So Keith Alexander, the General who managed the National Security Agency's (NSA's) wholesale surveillance of Americans and the rest of the world, headed through Washington DC's revolving door last month. Alexander is, of course, now selling his services to the financial industry for as much as $1 million a month.
His calendar is filling up rapidly, too, despite his pricey rates - offered through his new firm, IronNet Cybersecurity Inc. Standing in line for the General's attentions, according to Bloomberg, are the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), the Consumer Bankers Association and the Financial Services Roundtable (FSR).
The FSR itself is a veritable tilt-a-whirl of revolving doors, with a steadily increasing lobbying budget on behalf of its corporate bankers and insurers and a roster of high-placed former government officials. For example, the FSR employs the firm of Barnett, Sivon and Natter to advocate its causes. The eponymous Robert Barnett is a former chairman of the FDIC, and years ago, James Sivon was the staff director for the Republican members of the U.S. House Committee on Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs.
Into this mix, comes Keith Alexander, the go-to-guy for advice on cyberattacks and information technology. While serving as the director of the NSA, he also headed the U.S. Cyber Command and managed both government surveillance and an array of advanced cyberweapons.
The U.S. Cyber Command, Alexander's lesser-known portfolio, is a relatively recently spawned creature that defends the military's own cyber systems and executes cyberattacks on the systems of other countries. USCYBERCOM's description of itself is a word salad (with bizarre punctuation) that reveals little:
USCYBERCOM plans, coordinates, integrates, synchronizes, and conducts activities to: direct the operations and defense of specified Department of Defense information networks and; prepare to, and when directed, conduct full-spectrum military cyberspace operations in order to enable actions in all domains, ensure US/Allied freedom of action in cyberspace and deny the same to our adversaries.
Despite its obscure purpose, the budget for USCYBERCOM doubled in 2014, presumably providing its director, Keith Alexander, with cyber awareness that is greater than ever. This expertise will now be placed at the service of the financial industry.
Looking at this arrangement objectively, it seems fishy. For a price, the General can tell you pretty accurately what a sophisticated cyber attacker can do to your database. He knows this because he managed these attacks. Consequently, for another pantload of payments, IronNet Cybersecurity Inc. will tell you how to fend off these assaults. The revolving generals and bankers can appropriate the products of our publicly-funded cyber research and development and deploy it for the financial world for a steep (privately collected) price.
In the person of Keith Alexander, we're seeing the de facto merger of corporate financial power and government overreach. Some subset of corporations is paid to develop the cyber attack and defense capability of the US government, and another subset pays the graduates of the contracting agencies (the NSA and USCYBERCOM) for an inside route to the technology.
All of this is conducted behind the veil of the War on Terror, an increasingly profitable funding vehicle for those well-placed to hop on board.
Bea Edwards is Executive & International Director of the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection organization. She is also the author of The Rise of the American Corporate Security State.