from the watching-his-money-while-watching-the-nation dept
Keith Alexander's financial records -- sprung by Jason Leopold's lawsuit against the NSA and explored in depth by Shane Harris -- continue to point towards more questionable behavior on the part of the former NSA director.
Harris more closely examines Alexander's financial involvement with Synchronoss, a company that provides cloud storage services to mobile phone providers.
In 2008, Alexander bought and sold tens of thousands of dollars in stock in a company called Synchronoss Technologies Inc., based in Bridgewater Township, N.J., according to the retired Army general’s financial-disclosure forms. You’ve probably never heard of Synchronoss, but, like the NSA, it probably knows who you are. If you’ve ever activated a new iPhone or synced your personal information across multiple devices—such as your phone, and your home and office computer—there’s a chance that Synchronoss’s technology helped make it happen. The company’s customers are some of the largest telecommunications service providers in the world—including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and Time Warner Cable—along with their more than 3 billion mobile subscribers.More to the point, Synchronoss provided the tech that "locked" iPhones to AT&T's network back when the iPhone was an AT&T exclusive. It was during this period of time that Alexander was investing in the company, basically putting a single step between him and the service provider his agency enjoyed a very comfortable relationship with.
Under secret court orders, the agency was then hoovering up the phone records of AT&T’s subscribers and pouring them into a database of who called whom in the United States, stretching back several years. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the NSA also had secretly installed communications surveillance equipment in some of AT&T’s offices, under orders from President George W. Bush.The NSA has only provided records dating back to 2008, at which point Alexander already had between $15,000 and $50,000 invested in Synchronoss. 2008 was a turning point for Synchronoss, which saw its surefire moneymaker heading down the tubes as iPhone buyers began jailbreaking their devices and freeing them from AT&T's network. Harris notes that Alexander picked up more Synchronoss stock when its price slid following its announcement of lowered future expectations and had cashed out completely by 2009, making less than $200 from stock sales during this time period.
But what's not shown is Alexander's pre-2008 investments, which would include the lucrative debut of the iPhone (2007). Those are likely gone forever, thanks to limitations of what must be disclosed by these mandatory documents. (Agencies only need to provide the last 5 years of documentation.) What the documents do show is that the NSA had no problem with Alexander being one step removed from one of the NSA's most willing "providers," something that should have been examined more closely by the agency's internal ethics watchdogs.
Now that Alexander is in the private sector, he has to work harder to trip "conflict of interest" sensors. And yet, trip them he has… multiple times. Whether this is an indication that Alexander is no more prepared for the freedom of the "real word" than an ex-con who's just spent multiple decades behind bars or an indication that the former director's moral compass has always been just a bit off remains to be seen. But everything observed so far seems to point to the continuation of the "above the law" attitude the intelligence community projected for so many years. More than a year into this Snowden-activated era of forced transparency, officials are still showing how easily they burn when exposed to sunlight.