Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, in Washington to lobby Congress on immigration reform, took a none-too-veiled shot at President Obama for government spying Wednesday during a public appearance at the Newseum.
“The response to the NSA [National Security Agency] issues that have blown up are a big deal for the global platform. Some of the government’s statements have been profoundly unhelpful,” the 29-year-old multibillionaire told Atlantic magazine editor James Bennet during a Q&A that was live-streamed over the Web. Giving an example of such an “unhelpful” statement, Zuckerberg added sarcastically: “‘Oh, we only spy on non-Americans.’ Gee, thanks! We’re trying to provide an international service and not get crushed in those places either.”
Without mentioning Obama’s name, Zuckerberg was obviously referring to the president’s assertion, during an appearance August 6 on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, that “there is no spying on Americans. We don’t have a domestic spying program.”
Leno was asking Obama about the revelations from former NSA contractor and currently indicted fugitive Edward Snowden about the spy agency’s sweeping activities. On Tuesday, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff announced that she was canceling a summit with Obama over reports that the U.S. government had been monitoring her emails and phone calls.
Zuckerberg, meanwhile, said: “I’m less worried about the government here doing something to get in the way of innovation here as much as I am of alienating other countries into hurting innovation in other places.”