Commenter Cassander regularly recommends the famous Eisenhower "military industrial complex" speech--Ike's final speech as president--seeing this prescient speech as offering insight into the current plight of our constitutional order. Today Red State offers Eric Felten riffing off the Ike theme, in a article that was originally published by Real Clear Investigations:
Critics of tech industry power and influence point out that Big Tech is now among the biggest employers of lobbyists, hiring primarily those who formerly worked for government.
The article is a dense case study of the close collaboration between, in particular, Amazon Web Services and the Intelligence Community--forming, it seems, a nearly seamless "Digital Intelligence Complex." We're all aware of this, but this case study method puts faces to what may seem like an almost impersonal development:
The synergy between Washington and Silicon Valley can be seen as the latest manifestation of the Beltway’s revolving door. But the size and scope of Big Tech—and the increasing dependence of government on its products and talent—suggest something more: the rise of a Digital-Intelligence Complex. Like the Military-Industrial Complex that President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against in 1961, it represents a symbiotic relationship in which the lines between one and the other are blurred.
But It's not impersonal. In point of fact it's very personal. There are real people behind this development who are benefiting--bigly. Here are the final two paragraphs:
Here is the cast of characters in Felten's narrative (edited from the article):
Susan Gordon - After three decades at the Central Intelligence Agency, Gordon had risen to one of the top jobs in the cloak-and-dagger world: principal deputy director of national intelligence.
André Pienaar - founder and CEO of a tech firm called C5 Capital, whose business includes reselling AWS services.
Teresa Carlson - AWS vice president for worldwide public sector and industries. Growth in her sector is "largely driven by big U.S. government projects.”
Sally Donnelly - A former Time magazine reporter who left journalism and became director of the Washington office of U.S. Central Command. She left DoD in 2012 and formed a consulting practice called SBD Advisors. One of her first clients was André Pienaar's C5 Capital. Soon, SBD added Amazon Web Services to its roster of customers. Donnelly’s SBD advised AWS on how to sell its services to the Pentagon.
Donnelly helped guide Secretary of Defense nominee James Mattis through his Senate confirmation hearing in 2017, and was offered a position as a senior adviser to Mattis. ... Also joining Mattis, as his deputy chief of staff, was Tony DeMartino, who had worked on the Amazon account at Donnelly’s consultancy.
Jim "Moderate Dog" Mattis - While Donnelly and DeMartino were working for Mattis, the Pentagon was considering and comparing 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 business, Oracle and IBM, each complained to the Government Accountability Office that they had been cut out of a fair chance at the contract.
There's lots of detail on Mattis, but this is delicious:
Mattis met with various tech executives, including Bezos, on a West Coast trip. But he also met privately again with Bezos, over dinner in Washington 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 inspector general seemed more persuaded that illegitimate influence, if there had been any, had come from a Bezos-hating President Trump, who reportedly told Mattis to “screw Amazon.”
Read it all. Trump was like a minnow in a tank full of piranhas.
Well, maybe that's not a truly exact metaphor, but his hands were pretty much tied by the bureaucracy. Consider, with all the shenanigans going on at DoJ, there was also the entire USIC. And DoD. The scope of the corruption and resistance is mind boggling.