Press Parrots Cybersecurity FUD From Former NSA Boss Without Mentioning Massive Conflict Of Interest

from the do-some-freaking-research dept

Not this again. Nearly three years ago, we wrote about the growing hype around “cyberwar” in the US government — much of it being pushed by one Michael McConnell. News reports love to cover McConnell’s fear-mongering about how the internet is at risk. He used to always talk about “cyberwar” but that term went out of fashion, so lately it’s all “cyberattacks” and “cyberterrorism.” The reason the press loves McConnell is that he’s a former head of the NSA (under Clinton) and director of national intelligence (under George W. Bush). What those reports don’t like to mention is that since leaving the government, McConnell has a very cushy job as Vice Chairman of Booz, Allen, Hamilton. Booz Allen is a company that regularly seems to do $100 million+ deals with government agencies, many of them related to cybersecurity. You think that having a former NSA director running around scaring agencies about how they’re at risk of “cyberwar” or “cybersecurity” isn’t useful for business?

And yet, it seems that time and time again when we see McConnell’s name, reporters completely fail to mention this particular conflict of interest. Instead, they report his claims as if they’re fact, despite the much simpler and more obvious fact: no one has died from an internet attack. Ever. None. Zero. Zilch.

Take, for example, this article by Steven Musil. And then let me know where either of these points is made. You can’t, because they’re not in there. McConnell’s connection to Booz isn’t mentioned. Nor is the fact that “cyberthreats” are still as dangerous as a ghost story.

Instead, he throws in a couple scary scary quotes from McConnell about how we’re getting close to a cyber-9/11 or a cyber-Pearl Harbor without pointing out that plenty of people think such claims are completely overblown. Also, we’ve been hearing about this for years now, and while it’s been quite profitable for McConnell, there’s been no evidence that such a threat is really any closer. But, boy does it make money for government contractors. This isn’t to pick on Musil in particular — plenty of reporters seem totally taken in by McConnell’s old job and seem to throw any skepticism (or the ability to do a basic Google search about his current job) out the window. But if we keep seeing it, we’re going to keep calling it out until people realize that maybe there are motives there beyond what McConnell says.

Filed Under: , , ,
Companies: booz allen

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Press Parrots Cybersecurity FUD From Former NSA Boss Without Mentioning Massive Conflict Of Interest”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Clearly, the term Conflict Of Interest is for the little people and does not apply to those in the Good Old Boys Club.

Employees of corporations with government contracts routinely have to fill out statements detailing any and all potential conflicts of interest and swear that they will abide by the corporate guidelines for ethical behavior. Perhaps the big wigs are given a free pass in this regard.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Well, if that isn’t the case, why isn’t he being challenged by the current head of the NSA and director of national intelligence. Let me guess: You think they’re getting “kickbacks” too?

I hadn’t ever in my life ever considered that ever, im glad you mentioned that food for thought, no doubt others will eventually see your post and wonder, “what does he mean”

Thankyou very much, i will now go online and google various combinations of kickback and other wordly combinations

Oh lookie what i found a List of federal political scandals in the United States

Thankyou patriot for your part, i never would have known without you

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You really think the NSA is going to go out of their way to contradict someone who’s claims they can use to justify their actions?

Also, just to be clear, I didn’t mention anyone getting kickbacks, I just said that this guy’s job and income depends on people buying into the fearmongering, giving him plenty of incentive to sell that snake oil with all he’s got.

F! says:

Re: Re:

Head of NSA’s job is not to evaluate ‘threats’, the position is a figurehead to talk spin at press conferences and spread FUD & mis/dis-information.

Apologies if the truth is a shock to you. I suppose we all need to learn some time.

Never trust the government. Never. McConnell may believe the lies he spews. He may be as naive as you. Many people are better qualified for his position (if weren’t merely a propaganda mouthpiece), yet would never take the job because they know they’d have to sacrifice their soul.

There is a reason he’s getting paid the big bucks. It’s not a terribly pleasant truth.

Richard Hack (profile) says:

There's no such thing as "cyberwar"

First, any “cyber” anything done by one nation state to another is going to be either “cyber-espionage” or “cyber-sabotage”.

Second, no nation state is going to attack the US with “cyber-anything” that causes loss of life or even short or long term critical infrastructure damage because that would result in an immediate or subsequent military strike by the US at that nation state, by definition. The US would not respond over the Internet – that’s ridiculous on the face of it.

The same applies to every other nation – except those with no credible ability to threaten the US, such as Iran. Which is why Iran is not engaging in any cyber attacks on the US, despite the US media spin of various incidents. Iran can’t afford to because the US is just itching for a war with Iran and Iran can’t afford to provoke one.

Which means “cyberwar” is in fact merely a “cyber” dimension to an actual physical war. Which means absent that physical war, there will be no “cyberwar.”

Which means for the most part that any “cyber” conflict is going to be relegated to espionage – or in the case of things like Stuxnet, sabotage from one major power to a much weaker power who can’t effectively respond due to the threat of actual physical military attack.

All the hype about China’s “cyber-threat” is also irrelevant because all China’s hackers are doing is stealing corporate intellectual property in an attempt to “level the playing field” in economic terms. Which frankly I think is just fine, given how long China was kept down by Western interests. Paying the West back for the Brits pushing opium seems reasonable to me.

Not to mention that anyone who thinks the US isn’t engaged in large-scale industrial espionage against other countries, as well as the European Union, is just naive. Further not to mention that the US uses its military and economic power as a bludgeon on most of the nations of the world and has done so for the last hundred years, a history which is far worse than any “cyber-spying” of industrial processes.

A little “cyber-payback” is perfectly justified.

F! says:

Re: Cyber-war is real

“The term war is being mis used”

I see your point and I agree on a technical level, but in the language of popular media what we have is very much a ‘war on the internet’, in the same way that ‘class war’ is war.

It’s an expression describing how ‘moneyed interests’ (for lack of a better term) are censoring & regulating the internet with the goal of disempowering and oppressing the population worldwide, preventing society from achieving progress in the way of self-governance, economic stability, human rights, etc.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...