12 former security officials who warned of antitrust crackdown have tech ties

Former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who was instrumental in crafting the September 15 warning, is a senior adviser to the King & Spalding law firm, which represents Google before the Judiciary Committee of the Chamber in connection with the tech giants panel’s antitrust investigation. King and Spalding wrote a white paper released last week by Google’s main business group, the Computer & Communications Industry Association, making similar arguments that antitrust bills could harm national security.

These technological ties were not immediately apparent when the dozen former officials sent their letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, urging lawmakers to halt action on a bipartisan ensemble. antitrust bills targeting Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon. But their revelation could deepen skepticism in Congress about China’s message of distrust.

“It’s no surprise that the people who get money from Big Tech stand up for Big Tech,” Colorado Representative Ken Buck, the top Republican on the antitrust panel, said in a statement to POLITICO. “Ultimately, Big Tech harms competition and innovation in the United States through anti-competitive practices.”

None of the former officials who signed the letter responded to requests for comment. Axios first reported the existence of the letter last week, while noting that “several” of the signatories had ties to the tech industry.

Allies of the former officials say their argument remains valid.

“It should come as no surprise that national security officials are worried about legislation that would hamper US tech companies while not applying to their foreign competitors,” said Heather Greenfield, spokesperson for the US. CCIA. She said the tech trade group was not involved in drafting or distributing the letter to Pelosi or McCarthy.

Tech trade groups have been promoting the anti-China message for years as they sought to avoid antitrust actions. Industries struggling with similar challenges have also argued that Washington’s regulations could hurt America’s competitiveness – whether the financial industry is pointing fingers at Japan while pushing for deregulation in the 1990s. , or Qualcomm arguing during the Trump era that the The United States is giving up the future of 5G in China by pursuing an action against the company.

This time around, the warnings fall flat among critics of big tech companies.

“It’s a very smart way of going after Republicans, of attacking the national security angle,” said Jon Schweppe, director of political and government affairs at the American Principles Project, which supports antitrust repression. “But what we found, and we see it with this letter… Apple and all of their public policy teams.

“It’s hard to give that any credibility once you know it is,” said Schweppe.

Among the technological links of the signatories of letters:

– Seven of the 12, including Panetta, hold positions at Beacon Global Strategies, a public relations firm who, according to a person familiar with the matter, has Google as a client. (The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the firm does not advertise to its clientele.)

Google and Beacon Global Strategies did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Five of the former officials, including former National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency director Robert Cardillo and former National Security Agency deputy director Richard Ledgett, sit on Beacon’s advisory board. Panetta and Michael Morell, a former acting CIA director under President Barack Obama, are the company’s senior advisers.

– Cardillo, the former manager of the NGA, became earlier this year Chairman of the Board of Earth Imaging Company Planet Federal. Planet Federal is a division of Planet Labs, a company in which Google has a significant equity stake.

– All signatories have ties to organizations that receive money from tech giants or defense companies that partner closely with Amazon and Google – a sign of the pervasiveness of big tech funding around the world Washington politics.

Sue Gordon, a former senior deputy director of national intelligence, is a member of the advisory board of the Institute of National Security at Antonin Scalia Law School, which counts Amazon as one of the major backers. James Foggo III, a retired naval admiral, is a member of the Center for European Policy Analysis, which Google lists as one of the organizations it funds.

Frances Townsend, who was the Counterterrorism and Homeland Security Advisor to President George W. Bush, is a member of the National Security Advisory Board of American Edge, a Facebook funded group who opposes changes to strengthen antitrust laws.

Townsend is also a board member of the Atlantic Council, which has Facebook and Google as funders; the board of directors of the 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 Facebook and Google accounts in its highest membership category.

Regardless of the other impact letter, it appears to have inspired at least one other former national security official to speak out for tougher antitrust laws – Wes Clark, a former Democratic presidential candidate who was the Supreme Commander of NATO’s Allied Forces in Europe last week. tweeted“We cannot let the anxiety over competitiveness with China become an excuse to look away from the anti-competitive behavior of big US tech companies. “

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