Former NSA chief joins Amazon board of directors

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Keith Alexander, the former National Security Agency director and head of U.S. Cyber Command who influenced development of post-9/11 security surveillance, has joined Amazon's board of directors.

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The Seattle-based e-commerce giant's board appointed the retired Army general to its audit committee, according to a Wednesday SEC filing.

Alexander was appointed director of the NSA and chief of the Central Security Service in 2005; in 2010, he assumed the position of head of U.S. Cyber Command. He is also the co-CEO and president of cybersecurity firm IronNet Cybersecurity, which he founded in 2014.


"Think about how secure our nation has been since 9/11," he told The New Yorker in a 2014 interview. "We take great pride in it. It’s not because of me. It’s because of those people who are working, not just at NSA but in the rest of the intelligence community, the military, and law enforcement, all to keep this country safe."

In a 2013 profile of Alexander, tech magazine Wired described his cyberwar efforts as "an empire," adding that the former NSA director believes the threat to U.S. cybersecurity "is so mind-bogglingly huge that the nation has little option but to eventually put the entire civilian Internet under his protection."

"We jokingly referred to him as Emperor Alexander—with good cause, because whatever Keith wants, Keith gets," one former senior CIA official told Wired. "We would sit back literally in awe of what he was able to get from Congress, from the White House, and at the expense of everybody else."

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 leaked secret documents that revealed the NSA's spying efforts under Alexander's direction. Alexander has defended the spying as helping to prevent "potential terrorist events."

Amazon headquarters in downtown Seattle. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

"It turns out 'Hey, Alexa' is short for 'Hey, Keith Alexander,'" Snowden wrote in a Sept. 9 tweet in response to news of Alexander's appointment to Amazon's board. "Yes, the Keith Alexander personally responsible for the unlawful mass surveillance programs that caused a global scandal. And Amazon Web Services (AWS) host [about 6 percent] of all websites."

Alexander's new position at Amazon came less than a week after the U.S. Department of Defense awarded a multi-million-dollar Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud computing contract to Microsoft over Amazon amid an ongoing legal battle.

"Taking corrective action should have provided the DoD an opportunity to address the numerous material evaluation errors outlined in our protest, ensure a fair and level playing field, and ultimately, expedite the conclusion of litigation," the company wrote in a blog post. "Unfortunately, the DoD rejected that opportunity."