“Our customers trust us to be able to deliver to their doorsteps products that meet the highest standards of integrity and security.”

The letter comes after reports surfaced that the U.S. government is intercepting tech companies’ equipment headed overseas and installing surveillance software. A new book from journalist Glenn Greenwald, who first exposed U.S. surveillance programs based on leaked documents from former government contractor Edward Snowden, also includes the charges.

“If these allegations are true, these actions will undermine confidence in our industry and in the ability of technology companies to deliver products globally,” the letter said.

Rather than working with governments to weaken its products, Cisco works to fix any security vulnerabilities it is aware of, helping the company gain the trust of its users, Chambers said.

Confidence in the Internet “has brought enormous economic benefits” and “is eroded by revelations of governments’ surveillance, government demands that make it difficult for companies to meet the privacy expectations of citizens and laws of other countries and allegations that governments exploit rather than report security vulnerabilities,” he wrote.

He asked Obama “to take more steps and a leadership role to ensure that guidelines and reforms are put in place that can be honored across the globe” and adopt “a new approach where industry plays a role.”

Chambers said he understands “the real and significant threats that exist in this world, but we must also respect the industry’s relationship of trust with our customers.”