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VCs Doerr and Khosla on gov't snooping: It's a tradeoff

Tech luminaries Vinod Khosla, John Doerr, offer measured support for government surveillance programs meant to bolster national security.

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Richard Nieva
2 min read
Two of the most influential venture capitalists in Silicon Valley, John Doerr and Vinod Khosla, weighed in on the current controversy government surveillance, contending it was a necessary price to pay to ensure the nation's security.

Speaking separately at TechCrunch's Disrupt conference in San Francisco, both men reflected on the fact that today is September 11, and that one of the proposed outcomes of such snooping is greater safety. The question, of course, was sparked by leaks about the National Security Agency's surveillance program earlier this summer by former agency contractor Eric Snowden. Since then, other details have come to light about the agencies tactics, like the NSA's allegedly searching Americans' phone records, in violation of court requirements.

Doerr, a partner in the venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, said that he became resigned to the fact that he was being tracked from the very moment he got a credit card. "I'm comfortable with people knowing the 'to' and 'from' of my emails, with proper safeguards," he said.

Speaking shortly after Doerr got offstage, Khosla, Sun Microsystems amd Khosla Ventures founder, was asked the same question.

"I'm obviously concerned with government snooping," Khosla said. "But between having no snooping and having snooping, I agree with the government programs."

"The fact is, we know about the NSA," he continued. "We don't know what other governments are doing. But, almost certainly, other governments are doing this."

Asked why it was necessary to give up certain freedoms, Khosla said, "we have to be pragmatic."

Of course, as luminaries in Silicon Valley, an industry that runs on the extrapolation and use of data -- and whose major players like Google and Facebook have already complied with the NSA -- Doerr's and Khosla's answers are perhaps not surprising. Indeed, tech entrepreneur Max Levchin, who also spoke at the conference, said many of the same things as Doerr and Khosla when he was asked the NSA question.