Cybersecurity

NSA CTO's moonlighting gig ends

Wikimedia image: General Keith B. Alexander

Former NSA Director Keith Alexander has ended a private-sector collaboration with NSA CTO Patrick Dowd after conflict-of-interest questions were raised.

Former National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander has canceled a cybersecurity consulting agreement his firm had with the current NSA CTO after current and former intelligence officials raised questions about a possible conflict of interest.

Reuters reported the development on Oct. 21. The news wire had first revealed the relationship between NSA CTO Patrick Dowd and Alexander’s firm, IronNet Cybersecurity, in an Oct. 17 report, at which time the NSA said it was reviewing the matter. Alexander, a retired Army general, stepped down as dual head of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command in March.

Dowd had agreed to work as many as 20 hours per work for Alexander’s firm, a deal that top NSA managers had approved. But a few days after the agreement was made public, Alexander pulled the plug on it. “While we understand we did everything right," he told Reuters, "I think there's still enough issues out there that create problems for Dr. Dowd, for NSA, for my company.”

Dowd’s prospective moonlighting for IronNet Cybersecurity turned heads on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which had asked for a copy of the NSA’s internal review of the matter, Reuters reported.

A spokesperson for IronNet said the retired general was unavailable for comment. An NSA spokesperson declined to elaborate on an Oct. 17 statement saying the agency was reviewing the matter.

Alexander is the only cybersecurity specialist listed on IronNet’s website, which describes the Washington, D.C.-based firm as having a “top-notch contract support team.”

Alexander’s aggressive move into the private sector raised eyebrows in a town well accustomed to the sharp swivel of the revolving door. Bloomberg News reported in June that Alexander was offering his cyber consulting services to financial firms for up to $1 million per month.

The nixed Alexander-Dowd collaboration is not the only NSA conflict-of-interest story to surface in recent weeks. The husband of Director of Signals Intelligence Teresa Shea works for a contractor that is likely seeking or already doing business with the NSA, BuzzFeed has reported.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.


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