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 Recode.net, 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.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jun 27th, 2014 @ 7:12am

    To which Mr Alexander replies:

    "We are not selling classified information. But I cannot reveal further information or millions will die."

    Why not?

     

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  2.  
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    Michael, Jun 27th, 2014 @ 8:33am

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

    The $1m per month is for his time and companionship only. Anything else that happens is simply between two consenting adults.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2014 @ 8:35am

    If K Alexander is revealed to have sold classified info, his response will be that he gave the 'least untruthful answer'

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2014 @ 8:36am

    Don't we have laws prohibiting felons profit from their crimes?

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2014 @ 8:37am

    FYI Grayson/Lofgren hosted a cryptoparty earlier this month. How did techdirt not cover this?

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2014 @ 8:54am

    Wouldn't it be amazing of Alexander was arrested for selling intelligence secrets, which would be a lot worse than Snowden has ever done?

     

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  7.  
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    Almost Anonymous, Jun 27th, 2014 @ 8:55am

    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.

     

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  8.  
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    Easily Amused (profile), Jun 27th, 2014 @ 9:13am

    Re: Conflict of interest

    This is pretty much exactly what i came in here to say.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2014 @ 9:17am

    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 1ยข 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?

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2014 @ 9:23am

    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.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2014 @ 9:30am

    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.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2014 @ 9:47am

    Backpay

    Has anyone considered that his crimes have already been committed, and this "fee" is just his delayed payments, previously agreed on.

     

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  13.  
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    mcinsand, Jun 27th, 2014 @ 9:49am

    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?

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2014 @ 9:49am

    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.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2014 @ 9:51am

    For profit spying. Keith knows this better than anyone else, because he used to be the King of spies.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2014 @ 10:04am

    Re: 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.

     

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  17.  
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    Michael, Jun 27th, 2014 @ 11:41am

    Re: 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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  18.  
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    David, Jun 27th, 2014 @ 12:54pm

    Re:

    Nothing like that is going to happen. If anybody were interested in arresting Alexander for a felony, they would not have needed to wait until now.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    David, Jun 27th, 2014 @ 12:56pm

    Re: Re: Conflict of interest

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

    Oh, the irony.

    What irony? That's what he has been doing all along.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    David, Jun 27th, 2014 @ 1:00pm

    Re: Re: Re: K. Alexander

    As you have pointed out, he is ethically challenged

    That's like diagnosing a fried chicken with attention disorder.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Michael, Jun 27th, 2014 @ 1:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: K. Alexander

    chicken with attention disorder

    AKA: an uncontrollable cock.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Zonker, Jun 27th, 2014 @ 5:15pm

    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.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2014 @ 6:21pm

    The Evolution of Ethics

    1. You must not only avoid impropriety, but even the appearance of impropriety.

    2. You must avoid the appearance of impropriety.

    3. F*ck it. I'm rich!

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Androgynous Cowherd, Jun 27th, 2014 @ 6:30pm

    The Promontory Group

    "The Promontory Group"? I think that may have been misspelled. I saw that movie and I'm pretty sure they called themselves the Praetorians.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2014 @ 10:19pm

    Re:

    "I cannot disclose this information due to National Se... oh wait"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 29th, 2014 @ 4:15pm

    Maybe The US Government should hire him to protect the US citizens .. oh wait.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2014 @ 5:08am

    I guess you couldn't even trust him to touch your electronics/hardware.

    When leaving his position, i am mostly sure that he had some secret agreements to sign and perhaps a continuing NSL slapped onto him.
    So everything he touched should be considered compromised.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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