Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
Millions of Americans brought Alexa into their homes only to learn, belatedly, that not only software, but human beings, were listening in on them. Amazon employees and contractors from Costa Rica to India were caught reviewing thousands of recordings, of casual requests, private conversations and intimate moments, and sharing clips that they thought were funny in chat sessions with each other.
The Amazon product is always listening and maintains recordings of your conversations indefinitely.
But now there’s something bigger at stake than privacy violations. Amazon expects a $10 billion cloud contract for the military. The $10 billion contract was a sweetheart deal for a politically influential company that seemed unstoppable until President Trump suddenly slammed the brakes on JEDI.
The deal had always been dubious and many critics had questioned how or why a single company could expect to have a monopoly on the JEDI cloud for the United States military. Amazon’s cloud business is huge, but the Capital One breach of 100 million credit card applications by a former Amazon employee highlighted the company’s security and workforce issues. Capital One kept its data in the cloud through AWS or Amazon Web Services and the hacker was a former AWS employee with specialized knowledge.
In the Obama era, Amazon had received a $600 million cloud contract that covers all 17 intelligence agencies. The secret deal was met with protests especially since Amazon’s wasn’t even the lowest bid.
Just as with JEDI, all the national security eggs were being put into one very fragile basket.
Amazon’s federal cloud contracts took off in the Obama era. Many of the biggest contracts are classified making it difficult to measure how much taxpayer money is being sucked into the Bezos business. But Amazon is winning contracts in the usual Washington D.C. way, by spending millions a year on lobbying.
The dot com titan began lobbying the Pentagon in 2016. That was the year Amazon’s lobbying expenditures hit a whopping $11 million, up from $1.62 million during the Bush administration. Amazon’s PAC, which the company strongly encourages employees to donate to, accounted for $515,200 in donations to members of Congress.
Amazon was the fourth biggest contributor to Senator Mark Warner. And when President Trump put Amazon’s JEDI deal on hold, Warner was among the first to protest the move. In his letter, Warner urged the Secretary of Defense to “resist political pressures” that might scuttle $10 billion for Amazon.
Senator Warner, who was applying political pressure to the Secretary of Defense, to protect a contract that would benefit his contributors, appeared to be unaware of the irony of his message.
But Amazon’s lobbying millions were only the tip of the iceberg of its dubious political influence.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is not only the richest person in the world, with an estimated $156 billion, but is a heavyweight political donor who has outspent other S&P 500 CEOs by a factor of 10. Bezos was the 12th biggest political donor of the 2018 cycle, coming in behind Bloomberg and Soros.
And, even more importantly, Bezos owns the Washington Post. The powerful political tabloid sets the agenda in the government city, but it’s also raising questions about whether Amazon is a security risk for reasons that go far beyond the flaws in AWS or whatever influence it might have used to grab JEDI.
In its story on the JEDI contract, the Washington Post claimed that, “Trump on several occasions has spoken out against Amazon and its chief executive, Jeff Bezos. And he has attacked the Bezos-owned Washington Post for its coverage of him by conflating it with Amazon’s interests.”
Then the Washington Post went on to complain that, “The president has called the news organization the ‘Amazon Washington Post,’ while accusing it of publishing ‘fake news’ and being a ‘lobbyist newspaper’ for the company.” A rumor that the Washington Post helpfully put to bed by doing just that.
But the real problem with the intersection between the Washington Post and Amazon isn’t its left-wing politics: it’s Jamal Khashoggi. A year after Amazon began lobbying the Pentagon, the Washington Post began publishing propaganda screeds in support of the Muslim Brotherhood, shaped by the Qatar Foundation, under the name of Jamal Khashoggi.
The Washington Post was aware that Khashoggi, an old friend of Osama bin Laden and longtime supporter of Islamic terrorism, was operating under Qatari influence. It was also aware that Qatar was the region’s biggest backer of Sunni Islamic terrorism and regime change influence operations. Its publication of Qatari propaganda under Khashoggi’s name and its subsequent insistence on transforming him into a martyr as part of the Qatari influence operation against Saudi Arabia, was an active attempt to influence United States foreign policy on behalf of an enemy government.
It’s behavior properly associated with registered foreign agents. Not an American media outlet.
A company that appears to be operating as an unregistered foreign agent for an enemy government cannot then turn around and have its owner’s company be trusted with the military’s JEDI cloud.
Why the Washington Post chose to participate in the Qatari influence operation is an open question. Until it’s resolved, allowing another company controlled by its owner to have sole dominion over the military cloud, as it already possesses over our intelligence cloud, is an unacceptable security risk.
The issue at stake is about more than whether Amazon or Microsoft get a $10 billion contract.
Our national security has already been badly compromised by the radical employees of contractors, Edward Snowden and Reality Winner. Snowden and Winner both compromised national security through the auspices of The Intercept, a site funded by Franco-Iranian dot com billionaire Pierre Omidyar. The Intercept has also been a notorious vehicle for Qatari influence operations.
Putting the military cloud in the hands of a compromised company could be truly devastating.
The Washington Post has an unfortunate history of acting as an advocate for Qatar and for Islamic terrorists in general. It has run countless pieces in support of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood has multiple terrorist affiliates and is dedicated to subverting our political system.
The Post was criticized for running an op-ed by Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the leader of Yemen’s Houthi terrorists, who are backed by Iran, who have attacked Americans, and who chant, “Death to America”.
Earlier it had been condemned for publishing an op-ed from Ahrar al-Sham, an Islamic guerrilla group that had worked with Al Qaeda. One of the founding members of the armed jihadist group went on to head the Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria. Even Secretary of State John Kerry had condemned it, saying, “From Orlando to San Bernardino to the Philippines and Bali, we’ve seen pictures and we’ve heard testimony of shocking crimes committed by al-Qaida, by Boko Haram, by Jaysh al-Islam, by Ahrar al-Sham, by al-Shabaab, Daesh, other groups against innocent civilians, against journalists, and against teachers.”
But the Washington Post didn’t just offer op-ed space to brutal terrorists, it whitewashed them.
It ran a glowing profile of Salah Badi, a Libyan Islamist terrorist who had been sanctioned by the Treasury Department and the UN Security Council for rocket attacks that had killed civilians.
The Washington Post described the brutal Islamist killer as “one of Tripoli’s defenders”.
Even when it came to ISIS, the Washington Post ran an article headlined, “ISIS kidnapped my best friend. But when I met its fighters, I couldn’t hate them.”
Last year, even the Taliban praised the Washington Post for giving the terror group credibility.
The Washington Post provides terrorists with a forum, whitewashes them and maintains an inappropriate relationship with state sponsors of Islamic terror. A company that shares a common leader with an organization with troubling terror ties should not control the military’s JEDI cloud.
The risks to our national security and the lives of our soldiers would be incalculable.
While American soldiers battle the Taliban in Afghanistan, the military’s JEDI cloud should not belong to a company that shares a leader with a paper that was praised by the Taliban.
While American sailors battle the Houthis in Yemen, the JEDI cloud should not be exposed to a company that shares a leader with an organization that provided the Houthis with a forum.
While American pilots go after Al Qaeda, ISIS and its allies in Syria, they should not be relying on JEDI cloud that shares a leader with an outlet that opened its doors to Al Qaeda’s allies.
Amazon’s JEDI bid is a threat to national security as long as its CEO is involved with a propaganda outlet for foreign terrorist groups and foreign governments that are waging a war against the United States.