Cybersecurity

Former NSA Chief Cashing In on Spook Background, Making $1 Million a Month to Consult

|

i know why you're smiling
NSA

Gen. Keith Alexander was the longest serving chief of the National Security Agency (NSA) in the history of the organization, spending nine years at the top of the agency. In that time, he was part of nine patent applications for technology he helped develop while there. But now Alexander is going around charging big corporations and banks $1 million a month for consulting work and says that he's got new ideas he's going to patent that make his advice worth so much. Although he only retired in March, Alexander now says that the reason he can charge up to $1 million a month is because of a new set of patents he plans on filing he insists he came up with only after leaving the NSA. He insists, too, that agency lawyers have reviewed to ensure were not based on ideas proprietary to the NSA.

Alexander's explanation comes a few weeks after Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) wrote (PDF) one of Alexander's clients expressing concern that the former NSA chief must be offering classified information to be charging as much as he is.

Foreign Policy explains why Alexander's actions could be problematic even if everything he says is true:

But even if Alexander's new technology is legally unique, it is shaped by the nearly nine years he spent running an intelligence colossus. He was the longest-serving director in the history of the NSA and the first commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, responsible for all cybersecurity personnel—defensive and offensive—in the military and the Defense Department. From those two perches, Alexander had access to the government's most highly classified intelligence about hackers trying to steal U.S. secrets and disable critical infrastructure, such as the electrical power grid. Indeed, he helped to invent new techniques for finding those hackers and filed seven patents on cybersecurity technologies while working for the NSA.

Foreign Policy calls this an unfair competitive advantage. Alexander's actions after leaving his post at the NSA provide an illuminating example of how government officials use their "public service" careers to profit in retirement, something that should be, at the very least, seriously questioned. The NSA compensated Alexander well for his time there—perhaps it would not be too unreasonable to include in employment contracts for people like Alexander clauses that prevent future private sector employment in related fields. After all, wasn't that one of the reasons provided for compensating government employees well in salary and pensions in the first place?

Advertisement

NEXT: NYPD Unions Can't Challenge Stop-and-Frisk Settlement

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. What difference at this point does it make?

  2. Cronies are going to crony.

  3. The government gravy train rolls on. Spy on Americans in an arguably illegal manner, make millions afterward. Perverse incentives all around!

    1. I’d like to cram his old general’s stars down his throat….HEY DICKHEAD, DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR, REMEMBER?!

      1. I think they test for flag officers by only selecting the ones who don’t believe that.

      2. I’ve never been in the military, but seeing as it’s just another bureaucracy, I would have to imagine the high-rising bureaucrats (high-ranking officers) are just as venal and self-serving as any other bureaucracy. I don’t know why so many people think the military would be any different (not saying you did, it’s just that I see that a lot).

  4. Hey, hold on a second. NSA employees are secret, right? Would it be against the law to say one was an ex-NSA employee, then go around making money on the speaking circuit? I mean, yes, it’s fraudulent, but who could prove it?

  5. That perp should be doing time for billions of counts of illegal wiretapping and civil rights violations.

    -jcr

  6. Hiring Alexander would be an open invitation to hackers the world over to pull your organization’s pants down. CEOs who he thinks might be interested are evil, but not stupid.

  7. Ahh the old 401(c)ronyism plan… a standard benefit of ‘serving’ in a government position.

  8. I may have a problem with the NSA, but I don’t think I have a problem with private businesses spending their private money for the expertise of someone who used to work in government. The caveat is if his real reason for being on the payroll is to cut crony deals between his clients and old pals in government.

    1. Yeah, I can see how this looks corrupt as hell, but I don’t see the point of trying to ensure that any genuine skills gained through government work can never be put to use again after leaving the government.

      1. Seems like a way to make government even less efficient and useful.

      2. I have no problem with his company getting big bucks to be a gunslinger version of Norton or McCaffee, but the 9 patents are utter theft, based on classified knowledge and access that were directly a result of his unique position, not because of whatever bullshit he’s spewing.

  9. The prohibition for government officials working in the industries they regulate is misguided. It literally throws the baby out with the bathwater – eg a guy who comes up with a great idea for an aviation safety device while working for the NTSB should be able to put his idea into production.

    There is no solution to the problem other than to reduce as far as is possible the amount of stuff that the state regulates. As long as there is big government, there will be cronyism.

    1. Your ideas intrigue me. So, in this system, the government would have limits imposed on it?

      1. I think some kind of document spelling out exactly what the government is allowed to do, written in plain English should do the trick. It should be designed so that the incentives of each part of the state would lead it to check the excesses of the other parts. And these parts should be designed not only to check each other but also to balance each other out.

        Also the document should place significant obstacles to amending it.

        Last but not least, all the officers of the state should solemnly swear an oath before their religion’s Flying Spaghetti Monster to uphold and obey that document’s strictures and to faithfully execute their duties.

        I figure this would produce an ironclad, very stable system.

        1. Wait, this system involves people, right? I think you need more checks and balances, cattle prods, and vats of tar and feathers.

          1. They swear a solemn oath…..

            ….to a deity!

            It’s foolproof!!!!!

            1. You know, an actively interventionist supreme deity would be an excellent check on government power. “Lo, did the Commissioner of Internal Revenue violate his oath to uphold the Constitution and was, thusly and justly smited by the Lord.”

              1. Lord Obama has shown little inclination to be actively interventionist in anything that has to do with actually following this mythical document that the previous posters spoke of.

                1. Ha! What powers does he have? Behold a god who reads. . .a teleprompter!

        2. ANARCHY!

      2. Perhaps “enumerated” powers, specifying “limits” to the government’s power.

        Intriguing.

    2. 75% surtax for the first five years? If its really worth that much, its worth giving the bulk to Uncle, amiright?

  10. Am I the only one cynical enough to be thinking that he’s consulting them on how to avoid the “intelligence colossus” he himself built?

    1. This, at least, would have some legitimacy to it.

      1. Sounds more like a mob protection racket to me. “That’s a nice network you got there Chase Manhattan. Would be a shame if something where to happen to it.”

        1. It’s really lose-lose for the little people, isn’t it?

    2. I was thinking straight-up blackmail. Is that “cynical enough”?

  11. I hated this asshole from the first time I saw him. SO glad he’s cashing in on his honorable “service” to the country.

    Hope he chokes to death on a donut and rots in Hell for eternity.

    Have a nice day!

    1. No, he’ll live a long life, continuing to do really evil shit, interspersed with fucking $10,000/night hookers in Vegas.

      1. I don’t care what tricks she can do or how clean she is, ain’t no single women worth $10000 to do what I ask for a night and then go away. Now $10000 worth of hookers every night I’m in Vegas? Totally different.

        1. But where do you find that many $50 hookers, Brett?

          Cause I’m guessing only the skankiest, down-trodden, and broken street ho will be willing to “do what I ask for a night and then go away”, Florida Man.

  12. OT: This is hilarious:

    “America’s emergency rooms better be prepared for the carnage that’s likely to follow” CARNAGE!!!1

    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/…..00885.html

    1. God, I love it when animist gun grabbing scum literally shit their pants over something…and they’re utterly, completely powerless to stop it no matter how many hysterical news articles they run. Their fear combined with their impotence is like some incredibly heady brew. Delicious.

    2. OMG, the Vietnam drawdown left Army pistol contractors with lots of stock, semi-autos got cheaper than .38 revolvers (cheap because the cops used them pretty ubiquitously)! This data extrapolates to no fucking trend at all.

      1. The only source for Army pistols prior to 1984 was Colt Firearms, which had been making the M1911/M1911-A1 since 1911.
        It was only during WW-1, and WW-2, that there was multi-sourcing of this handgun, because neither Colt, nor the Springfield Armory (MA) had the capacity to meet the demand.

        1. Nearly all service M1911’s were WWII or rebuilt WWII manufacture along with a very small handful of special orders.

    3. ‘Cause you know the arrival of the beretta heralded the era of multiple gunshot wounds to DC’s ERs, the beretta-replacement will of course bring with it multiple-multiple gunshot wounds, or as I shall call it, “logarithmic gunshot wounds”

  13. Oh look at that. Yet another reason to do away with IP.

  14. perhaps it would not be too unreasonable to include in employment contracts for people like Alexander clauses that prevent future private sector employment in related fields.

    That’s so libertarian!

  15. The only thing to do with Keith Alexander is hang him for treason. Everything else is just pussyfooting around.

  16. I don’t see any proper way to stop what the guy is doing. He has skills and experience from his prior job and he is putting them to use. Is he sharing information he shouldn’t? I have no idea, although I’d love to see him convicted of espionage, or even treason.

  17. I don’t think Alexander’s compensation either in or out of government rises to the level of a Robert Ruben, or a Tim Geithner.

  18. He’s gone rouge, call Bourne or Reacher.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.