In June 2019, Susan Gordon performed on a stage at the Washington Convention Center. Behind her loomed three giant letters, & # 39; AWS, & # 39; short for Amazon Web Services, the cloud computing division of the giant internet retailer. After three decades with the Central Intelligence Agency, Gordon had risen to one of the top positions in the world of cloak and dagger: Chief Assistant Director of National Intelligence. From then on, she publicly praised the virtues of Amazon Web Services and the cloud services provided by the tech giant the CIA.
US intelligence officer Susan Gordon, top photo, praised Amazon Web Services in 2019 and, just above, during a 2015 "FedTalks" with AWS Vice President Bill Vass. He spoke glowingly about the partnership between government and AWS. She agreed, "… If you believe in the engine of a great society, you've just described it."
YouTube / AWS
She told the crowd that the intelligence community's decision in 2013 to sign a multi-year $ 600 million contract with AWS for cloud computing will be one of the reasons that caused the biggest leap forward. … The investment we made so many years ago to try to harness the power of the cloud with a partner who wanted to learn and grow with us has made us not only ready for today, but also positioned for tomorrow. "
The deal was also a "real game-changer," said André Pienaar, founder and CEO of a technology company called C5 Capital, which, among other things, is active in reselling AWS services. "When the CIA said they were going to adopt the AWS cloud platform," Pienaar said at another AWS event. "People said if the US intelligence community has the confidence to feel safe in the AWS cloud, why can't we?"
Gordon left the government in August 2019, two months after her AWS summit interview. In November 2019, she became a senior advisor to a consulting firm with close Amazon connections and in April joined the board of defense contractor with extensive AWS activities.
Gordon is one of many former government officials who have landed lucrative employment at Big Tech.
Ike & # 39; s televised farewell speech in 1961 foresighted the & # 39; military-industrial complex & # 39 ;. Now it seems to have evolved.
The synergy between Washington and Silicon Valley can be seen as the Beltway & # 39; s latest manifestation revolving doorBut the size and scope of Big Tech – and the government's increasing dependence on its products and talent – suggest something more: the emergence of a Digital Intelligence Complex. Like the military-industrial complex that President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about in 1961, it represents a symbiotic relationship in which the lines between one and the other are blurred.
Gordon's history illustrates this development. Her approval from Amazon was important to the company: AWS cited the success of the CIA deal as the main reason the Pentagon had to award the company a 10-year $ 10 billion cloud computing contract for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI . That offer is in litigation because rival tech companies have accused the government of insider trading, political interference and other inaccuracies in considering and awarding the contract.
Amazon's web service side is considered the most profitable part of the giant business. Illustrating AWS's place of honor within Amazon, Jeff Bezos recently announced that he is stepping down from his role as CEO and making way for Andy Jassy, who has led the AWS subsidiary. It's also a big reason why Amazon chose the suburbs of DC for the company's new headquarters: "The DC tech sector is one of the fastest growing in the world," said Teresa Carlson, AWS vice president for Worldwide Public Sector and Industries. , to Washington Life Magazine. year. That growth is "driven largely by major US government projects," she added.
Jeff Bezos recently relinquished the role of Amazon CEO to Andy Jassy, boss of Amazon Web Services, illustrating that AWS has a prominent place within Amazon. AWS Vice President Teresa Carlson, left, says growth is "largely driven by major US government projects."
While Amazon has built that government company, AWS has had no greater cheerleader than Gordon, who has repeatedly made presentations praising Amazon. In 2018 she appeared at a conference between government and industry called & # 39; FedTalks & # 39 ;. She shared the stage with Bill Vass, AWS Vice President Engineering, who interviewed her about the work they had done together.
"In this case, can you talk a little bit about the partnership you've had with the cloud provider?" Vass asked, adding, "It's been very tight."
“Throughout my career, which has been long, all the great advancements we've made have been in partnership with the industry,” replied Gordon. "We've had a partner who is as committed to our needs as we are."
Vass said the work with the government had made AWS more attractive to private sector companies buying cloud services: “ I found it very satisfying to also get input from the intelligence community and put that into our commercial products. So our commercial products … "
"We're demanding," Gordon interrupted with a laugh.
"Yes, you are demanding, which is a good thing because it keeps us raising the bar and I think this has enabled us to incorporate those features into our commercial products," said Vass. "And many of the security requirements you had just existed for our commercial products, which our commercial customers can now take advantage of."
"Right," said Gordon.
"Right," agreed Vass. “So they had about the same level of security as you, which is pretty exciting for all of our customers.
"Yes," said Gordon enthusiastically, "so if you believe in the engine of a great society, you just described it."
& # 39; Can't wait to see what we do & # 39;
Gordon also appeared in a & # 39; customer spotlight & # 39; on October 7, 2015 at a meeting called the AWS re: Invent conference, where she gave a testimony to Amazon, "With the help of partners like AWS, I can't wait to see what we do."
A former top federal ethics official says that if he had been asked to approve Gordon's participation in AWS events, he would have demanded that she explicitly tell the public that she did not support Amazon. The former official told RCI that employees of the executive branch should be careful not to violate regulations that prohibit "the approval of a product, service or company."
RealClearInvestigations has attempted to contact Gordon multiple times for comment; she didn't answer. RCI also asked the Office of the Director of National Intelligence whether Gordon's speech had been approved by government attorneys. "ODNI has implemented a process to ensure that all commitments … are properly assessed and vetted, including by ODNI ethics officials," said an ODNI spokesperson. ODNI has not made available any material documenting such assessment or screening.
For years, AWS has made the same argument for its cloud services that Gordon repeatedly offered: that the intelligence community's choice of the product showed the way forward for both the public and private sectors. But Gordon wasn't the only person with government ties and strong ties to Amazon.
Sally Donnelly: Helped guide to both the Secretary of Defense and Amazon.
Sally Donnelly is a former Time magazine reporter who has left journalism and who would become director of the US Central Command office in Washington. She left the Department of Defense in 2012 and founded a consultancy called SBD Advisors. One of its first clients was C5 Capital, the technology company founded and run by André Pienaar. SBD soon added Amazon Web Services to its customer base. Donnelly's SBD advised AWS on the sale of its services to the Pentagon.
Donnelly assisted Secretary of Defense nominee James Mattis during his Senate confirmation hearing in 2017 and was offered a position as a senior adviser to Mattis. To accept, she had to sell her business. Also with Mattis, as his deputy chief of staff, was Tony DeMartino, who had worked on the Amazon account at Donnelly's consulting firm.
Donnelly found a turnkey buyer for her consulting firm in Pienaar & # 39; s C5 Capital, which already owned 20% of SBD. Donnelly was paid $ 1.56 million for her remaining 80% stake. Donnelly received the payments in chunks of $ 390,000, the majority during her time at the Pentagon.
Trump Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis: Attended a private dinner in London full of Amazon connections.
AP Photo / Richard Drew, File
While Donnelly and DeMartino worked for Secretary of Defense Mattis, the Pentagon considered and compared the companies competing for all or part of the $ 10 billion JEDI contract. Among the competitors was AWS. Two of the other companies vying for JEDI cases, Oracle and IBM, each complained to the Government Accountability Office that they did not have a fair shot at the contract. That would lead to an investigation by the DoD's inspector general, details of which were published in April last year. “The complaints we received claimed, among other things, that Secretary Mattis and Ms. Donnelly gave Amazon preferential treatment,” the IG said.
One of the events that Amazon & # 39; s cloud computing competitors complained about was a private dinner on March 31, 2017 that Mattis attended in London. The dinner was hosted by retired British General Graeme Lamb at 5 Hertford Street (a private club regularly described as "secretive"). Dinner had less than a dozen guests. They included Donnelly, Amazon Web Services V.P. Carlson and Pienaar from C5 Capital.
Interviewed by the Inspector General about the dinner, Mattis described Pienaar as a "friend". As for Carlson, he said he had never met her before the London meeting and he "wasn't sure why Teresa Carlson had been taken in", but he offered that "Sally (Donnelly) Teresa knew & # 39 ;. Donnelly told the IG she had no "insight" into why Carlson was at the dinner.
Tony DeMartino: Mattis assistant helped open the door to Amazon, and soon Mattis met Jeff Bezos.
But the idea that Carlson was an unknown mystery guest is unsupported by a sworn testimony made to the DoD Inspector General, transcripts of which have been obtained by RealClearInvestigations. Six weeks before dinner in London, DeMartino had sent Carlson an email saying, "Of course we would like all of our friends around us to move forward." Asked by the inspector general what he had meant, DeMartino explained that the secretary had "a list of the people who were to fill jobs at the Department of Defense." The White House had its own list and "it was negotiated." & # 39; So & # 39; DeMartino replied to the IG, & # 39; that comment to Teresa was that she was on Secretary Mattis's list for a possible job. & # 39; RCI contacted Mattis and asked why Carlson was on his list for a & # 39; higher position & # 39; at the DoD if he didn't know her and never met her Mattis didn't respond.
The dinner host, Lamb, is a partner at C5 Capital. Dinner opened the door to Amazon with Mattis. Los Angeles Air Force Base Space and Missile A few weeks later someone from Amazon called Mattis staff and told them that the Secretary of Defense had expressed an interest in meeting with (Jeff) Bezos at dinner in London. .
There was a question among the military bureaucrats whether Mattis should meet with the founder of Amazon. So Donnelly drafted an internal memo explaining the reasons for going ahead with the proposed meeting. Among them, "Bezos owns the Washington Post." Donnelly praised his achievements: “Amazon is one of the most successful start-ups in the history of the US economy,” she wrote. "Amazon has revolutionized delivery and customer service." And then there was the product: "The Amazon cloud is the foundation of all Amazon businesses and enables unprecedented speed." She also made the argument that top intelligence agency Sue Gordon repeated during Amazon's sales covenants – that the CIA uses Amazon's cloud.
Jeff Bezos: His private meeting with Secretary of Defense Mattis caught the attention of the DoD's Inspector General.
Los Angeles Air Base
Mattis met several technical executives, including Bezos, on a trip to the west coast. But he also met Bezos again privately, at a dinner in Washington on the evening of January 17, 2018. The only others at the dinner were Carlson and Donnelly.
The Inspector General concluded in April 2020 that, even with their connections to Amazon, neither Donnelly nor DeMartino had acted unethically. The IG seemed more convinced that unlawful influence, if any, had come from a Bezos-hating President Trump, who allegedly told Mattis to "screw Amazon."
By the time the IG report came out, Mattis was no longer Secretary of Defense. And Sally Donnelly and Tony DeMartino had already left the Pentagon to start a new consulting firm, Pallas advisersTeresa Carlson then married André Pienaar.
The JEDI contract was eventually awarded to Microsoft. Amazon is asking a federal court to reverse the Pentagon's decision. An AWS spokesperson told RealClearInvestigations that the DoD is trying to "avoid a meaningful and transparent overhaul of the JEDI contract award."
In August 2019, Sue Gordon stepped down as Deputy Director of the National Intelligence Service. Her career in the private sector flourished. Last April, she joined the board of defense contractor CACI. According to its website, "CACI is an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Premier Consulting Partner, Public Sector Partner and Authorized Reseller." The company brags about its "healthy, revenue-generating consultancy business across AWS."
It is plausible that given AWS's distant reach in Washington, it would be difficult for Gordon to find government mail without a connection to Amazon or AWS. That said, Gordon isn't quite in the AWS job. She consults with Microsoft. Still, the most interesting private company Gordon has gone to work for is one founded by "consultants" with longstanding AWS connections. Gordon is now a senior advisor to the company that Sally Donnelly and Tony DeMartino formed after they left the Pentagon: Pallas Advisors.
If it turns out that there is a steadily rotating door between tech companies and national security workers and officials, it may be because Gordon is in favor of it. In an interview with Wired magazine, while still in office, Gordon argued for what Wired described as & # 39; more of a revolving door & # 39 ;. Gordon was characterized by proposing "a new paradigm for the sharing of talented workers between the government and the private sector." According to Wired, she claimed that techies should start with the government, where they can learn about the problems and challenges. They need to move to the private sector, where they have more freedom to innovate. "And if they are ready to slow down and leave the rat race," Wired quotes her as saying, "they can return to government."
Gordon calls this & # 39; cross-pollination & # 39; and & # 39; sharing talents & # 39 ;.
Critics of the tech industry's power and influence point out that Big Tech is now one of the largest employers of lobbyists, hiring mainly those who previously worked for the government. In 2010, Amazon hired eight lobbyists. Last year, the company flooded the zone with 118, according to the Center for Responsive Politics
This may or may not be good for the government, which cannot afford to fall behind with the latest technologies. But it's clearly good for government employees moving into the private sector, especially those who have been outspoken "partners" and technology advocates.
. (tagsToTranslate) Amazon Web Services