US whistleblower Edward Snowden criticized Amazon after it was reported that Keith Alexander, a former chief of the US National Security Agency (NSA), who held the post when the global surveillance scandal broke out, had joined the e-commerce giant’s board as a director. Snowden took to Twitter to note that Alexander is personally responsible for the NSA’s illegal mass surveillance program.
🚨🚨 It turns out "Hey Alexa" is short for "Hey Keith Alexander." Yes, the Keith Alexander personally responsible for the unlawful mass surveillance programs that caused a global scandal. And Amazon Web Services (AWS) host ~6% of all websites. 🚨🚨https://t.co/6hkzsHjxh9— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) September 9, 2020
Amazon’s move was criticized by the organization Privacy International, which called the move "worrying".
"Amazon now wants to corner in on the lucrative defence and security market - and with that the keys to the huge data stores held by governments. It is no secret that the key to this is hiring influential former public servants. The concentration of power that will arise from this is bad for people, bad for companies, and bad for societies," said Omanovic.
The development comes as, last week, a US federal court ruled that the NSA’s massive surveillance program, under which the agency obtained details on millions of Americans’ phone calls, was illegal and possibly unconstitutional.
In 2013, when Snowden leaked the cache of top secret documents, which also revealed that the US had spied on its allies and gained access to the information of millions of people in the United states and across the world, then-NSA director Keith Alexander suggested that the media simply should not have reported the issue.
"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. We ought to come up with a way of stopping it", Alexander told the Verge in 2013. There is currently no evidence that the freely-leaked information has been bought or sold.
Other revelations about the NSA made by Snowden include:
- The NSA snooped on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who compared the NSA to Stasi, the dreaded security service in East Germany which normally spied on all of its citizens.
- The agency accessed over 70 million phone records of French citizens in just one month, and spied on communications of senior officials in the European Union.
- 38 embassies and missions were targeted by NSA spying. Among those countries were Greece, India, Italy, Japan and South Korea.
- The NSA ran a continent-wide surveillance program in Latin America and spied on Brazil’s state-owned oil firm, Petrobras.
- Documents leaked to the Washington Post claim that the NSA broke US laws on privacy hundreds of times every year.
Following the disclosure of the illegal NSA surveillance program, Snowden fled the United States for Russia, where he has been granted the right of asylum. In the United States, he has been charged with three felonies including theft of government property and two counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917.