Cisco Senior VP: NSA Revelations Besmirched Reputation Of US Companies


President Barack Obama's wide-ranging reforms regarding National Security Agency eavesdropping and monitoring are coming none too soon for U.S. technology companies like Cisco.

Cisco Senior Vice President Office of the President Howard Charney told CRN in an interview last week at the MCPc Game Changers conference that the NSA eavesdropping disclosures were "besmirching the reputation of companies of U.S. origin around the world."

"It probably won't derail the Internet of everything, but it causes us to have to sometimes fight, shadow-box a problem that is created by perhaps some practices and policies of the government, which I just wish would be a little bit more discreet," said Charney.

[Related: Partners: RSA Had Trust Issues Even Before NSA Backdoor Report]

Charney said the NSA disclosures on eavesdropping on U.S. allies did affect Cisco's ability to conduct business globally. "It has caused somewhat of just a realization and a throttling of our ability to conduct business globally," said Charney.

Charney said the monitoring of U.S. allies has not been "healthy" for the United States.

That said, Charney said he is confident the technology industry will get through the crises. "We will get through it," he said confidently. "I look to the wisdom of Congress to change the practices."

Charney's comments came before the President announced Friday a ban on the U.S. eavesdropping on the leaders of U.S. allies.

Obama also said Friday that the U.S. government will change the NSA program on the mass collection of U.S. phone data. U.S. intelligence officials are now required to obtain a court order from a national security court.

One solution provider CEO, who did not want to be identified, said he was heartened by the U.S. government changes.

"I can understand Cisco's comments," said the solution provider executive. "I am personally embarrassed by this as a citizen. I would like to think we are better than that. I would like to think we can be the class of the world. We, as a country, we're not performing up to that."

That said, the solution provider CEO said it is "hard for me to worry about the global reputation of the United States when I am struggling to make payroll twice a month."

Some electronic watchdog groups are not satisfied with the reforms.

"The President took several steps toward reforming NSA surveillance, but there's still a long way to go," said Cindy Cohn, a legal director and general counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a national digital rights advocacy organization, in a prepared statement. "Now it's up to the courts, Congress, and the public to ensure that real reform happens, including stopping all bulk surveillance -- not just telephone records collection."

Cohn said other "necessary reforms include requiring prior judicial review of national security letters and ensuring the security and encryption of our digital tools, but the President's speech made no mention of these.

PUBLISHED JAN. 17, 2013