Obama, Cameron Press Conference : Britain and US set up unit to foil terrorist cyber attacks

Updated: January 16, 2015
Obama, Cameron Press Conference : Britain and US set up unit to foil terrorist cyber attacks

Britain and the US are to establish a new joint group to counter violent extremism, Barack Obama and David Cameron have announced.

Speaking after two-day talks at the White House, the Prime Minister said the US and UK are united in their drive to fight “poisonous and fanatical ideology”.

“This is a problem that causes great heartache and tragedy and destruction,” Obama said. “But it is one that ultimately we are going to defeat.”

The prime minister was blistering in his assessment of those responsible for the attacks, calling them part of a “poisonous, fanatical, death cult.”

“We know what we’re up against, and we know how we will win,” Cameron said.

Obama and Cameron met at the White House as representatives from their countries were joining negotiating partners for another round of nuclear talks with Iran. Both leaders strenuously urged Congress to avoid ordering new economic sanctions on Iran in the midst of those negotiations, arguing that doing so could upend the delicate diplomacy.

“Why is it that we would have to take actions that might jeopardize the possibility of getting a deal over the next 60 or 90 days?” Obama said. “What is it precisely that’s going to be accomplished?”

Negotiators have set a March deadline for reaching a framework that would address the international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.

Cameron said he had called some senators Friday to make the case for holding off on new penalties.

The prime minister arrived in Washington with a request for Obama to help persuade U.S. technology companies to give governments more access to encrypted communications that terrorists may use to plot attacks. Cameron’s policy proposals have stoked concern on both sides of the Atlantic about the prospect of security efforts encroaching on privacy, particularly in the wake of the 2013 spying disclosures by Edward Snowden.

“As technology develops, as the world moves on, we should try to avoid the safe havens that would otherwise be created for terrorists to talk,” Cameron said.

Obama didn’t take a position on Cameron’s proposal, but he did say it was important to be able to keep tabs on terrorists who are using social media and the Internet.

“When we have the ability to track that, in a way that is legal, conforms with due process, rule of law and oversight, then that’s a capability we have to preserve,” Obama said.