In the weeks since former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden exposed secret spying programs, NSA Director General Keith Alexander has been shuttling to Capitol Hill for hearings and closed-door meetings with angry lawmakers. At his side is Deputy Director Chris Inglis. The head of the NSA must be a military officer, and its No. 2 a civilian with the experience to run the agency’s daily operations and help the uniformed chief navigate its labyrinthine organization.
During his 27-year tenure at the NSA, Inglis, a computer scientist, has held a series of senior jobs overseeing the collection and analysis of foreign communications, including those from China and North Korea. “Chris has had a rapid rise,” says James Lewis, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who’s known Inglis for more than a decade. “He’s not the kind of guy who gets caught unprepared.” Unflappable and famous for his prodigious memory, Inglis is widely admired within the agency and on the Hill. “Chris has off-the-charts people skills,” says Tony Sager, a former senior official at the NSA. Colleagues also say the longtime Eagle Scout projects a Scout-like earnestness. That might come in handy as he and his boss try to convince Congress that the NSA’s snooping is all for the public’s good.