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Cisco's John Chambers tells Obama to back off from snooping

Keep your hands off
Mon May 19 2014, 13:33
Cisco CEO John Chambers

CISCO CHAIRMAN AND CEO John Chambers has sent a letter to US President Obama and told him to keep his spies out of Cisco kit and leave its network equipment business alone.

Chambers is reacting to recent revelations from US National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden that the NSA modifies Cisco hardware to engage in spying. This has been reported by journalist Glenn Greenwald and covered in a number of newspapers.

While the NSA chose not to be drawn into discussions about this, Cisco has both published a shocked blog and sent a letter in objection, which was seen the Financial Times.

The blog post, which came first, accused the Obama administration of overreach.

"The tension between security and freedom has become one the most pressing issues of our day. Societies wracked by terror cannot be truly free, but an overreaching government can also undermine freedom," wrote Cisco general counsel Mark Chandler

"It is in this context that I want to offer some thoughts on actions by the US government that in Cisco's eyes have overreached, undermining the goals of free communication, and steps that can be taken to right that balance, and I do so on behalf of all of Cisco's leadership team."

The same thoughts are echoed in the missive from Chambers, addressed to US President Obama.

In his letter, which was published by the Financial Times but Cisco said it was unable to share, Chambers said that such activity damages trust and the economy.

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

"Confidence in the open, global internet has brought enormous economic benefits to the United States and to billions of people around the world. This confidence is being eroded by revelations of governments' surveillance."

Chambers asked Obama to go back to his plans to overhaul the NSA and really deliver on them. Not doing so would allow problems to remain, said Chambers.

"We simply cannot operate this way, our customers trust us to be able to deliver to their doorsteps products that meet the highest standards of integrity and security. That is why we need new standards of conduct, or a new set of 'rules of the road', to ensure that appropriate safeguards and limits exist that serve national security objectives, while at the same time meet the needs of global commerce," he added.

"Mr President... We are asking your administration to take more steps and a leadership role to ensure that guidelines and reforms are put in place." µ


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