Cisco CEO Seeks Obama’s Help After Allegations of Government Supply Chain Interference

Cisco Systems Chairman and CEO John Chambers, concerned over allegations that the U.S. National Security Agency intercepted and installed surveillance technology on network equipment en route to overseas customers, has asked for President Obama’s help on the issue, according to several news outlets.

The website Re/code posted a copy of Chambers’ May 15 letter to Obama, in which the CEO said the issue “affects an entire industry that depends on a global supply chain and global shipments. … If these allegations are true, these actions will undermine confidence in our industry and in the ability of technology companies to deliver products globally.”

He asked the president to take steps to implement guidelines and reforms to prevent the impairment of U.S. global technological leadership and the Internet.

Confidence in the open global Internet “is eroded by 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,” Chambers wrote.

“We simply cannot operate this way, our customers expect us to be able to deliver to their doorsteps products that meet the highest standards of integrity and security. That’s why we need standards of conduct, or a new set of ‘rules of the road,’ to ensure the appropriate safeguards and limits exist that serve national security objectives, while at the same time meet the needs of global commerce. We understand the real and significant threats that exist in this world, but we must also respect the industry’s relationship of trust with our customers,” the letter said.

Chambers noted that Cisco doesn’t work with any government “to weaken our products.”

The Financial Times first reported the letter, according to Re/code, which also noted that Cisco General Counsel Mark Chandler blogged on behalf of company leadership last week that the U.S. government had “overreached,” based on allegations that the NSA had interfered with the lawful delivery of IT products. Chambers’ letter used much of the same wording as Chandler’s post.

PCWorld, in an article, said a Cisco spokesman had confirmed that the company sent the letter to Obama.

The allegations come from a Guardian newspaper report excerpted from a book by Glenn Greenwald, the reporter who helped former NSA contractor Edward Snowden divulge secret documents, PCWorld reported.