3:53 p.m. September 9, 2013

Ron Conway Is Not Going To Bullshit You About The NSA

Except in so far as he just did, on stage, in front of a couple of thousand people.

Earlier today, speaking at the Disrupt conference, TechCrunch founder (and NSFWCORP investor) Michael Arrington took to the stage to interview famed Silicon Valley angel investor Ron Conway.

Arrington, an avowed libertarian, has launched a crusade against NSA spying. Or as he put it on his blog: “I’m scared of our government and I’m disgusted by what little Silicon Valley has done to fight it.”

Quite right, Mike. Except that, as I've written before, Arrington and his fellow investors stand to make an absolute shit-ton of money from the companies who facilitate exactly the kind of spying that scares and disgusts him. In fact, Arrington is a limited partner in Ron Conway's "SV Angel" investment vehicle, which has invested in surveillance technology companies Cloudera, iMove and Mocana. Who else invested in those companies? In-Q-Tel: otherwise known as the venture capital arm of the CIA.

It's unsurprising, then, that Conway wasn't hugely keen to join in Arrington's hypocritical faux-rage against their mutual pals at In-Q-Tel. From TechCrunch's account of the conversation:

'“I believe that we have to balance national security but there was this thing called 9/11.. you have to balance that with transparency,” Conway responded. “From my [political] involvement I’ve picked three issues in the last year, gun safety, immigration reform and civic engagement…

'He added: “The events of the last 60 days indicate there needs to be a balance between transparency and national security… but I’m spending the rest of this year working on immigration reform... Right now to me immigration reform is more important… I’m not a bullshitter [who will] tell people I’m going to do the same with NSA reform."'

So it's not that Conway is pro- CIA/NSA, it's that he has no interest in it at all. He's far too busy to get involved. He's not going to bullshit you by saying otherwise.

Still, at least Conway is only apathetic on intelligence issues (aside from his co-investments with the CIA). Some in Silicon Valley are so pally with the intelligence services that they could probably cup Keith Alexander's balls while he reads your email.

Early last year, one wealthy silicon valley luminary opened up his San Francisco home for a fundraiser on behalf of the CIA Officers Memorial Foundation. The event was co hosted by former CIA director George Tenet (and, bizarrely, MC Hammer) and guests were promised the chance to meet members of the intelligence services and "several former members of the elite SEAL Teams." According to the invitation, a "minimum $5000 donation is requested."

The identity of the man who rolled out a red carpet for the cream of America's intelligence services, and black-ops soldiers? A man who clearly won't be joining Michael Arrington's pledge to curb the government's spying powers any time soon?

Confirmed non-bullshitter, Ron Conway.

From: Ron Conway
Date: Sunday, February 26, 2012
Subject: Invitation to a Cocktail Reception for The CIA Officers Memorial Foundation and the Navy SEAL Foundation - March 15, 2012
To: [Redacted]

On behalf of The CIA Officers Memorial Foundation and the Navy SEAL Foundation

You are invited you to a Cocktail Reception

Co-Hosts:

Ron & Gayle Conway, George Tenet (Former Director of the CIA), Michael Ovitz, Gilman Louie, Marc Andreessen, Ben Horowitz, Todd Bradley, and MC Hammer

Special Guests

George Tenet, Former Director of the CIA

Jerry Komisar, President, CIA Officers Memorial Foundation

Along with several former members of the elite SEAL Teams

Thursday evening, March 15, 2012 – 6:30PM

at the home of Ron & Gayle Conway

[Redacted]

(valet parking provided)

*SUGGESTED MINIMUM DONATION OF $5,000 PER PERSON IS REQUESTED*