Rep. Grayson Asks If Keith Alexander Is Selling Classified Information To Get $1 Million Per Month

from the because-what-else-are-people-buying? dept

We recently noted that former NSA boss Keith Alexander is running around asking for $600k to $1 million per month for his new “cybersecurity” consulting firm. While some people thought that the number was “low” for banks, that doesn’t make any sense. You could hire a lot of really good actual security professionals for that kind of cash. So it made us wonder just what banks thought they were getting for that $1 million. Actual security professional Bruce Schneier wondered that as well, and wondered aloud if the one difference was that… Alexander could give them classified info — such as where he hid the backdoors in their routers.

That statement apparently caught the attention of Rep. Alan Grayson, who has been a vocal opponent of NSA overreach. He’s now sent a letter to the Financial Service Rountable to point out that selling classified info is a crime:

Security expert Bruce Schneier noted that this fee for Alexander’s services is on its face unreasonable. “Think of how much actual security they could buy with that $600k a month. Unless he’s giving them classified information.” Schneier also quoted, which headlined this news as: “For another million, I’ll show you the back door we put in your router.”

This arrangement with Mr. Alexander may also include additional work with the shadow regulatory firm The Promontory Group, with whom Alexander apparently will partner “on cybersecurity matters.” According to Promontory spokesman Chris Winans, Mr. Alexander “and a firm he’s forming will work on the technical aspects of these issues, and we on the risk-management compliance and governance elements.”

Disclosing or misusing classified information for profit is, as Mr. Alexander well knows, a felony. I question how Mr. Alexander can provide any of the services he is offering unless he discloses or misuses classified information, including extremely sensitive sources and methods. Without the classified information that he acquired in his former position, he literally would have nothing to offer to you.

Grayson also demands “all information related to your negotiations with Mr. Alexander, so that Congress can verify whether or not he is selling military or cybersecurity secrets to the financial services industry for personal gain. Sure, it’s a snarky move, but there is a point behind it. Alexander can’t command those sums because of his actual technical expertise. The reality, of course, is that he’s selling his connections to the government. But it certainly raises the question of appearances.

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Comments on “Rep. Grayson Asks If Keith Alexander Is Selling Classified Information To Get $1 Million Per Month”

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Almost Anonymous says:

Conflict of interest

There are huge problems with Alexander doing security consulting, but it seems to me that he must be breaking the law whether he discloses classified info or not.

1. If he knows of “backdoors” and other vulnerabilities and does not disclose the info to his clients, he is essentially defrauding those clients by deliberately allowing them to remain insecure.

2. If he gives those clients the classified info that would allow them to remove those vulnerabilities, then he is obviously breaking the law, as Rep Grayson noted.

This is not even getting into the unethical nature of a person in Alexander’s position doing any sort of security consulting in the first place.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Conflict of interest

Even if he surreptitiously closes the back doors without telling his clients about them, he is using his knowledge of National Security secrets to do the work, foiling the NSAs and other agencies ability to peak into these networks.

Put simply, there is no way he can be doing this type of work without selling out his county for profit.

Oh, the irony.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Conflict of interest

“This is not even getting into the unethical nature of a person in Alexander’s position doing any sort of security consulting in the first place.”

As far as the government is concerned, there is no such thing as conflict of interest once you reach a certain level. Look at all of the people who go from the Department of X to head of lobbying the same department (or vice versa).

I’m also familiar with a few high ranking officials that sign million dollar multi-year contracts only to retire with a position at said company doing nothing more than collecting a paycheck.

Of course these sorts of things usually never even raise an eyebrow. I’m suprised to see this one getting any attention at all. Personally, I hope there is a huge example made out of this. Not so much because I don’t like Alexander, but because I think this practice is wrong and needs to stop to benefit our country.

mcinsand (profile) says:

Re: Conflict of interest... what about the bankers?

Unless I’m mistaken, buying state secrets is just as illegal as selling them. Since Alexander has made his career with breaking security rather than fixing it, he would have to have something very, very special going for him in order to attract clients in such a security-intensive business as finance. I do think it’s safe to bet that anyone hiring him is anticipating access to classified information. FBI, anyone?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Conflict of interest

I wonder what affect the Snowden revelations will have. The companies now know of where some of the back doors are and some the tricks they use to get into the systems. Maybe the companies that would try to hire him would think of it as a insurance policy that those vulnerabilities get patched.

Anonymous Coward says:

After his total inability, publicly displayed in news, of being able to tell the truth, what makes anyone think that Alexander will honor any commitment he makes after being hired? His reputation is already shot to hell and gone.

I wouldn’t hire this man at the rate of 1¢ a day cause you can’t believe anything he tells you. As a boss, you ask if he’s completed his task, are you going to take him at his word? At any time?

Zonker says:

Re: Just like he handled "terrorism"

Alexander would just say that because his task is still open he will need more money and fewer restrictions in order to tackle the task. After that he will commit himself to “working” on the problem until you ask him if he’s completed his task again. Go back to step 1 and repeat indefinitely.

Anonymous Coward says:

K. Alexander

Already a proven staunch supporter of spying on everything in his roll at NSA – what makes anyone believe he’s there to
help the banks secure themselves and not, more likely in my opinion, to improve the NSA’s ability to “collect it all” without detection – at a healthy personal profit?
Retirement does not change a persons ethics or morals; especially not someone like Alexander.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: K. Alexander

more likely in my opinion, to improve the NSA’s ability to “collect it all” without detection

As you have pointed out, he is ethically challenged and working toward personal profit. Unless the NSA is going to pay him or give him some kind of power as compensation, he doesn’t give a rat’s a** about their ability to spy. While he was in charge there was the allure of power, but handing information over to the next guy just does not seem to make much sense.

My guess is that he is riding on his prior job title, has no ability to help the banks be more secure (secret backdoors or not, he does not seem like the kind of person who would understand how to plug the holes), and is just looking to bilk some companies out of a lot of money by appealing to the vanity of the CEO’s that want to employ the former head of the CIA.

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