Gen. Keith Alexander is joining Amazon’s board of directors, the company revealed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing today. (Alexander has also been added to the company board’s official site.) A former director of the National Security Agency and the first commander of the US Cyber Command, Alexander served as the public face of US data collection during the Edward Snowden leaks, but he retired from public service in 2013.
Alexander is a controversial figure for many in the tech community because of his involvement in the widespread surveillance systems revealed by the Snowden leaks. Those systems included PRISM, a broad data collection program that compromised systems at Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Facebook — but not Amazon.
Alexander was broadly critical of reporting on the Snowden leaks, even suggesting that reporters should be legally restrained from covering the documents. “I think it’s wrong that that newspaper reporters have all these documents, the 50,000-whatever they have and are selling them and giving them out as if these — you know it just doesn’t make sense,” Alexander in an interview in 2013. “We ought to come up with a way of stopping it. I don’t know how to do that. That’s more of the courts and the policymakers but, from my perspective, it’s wrong to allow this to go on.”
Alexander’s board spot will also give Amazon new expertise in defense contracting, an area of particular focus for the company in recent years. Amazon was a leading candidate for a recent $10 billion cloud computing contract with the Pentagon, but it ultimately lost out to Microsoft. The company is currently engaged in a lawsuit against the federal government in connection with the contract, alleging that President Donald Trump’s personal statements against Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos biased the process against Amazon.