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Ash Carter Has Made More Visits To Silicon Valley Than To Afghanistan

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s visit this week to Silicon Valley will mean he’s spent more time in California than in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Carter’s focus on Silicon Valley has come at the expense of visits to Kabul and Baghdad, where U.S. troops are stationed.

Carter is first set to deliver a speech on cyberwarfare in San Francisco, which is part of his overall strategy to recruit top talent to modernize national security operations at the Pentagon, the Los Angeles Times reports. Carter has a distinct advantage in his role as Defense Secretary, since he comes from a strong background in physics and formerly taught at Stanford University.

Additionally, Carter is hoping to garner more cooperation from private companies that handle a major portion of Internet traffic. It’s a difficult challenge, as Silicon Valley is deeply suspicious of government intervention into the tech communications sector, a suspicion that was recently brought into sharp relief by Apple CEO Tim Cook’s refusal to work with the FBI on accessing the encrypted iPhone of one of the San Bernardino terrorists.

“One hand of the government is reaching out to the valley, while another is poking them in the eye,” Peter W. Singer, a fellow at the New America Foundation, told the Los Angeles Times.

Silicon Valley seems to have decisively sided with Apple against the Department of Justice, further widening the gap that Carter’s outreach is supposed to close. These companies have argued that giving in to the FBI’s request would give the federal government a foot in the door, which it would then vigorously exploit in the future.

Yet, social media companies don’t seem to be cracking down hard enough on terrorist propaganda, at least not to the Pentagon’s liking. And not every company is even on board with the idea of aggressively policing terrorist messaging. This provides part of the impetus for federal surveillance and increased involvement. Twitter recently deleted 125,000 accounts that supported terrorism, but more accounts crop up every day. Countless billions of messages pass through social media servers.

But distrust and disinterest has kept the two sectors apart. Carter has admitted that the disinterest is due to a lack in the “coolness factor” at the Department of Defense.

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