Illustration by DONKEY HOTEY
PHAWKER: Why give away the NSA’s secrets for free when you can make Wall Street pay through the nose for them?
WIRED: Cybersecurity firms and snake-oil salesmen promising protection from online threats are ubiquitous these days, and it’s hard to stand out in such a crowded field—unless you’re the former leader of the world’s best hacking outfit. In that case, the promises you sell carry more weight—and a higher price tag. Which may well explain why Gen. Keith Alexander, the former head of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, has launched the consulting firm IronNet Cybersecurity.
BLOOMBERG: As the four-star general in charge of U.S. digital defenses, Keith Alexander warned repeatedly that the financial industry was among the likely targets of a major attack. Now he’s selling the message directly to the banks. Joining a crowded field of cyber-consultants, the former National Security Agency chief is pitching his services for as much as $1 million a month. The audience is receptive: Under pressure from regulators, lawmakers and their customers, financial firms are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into barriers against digital assaults. MORE
VICE NEWS: “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,” Florida Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson wrote one of the business groups, the Security Industries and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), which holds it down for Wall Street in Washington. “Without the classified information that he acquired in his former position, he literally would have nothing to offer to you.” In an interview Monday, Grayson was even more strident in his criticism. “Frankly, what the general is doing is beginning to resemble an extortion racket,” he told me. “This is a man who basically lied for a living, and he continues to do that.” MORE
THE GUARDIAN: But a perhaps even more disturbing and revealing vignette into the spy chief’s mind comes from a new Foreign Policy article describing what the journal calls his “all-out, barely-legal drive to build the ultimate spy machine”. The article describes how even his NSA peers see him as a “cowboy” willing to play fast and loose with legal limits in order to construct a system of ubiquitous surveillance. But the personality driving all of this – not just Alexander’s but much of Washington’s – is perhaps best captured by this one passage, highlighted by PBS’ News Hour in a post entitled: “NSA director modeled war room after Star Trek’s Enterprise”. The room was christened as part of the “Information Dominance Center”:
“When he was running the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command, Alexander brought many of his future allies down to Fort Belvoir for a tour of his base of operations, a facility known as the Information Dominance Center. It had been designed by a Hollywood set designer to mimic the bridge of the starship Enterprise from Star Trek, complete with chrome panels, computer stations, a huge TV monitor on the forward wall, and doors that made a ‘whoosh’ sound when they slid open and closed. Lawmakers and other important officials took turns sitting in a leather ‘captain’s chair’ in the center of the room and watched as Alexander, a lover of science-fiction movies, showed off his data tools on the big screen.
“‘Everybody wanted to sit in the chair at least once to pretend he was Jean-Luc Picard,’ says a retired officer in charge of VIP visits.”
Numerous commentators remarked yesterday on the meaning of all that (note, too, how “Total Information Awareness” was a major scandal in the Bush years, but “Information Dominance Center” – along with things like “Boundless Informant” – are treated as benign or even noble programs in the age of Obama). But now, on the website of DBI Architects, Inc. of Washington and Reston, Virginia, there are what purports to be photographs of the actual Star-Trek-like headquarters commissioned by Gen. Alexander that so impressed his Congressional overseers. It’s a 10,740 square foot labyrinth in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The brochure touts how “the prominently positioned chair provides the commanding officer an uninterrupted field of vision to a 22′-0″ wide projection screen”: MORE
RELATED: You can see photos of the Star Trek-like command center of the NSA’s Information Dominance Center HERE