Retired NSA head ‘won lucrative consulting deals’ with Saudis, despite Khashoggi murder, WP

The former head of the United States’ National Security Agency (SNA) has reportedly received at least $700,000 for consultancy contracts with Saudi Arabia, even after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Former NSA director Keith Alexander received $700,000 from Saudi Arabia for consultancy, despite the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at his country’s consulate in Istanbul, revealed the Washington Post.

According to the Washington Post, citing newly-released documents it obtained as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, the NSA’s former head, Keith Alexander had secured consulting deals with foreign governments which amounted to $2 million after leaving office.

While the majority of that amount was paid by the Japanese government in a $1.3 million contract to provide advice on cyber issues, his consultancy firm struck a $700,000 contract with Saudi Arabia’s government to advise the Kingdom on cyber-security.

The revelations build on records that the paper previously obtained and reported on last year, which show that Alexander’s consulting firm – IronNet Cybersecurity – signed a contract with Riyadh in July 2018 to develop the Prince Mohammed bin Salman College of Cyber Security, named after the controversial Saudi Crown Prince who is claimed to have ordered the killing of journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, in Istanbul’s Saudi consulate only months later, despite his denial of any involvement in the assassination.

As federal law requires retired service members to obtain government permission before they can accept any compensation from foreign powers – due to concern that the payments could compromise their allegiance to Washington – the US State Department approved Alexander’s request to serve on the College’s board of advisers in January 2019, three months after Khashoggi’s assassination.

The freshly-released records are primarily a result of last year’s investigation, which found that over 500 retired US military personnel – many of whom were generals and admirals – had accepted employment from foreign nations, mostly as contractors for governments infamous for human rights abuses and political repression.

After long concealing information regarding those foreign contracts and jobs, the US government was legally required to release the records when the Washington Post won a two-year legal battle with the State Department and the various sectors of the armed forces.

As a retired army general and the former head of the largest US intelligence agency, Alexander is reported to have received the most foreign compensation of any retired US service member since 2012, and is among 22 retired generals and admirals who managed to secure consulting contracts and other work from Saudi Arabia over the past decade, largely as advisers to the Saudi Defence Ministry, led by bin Salman until last year.

Such contracts were not limited to Saudi Arabia, but also included the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which has reportedly hired more retired American service members than any other country in the world, as 280 were shown to have secured jobs as military contractors and consultants for the small Gulf power since 2015.

WP also reported that the Pentagon overwhelmingly automatically approves foreign employment requests by retired service members, with around 95 per cent of more than 500 applications submitted between 2015 and 2021 having been granted.