It's the second possible conflict of interest involving former NSA head Keith Alexander.
by Cyrus Farivar
The National Security Agency is now conducting an internal investigation of a top official’s part-time work for a private cybersecurity firm, according to Reuters.
That company, IronNet Cybersecurity, was founded by Keith Alexander. Alexander served as the head of the spy agency from August 2005 until March 2014. IronNet Cybersecurity currently offers protection services to banks for up to $1 million per month.
Last Friday, Reuters cited Alexander himself as well as other intelligence officials, reporting that current NSA CTO Patrick Dowd can work up to 20 hours per week for IronNet Cybersecurity.
This investigation marks the second time in less than two weeks that serious questions have been raised about possible conflicts of interest and questionable ethics involving Alexander. As Ars reported earlier this month, newly released documents show that during his tenure as director, Alexander personally had thousands of dollars invested in obscure technology companies that could have materially benefited as a result of his actions running the NSA.
In a statement sent to Ars, NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said that the matter was "under internal review."
"While NSA does not comment on specific employees, NSA takes seriously ethics laws and regulations at all levels of the organization," she added. "While all NSA employees are entitled to request and receive advice on questions of ethics, NSA generally does not comment on whether or not a specific employee sought or received such advice."
Apparently, this special and seemingly unprecedented deal was struck between NSA and IronNet Cybersecurity so that Dowd would still remain within the government to some degree.
Paul Rothstein, a criminal law and ethics professor at Georgetown University law school, questions this setup.
"If it isn’t structured very carefully, this runs the risk of conflict of interest and disclosure of national secrets," Rothstein told Reuters. "It is a situation that in the interests of good government should be avoided unless there’s some very strong reason to do it."