Keith Alexander—a retired four-star U.S. Army general and former National Security Agency director who infamously lied about the federal government’s mass surveillance program—has joined the board of Amazon, the online retail giant announced Thursday.
News that Alexander, co-chief executive officer of IronNet Cybersecurity Inc., is joining Amazon’s audit committee first came in the form of a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing on Wednesday.
Over the course of his 40-year military career, Alexander led the Army Intelligence and Security Command in the post-9/11 period, running a network of more than 10,000 spies and eavesdroppers around the world. In 2003 he was named deputy chief of staff for intelligence for the Army during a time when members of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade were torturing detainees at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
After that horrific abuse was revealed to the world, Alexander joined other top Bush administration officials in issuing a memorandum seeking to justify the unlawful treatment of detainees in the so-called “War on Terror,” including their detention at the notorious Guantánamo Bay military prison.
In 2005, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld appointed Alexander director of the NSA, a position he would hold until he retired in 2014, a year after revelations by former CIA contractor and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden regarding the agency’s global mass phone surveillance program, which including spying on millions of Americans.
Alexander—who also headed U.S. Cyber Command from 2010 until his retirement—lied in 2012, claiming the NSA does not collect data on American citizens. He repeated this lie while testifying under oath before Congress.
Last week, a federal appeals court unanimously ruled that the NSA’s warrantless surveillance of Americans’ phone records was illegal.
Amazon itself has faced accusations it spies on and profiles its users through its Alexa-driven devices. Amazon keeps copies of everything its Alexa smart speakers record, and last year the company admitted that its employees listen to customer voice recordings on its Echo and Alexa devices—reportedly including people having sex and possible sexual assaults.
Reacting to the news of Alexander joining Amazon, Snowden tweeted from exile in Russia that “it turns out that ‘Hey, Alexa’ is short for ‘Hey, Keith Alexander.'”
Amazon’s privacy violations aren’t just limited to its devices. Earlier this month, VICE reported the company sought to hire intelligence analysts to track “labor organizing threats” inside the company. The online retailer—whose founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, recently became the first-ever multi-centibillionaire—also operated a secret surveillance program to spy on its workers’ private Facebook groups.
A report (pdf) last month from Open Markets Institute also highlighted how Amazon has built a web of surveillance infrastructure to spy on its workers.