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White House Calls for ‘Best Minds’ in Silicon Valley to Help Fight Terror

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Lisa Monaco, assistant to President Obama for homeland security and counterterrorism, said the federal government has to recruit the “best minds” of Silicon Valley to defeat terrorism.

Monaco said senior members of the White House national security team have “had a range of conversations” with several companies about removing content posted by extremist groups online.

“A number of the most senior members of the president’s national security team went out to Silicon Valley back in January and sat down with a whole range of representatives and senior leaders from the tech industry to, frankly, broaden the conversation to a whole range of issues that we can work together on to go after exactly these types of things – what is the content that is being perpetrated on their sites and using their services and their platforms, that they have no interest in allowing to be used on their platforms,” she said at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“There are things that they do and have done for years, whether it’s to address child pornography, to address fraud, to address scams on their platforms, that might also be applicable in this space,” she added.

Monaco explained that much of the terrorist threat today is online and distributed across the globe. She described the White House’s engagement with Silicon Valley on countering ISIL online as more positive than portrayed in the latest news.

“But if we don’t get the best minds, the best, most innovative thinkers, who know their systems best, to help us work on it, we’ve—you know, we’re not going to be able to confront this challenge because, as I said in my remarks, it is a wholly different task than even the ones we dealt with just a few years ago, and when you sat in the same windowless office in the West Wing that I occupy,” she said.

Monaco was asked about a post-war strategy in the fight against ISIS and what role she foresees Iran playing in the process.

“It’s a good question – I think not one that we know the answer to yet. As I mentioned, we’re working very hard to put forward and see take hold the cessation of hostilities, which is currently generally holding, although it’s quite fragile,” she said. “And I think there is every recognition that it is fragile and it’s something that we have to take every step to try to make sure it takes hold. And we’re doing that, for instance, with the taskforce that’s sitting in Geneva, evaluating and looking at any violations.”

She said the White House thinks Russian activity in Syria has “complicated the environment” in the region.

“So we’re hopeful that the cessation continues to maintain, and want very much for those actors, like the Russians and others, who have taken steps to date to, frankly, complicate and impede, frankly, things like humanitarian access,” she said. “We want them to be putting their energies towards ultimately a political solution because, at the end of the day, that’s the only way that this thing is going to—that the violence is going to be able to be diminished.”