Here’s what Jeff Bezos has to say about Amazon’s pursuit of CIA contracts

September 4, 2013

Post Deputy Managing Editor Scott Vance, left, shows Bezos the proposed front page design of the next day’s paper. (Matt McClain / The Washington Post)

You might remember that time last month when it was announced that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was buying the Washington Post. Today, there was a Post staff Q&A with Bezos. While many of the questions surrounded the future of the Post, I decided to use the time to ask about Amazon's pursuit of CIA cloud computing contracts -- after all, one of the first rules of journalism is that you need to use access when you have it.

So with that in mind, here's what I asked Bezos:

I can't imagine another time coming up I'll get this kind of access. So do you have any comment on Amazon's pursuit of CIA cloud contracts? Computer World reported that Amazon has 100 plus postings for engineers and technical positions requiring top secret clearance.

Much to my surprise, rather than declining to comment, Bezos did respond -- after laughing a bit, and asking me to repeat the question.

First, he praised Amazon's cloud computing arm Amazon Web Services (AWS) as "the leader in infrastructure cloud computing" and explained to my less technically inclined colleagues that it basically sells "computing time by the hour to other companies." Bezos went on the praise the team, calling it "nimble" with a high "rate of invention."

Then Bezos discussed the specifics of the CIA contract:

The story here is that we won a contract with the CIA. And IBM protested the contract, and now it's either going to get rebid or they're going to decide to rebid it based on litigation. But if you had told anybody even two years ago that IBM would challenge Amazon for a CIA contract, people would be amazed. What that team has done in a very short time is remarkable. Their product offering is far ahead of anyone else. Mostly because they started so early and worked so hard on it.

And that was it. So, he did comment, but didn't really say much more praising his team and repeating what was already public knowledge. Clearly, the man has experience dealing with the press.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get in a follow-up to ask if I get into the invitation-only recruiting event for technical folks with top secret clearance reportedly scheduled for Sept. 24 and 25 in Herndon, Va.

To the best of my knowledge, I remain employed by The Washington Post.

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.
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