Acknowledging that it has largely failed in its efforts to reign-in the Internet-based propaganda machine of ISIS, and with the specter of increased recruiting rhetoric looming on social media, the clearly rankled Obama administration is making a more concerted effort to woo the Silicon Valley giants. To emphasize its desire for cooperation, top officials flew to California to meet with the tech moguls in order to cajole them into cooperation.
The White House dispatched its ”A- Team” of heavyweight officials such as Denis R. McDonough, the White House chief of staff; Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch; James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence; James B. Comey, the F.B.I. Director; and Lisa Monaco, the president’s counterterrorism adviser to meet with Apple’s Tim Cook, as well as key players at Google, Facebook and Twitter.
Concurrently, the already top heavy, bloated government bureaucracy was slated to get bigger by the establishment of a task force operating under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), with the aim of focusing focusing solely on this ISIS propaganda issue. The dual goal is to disrupt terrorists’ proselytizing process, while also stepping up its own efforts to endorse the higher living standards of the West.
Though thought to be too little too late by his often cynical opposition, this echoes a theme pronounced some months ago by the president. At the United Nations in September, he told those in attendance that “ideologies are not defeated with guns; they are defeated by better ideas — a more attractive and compelling vision.” He has now doubled-down on the oratory with this concrete action. However, caution must be advised in chiding or trying to goad Silicon Valley into compliance with the program. White House spokesperson, Josh Earnest, appeared to do both, while subtly appealing to their patriotism,
“I do have a lot of confidence that those companies that are run by patriotic Americans are not interested in seeing their tools or their technology used by terrorists to harm innocent Americans.”
This is not the type of bombast that executives of any ilk will tolerate for long, least of all those you purport to court! The matter is not that simple where standing on an industry’s principles must compete with patriotism.
No, things are more complicated than that. A corporation’s first loyalty is to its public, its consumer. No company wants to place in jeopardy the overriding asset, the foundation of its relationship – namely, trust. Therefore, they are not going to surrender this edge and cave-in to the government’s overtures, regardless how charming. That would be tantamount to economic suicide. Not just with the American consumer, either. About half of the tech companies’ business, and probably more than that regarding future growth, are overseas. The White House’s pleas have no resonance with the foreign consumer, no friend of the US ‘s invasive agenda. And, if the White House is successful in getting the US techs to comply, how long will it be before foreign governments also come knocking?
One small consolation in this alternately genuflecting then jaw-boning the electronic elite is that, for the time being, the focus is off encryption, a delicate tap-dance if there ever was one, yet similarly perilous for the tech companies because of the issue of trust with their consumers. So the courting will continue as the Oval Office shifts gears, even though it maintains this is business as usual. To underscore the White House theme, one need only heed the words of Justice Department spokesperson, Melanie Newman,
“This meeting is the latest in the administration’s continuing dialogue with technology providers and others to ensure we are bringing our best private and public sector thinking to combating terrorism.”
Almost makes you think it is but just another step in a continuing string of successes against ISIS by this administration. Don’t believe it for a minute. It’s just another ploy by the government to shift focus away from its previous missteps and dawdling. It could wind up being nothing more than a feeble effort to paint Silicon Valley as the villains, and simultaneously take the spotlight off the administration’s failures in the war on terror- specifically as it relates to ISIS.