Influential Silicon Valley venture capitalist Marc Andreessen is taking the Obama administration to task for its response to the international scandal over U.S. surveillance and the resulting harm to U.S. tech companies.
“As far as I can tell, there’s no plan” within the administration, Andreessen, who co-founded Netscape and has invested in current tech industry giants, said in a CNBC interview that aired Thursday.
As more information about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance surfaces, foreign governments are looking to keep out the companies who products facilitate the NSA spying.
“A lot of foreign countries that are very envious of Silicon Valley and America’s domination of technology and wish that they could implement protectionist policies,” he said.
Despite the fact that they often knew about these surveillance programs and conduct similar programs themselves, foreign governments “are going to use this whole affair as a reason to” enact protectionist policies, Andreessen continued.
The resulting questions about “how successful our companies will be when they go sell products overseas” is “very serious and very worrying,” and the Obama administration isn’t doing enough to address those concerns, he said.
“They’re letting the NSA, I think, hang out to dry. I think they’re letting the American tech industry hang out to dry.”
Andreessen also spoke critically of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who supplied journalists with leaked information about U.S. surveillance programs that began appearing one year ago.
“Obviously he’s a traitor ... because he stole national security statements and gave them to everybody on the planet,” he said.
"They don’t get much more traitor than that.”
Those opinions make Andreessen a rarity in Silicon Valley, where many tech companies have praised Snowden’s actions.
“I’m in the distinct minority out here,” Andreessen said.
“I think most people in Silicon Valley would pick the other designation” and call Snowden a hero, he said.
Andreessen pushed back on the idea that Snowden shed light on something that had been kept unnecessarily secret.
“I think if you actually follow the NSA, if you actually read the books and the articles and understood the history, I think you generally assume that they’re doing everything that’s come out,” he said.
“The big surprise for me is that people are so shocked.”