Conflict of Interest? NSA Chief Working on Cybersecurity Patents

A report on what looks like a conflict of interest from Associated Press:

 Even in an era when former officials routinely profit from business ventures linked to their public service, recently retired National Security Agency chief Keith Alexander raised eyebrows when he disclosed he is working on patents for what he calls a game-changing cybersecurity model.

How about a law that anyone paid by a government entity who leaves their position—for any reason—is prohibited from doing any business whatsoever with every government entity for at least five years?

It is unbelievable how many conflicts of interest we allow—I just learned that in my own county, you can work for a county paycheck, and sit on the board of county commissioners. Yeah, no conflict of interest in being one of those who determines policy and compensation for workers when you’re one of them!

Just stupid.

Alexander had access to the nation’s deepest secrets about cyberwarfare, and he spent the last several years warning about cyberthreats to private industry. Critics questioned whether he was cashing in on classified information he learned at NSA, and they asked why he didn’t deploy his new ideas while he led the government’s cyber defenses.

In an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, Alexander sought to answer those questions and rebut what he says are misimpressions about the new company he leads, IronNet Cybersecurity.

The retired four-star general, who departed in March after nine years as NSA director, said there is nothing improper about working in his field of expertise. He also led the military’s cyber command.

“If I retired from the Army as a brain surgeon, wouldn’t it be OK for me to go into private practice and make money doing brain surgery?” he asked. “I’m a cyber guy. Can’t I go to work and do cyber stuff?”

His firm is developing as many as 10 patents, he said, and has secured contracts with three clients he declines to name. The technological innovations in the new patents came from an unidentified partner, he said, and are not specifically derived from anything he learned at NSA or cyber command. Alexander also filed three patents while he was NSA director, but the taxpayers own the rights to those, and if he wants to use them he must apply for a license, as anyone could, he said.

Oh, and I realize sometimes thieves are the best ones to show you vulnerabilities, but would you really want one of the chief criminals for the NSA in charge of security for your organization? It’s like hiring a lifelong bank robber to be the chief of security for your bank—he’s rationalized so much criminality that you have no idea what he’ll be able to justify in his own mind.