Antitrust Reform and National Security Pushback

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As antitrust reform has advanced, former National Security figures that have clear conflicts of interest have been called in to pushback.

  • A letter was written to the Congressional members by 12 former Security figures. According to Politico all 12 have ties to Big Tech.[1]
  • Former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who was instrumental in putting together the letter, is a senior adviser with the law firm King & Spalding, which represents Google before the House Judiciary Committee in the panel’s antitrust investigation into the tech giants. King & Spalding wrote a white paper released last week by Google’s major trade group, the Computer & Communications Industry Association, making similar arguments that the antitrust bills could harm national security.
  • Seven of the 12, including former defense secretary and CIA director Leon Panetta, hold roles at Beacon Global Strategies, a public relations firm that according to a person familiar with the matter counts Google as a client. (The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the firm does not publicize its clientele.)
  • Five of the former officials, including former director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Robert Cardillo and former National Security Agency deputy director Richard Ledgett, serve as advisory board members at Beacon. Panetta and Michael Morell, a former acting CIA director under President Barack Obama, are senior counselors for the firm.
  • Cardillo, the former NGA director, earlier this year became chair of the board of the Earth imaging company Planet Federal. Planet Federal is a division of Planet Labs, a company in which Google has a significant equity stake.
  • All the signatories have connections to organizations that either receive money from the tech giants or defense companies that partner closely with Amazon and Google — a sign of just how ubiquitous big tech funding has become in Washington’s policy world.
  • Sue Gordon, a former principal deputy director of national intelligence, is an advisory board member of the Antonin Scalia Law School’s National Security Institute, which counts Amazon as a major funder. James Foggo III, a retired Navy admiral, is a fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, which Google lists as one of the organizations it funds.
  • Frances Townsend, who was a counterterrorism and homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush, is on the national security advisory board for American Edge, a Facebook-funded group that opposes changes to strengthen antitrust laws. Townsend is also on the board of directors of the Atlantic Council, which counts Facebook and Google as funders; the board of trustees for Center for Strategic and International Studies, which counts Apple and Google as funders; and the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations, which receives money from Microsoft and counts Facebook and Google in its highest membership category.

But there have also been support for antitrust reform from former National Security figures.

  • A letter was written by former Secretaries Homeland Security Tom Ridge and Janet Napolitano in support of the Open App Markets Act.[2]
    • They assert that there are existing security flaws in the App Stores, that self preferencing will continue to undermine App security, and greater competition in App distribution and payment processing will improve security.

At an Open Markets Institute event, former General Wesley Clark, a current chair of an investment bank focused on energy start-ups and is on the board of software firm Solace, made the case for the The American Innovation and Choice Online Act.[3]

  • He called the bill, a "boost to National Security."
  • He added that massive tech firms make "compromises" to operate in places like China.