Noted cryptographer Bruce Schneier, who’s been a vocal and active opponent of the domestic surveillance operations of the U.S. and British governments, is leaving long-time employer BT (formerly British Telecom), FedScoop has confirmed.
News of his departure comes six weeks after FedScoop first ran a story investigating the potential conflict of interest between Schneier’s role as an executive with a government contractor and his public role assisting journalists at the Guardian newspaper to study and understand the technical details of the information contained in the thousands of pages of classified U.S. and U.K. documents stolen by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Schneier confirmed his departure in an email to FedScoop, but said “contrary to rumors, this has nothing to do with the NSA or GCHQ.”
BT would only confirm Schneier “is leaving BT at the end of December 2013.” The company declined to answer FedScoop’s questions about potential legal or business troubles stemming from Schneier’s active participation in the Snowden affair and his public calls for others with access to classified information to leak more data.
“No, BT wasn’t always happy with my writings on the topic, but they knew that I am an independent thinker and they didn’t try to muzzle me in any way,” Schneier said in an email. “I’m just ready to leave. I have spent seven years at BT, and seven years at Counterpane Internet Security, Inc. before BT bought us. It’s past time for something new.”
Schneier is a noted cryptographer often quoted by reporters writing about cybersecurity. He has done a fair amount of writing himself, including publishing a popular blog, a newsletter called Crypto-Gram and several books. But lately, Schneier has been quite vocal about the NSA surveillance programs. Not only has he entered into a contract with the Guardian to help that newspaper understand the leaked classified NSA documents, but he has launched an all-out lobbying campaign to, in his words, take the Internet back and dismantle the surveillance state.
“If you have been contacted by the NSA to subvert a product or protocol, you need to come forward with your story,” Schneier wrote in an editorial published Sept. 5 in the Guardian. “If you work with classified data and are truly brave, expose what you know. We need whistleblowers,” he wrote, characterizing such actions as a “form of civil disobedience.”
But while Schneier may be a respected security commentator, he’s also been serving as the so-called “security futurologist” at BT, which in 2006 acquired Counterpane Internet Security Inc., the company Schneier founded. Counterpane’s former website now points to BT’s Global Services website. Documents on the company’s website list nearly a dozen federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Transportation Security Administration, as longtime customers of BT’s secure videoconferencing solutions and other security technologies. The company also lists multiple General Services Administration contract vehicles and purchasing options.
Security and legal experts told FedScoop in October that Schneier’s work with the Snowden documents and his public calls for more leaks could lead to a series of legal problems for BT in both the U.S. and Great Britain.
In response to FedScoop’s story in October, BT said in a statement “the views Bruce expresses on his blog are his own and have nothing to do with BT.”
“As to what comes next,” Schneier wrote, “answer, cloudy; ask again later.”