'This effort is in its exploratory stages, and I look forward to the work ahead.' | John Shinkle/POLITICOClose
Former National Security Agency chief Gen. Keith Alexander is launching a consulting firm for financial institutions looking to address cybersecurity threats, POLITICO has learned.
Less than two months since his retirement from the embattled agency at the center of the Edward Snowden leak storm, the retired four-star general is setting up a Washington-based operation that will try to attract clients based on his four decades of experience in the military and intelligence — and the continued levels of access to senior decision-makers that affords.Continue Reading
“He’s already out pushing hard,” said an industry source recently briefed by Alexander on the new business venture. “He’s cleared. If something does pop, he can get in the door and get a briefing. That’s part of his stock and trade.”
Alexander will lease office space from the global consulting firm Promontory Financial Group, which confirmed in a statement on Thursday that it plans to partner with him on cybersecurity matters.
“He and a firm he’s forming will work on the technical aspects of these issues, and we on the risk-management compliance and governance elements,” said Promontory spokesman Chris Winans.
“After a 40-year career in the military and the government, I am beginning an effort to see what I could do to help address the cybersecurity threats facing the financial services industry, its customers, and their assets,” Alexander said in a statement.
“This effort is in its exploratory stages, and I look forward to the work ahead.”
Alexander spoke recently to a large industry trade group on his post-government plans. One person familiar with his pitch said it had an appeal much like the consulting expertise of Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, two former homeland security secretaries who went on to establish their own firms.
“Clearly, there will be companies who’d have great interest in having an affiliation with him,” the source said.
Alexander, who also headed up U.S. Cyber Command from his perch at NSA, has been one of the most visible public defenders of the super secret agency’s controversial surveillance practices amid nearly a year of news coverage based off Snowden’s stolen cache of thousands of top-secret documents.
Since leaving government, the former NSA chief has been on his own personal publicity tour to explain the NSA’s practices and also show his lighter side.
Appearing last month on the debut episode of John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” HBO program, Alexander said life would be easier if he could decree that “all the bad guys need to be on this section of the Internet.”
Oliver quipped in response that he must be talking about Pinterest, the social sharing site that the comedian said collects “all the worst people in the world.”
But the joke fell flat with Alexander, who admitted he wasn’t familiar with the site. “I’ve lived a sheltered life,” Alexander said.
In an interview published Thursday with an Australian newspaper, Alexander said NSA staffers were “true heroes” who were unfairly maligned by the public and media.
Asked about the recent Pulitzer Prize awards won by Guardian U.S. and The Washington Post, Alexander replied, “I’m greatly disappointed that we have rewarded those who have put so many lives at risk. I think that’s the best way to say that.”
Alexander also told the Australian Financial Review that the media portrayed the Snowden leaks “in such a way that the public is incorrectly led to believe that NSA, and its people, are doing something illegal or improper.”