Former NSA and U.S. Cyber Command head Keith Alexander is defending his new million-dollar cyber-security consultancy, which critics say allows the recently retired general to profit off of his taxpayer-funded career in public service.
“If I retired from the Army as a brain surgeon, wouldn’t it be okay for me to go into private practice and make money doing brain surgery?” Alexander asked during a Tuesday interview with the Associated Press. “I’m a cyber guy. Can’t I go to work and do cyber stuff?”
Alexander has been scrutinized by lawmakers and the media since reports put his consultancy fee at seven figures, with critics questioning the ethics of the eye-popping profit he stands to gain from his startup, IronNet Cybersecurity Inc. Critics also wonder whether game-changing cyber-security technologies he plans to patent are based off similar work he did for the government, which NSA holds intellectual property rights over, and why he didn’t present them for government use before retiring in March.
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“I’ve been in government for 40 years; I fully understand the importance and sanctity of classified material,” Alexander said, repeating earlier assertions that the technology he plans to patent and use is different enough from his work in government to clear him of any legal barriers.
Alexander also said the $1 million monthly fee touted by the media “was inflated from the beginning,” but acknowledged that, “If it actually works, this will be worth a lot.”
The retired general said he did not develop his ideas at the NSA, and claimed they wouldn’t fit the agency’s mission regardless, as the signals intelligence agency doesn’t have the authority to secure private networks.