President Barack Obama has chosen Navy Vice Admiral Mike Rogers to be the next director of the National Security Agency, as the administration responds to an international backlash over U.S. surveillance programs.
Rogers, who currently leads the U.S. Navy’s Fleet Cyber Command, would replace Army General Keith Alexander, who has served as NSA chief since 2005. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the choice yesterday in a news release. The nomination is subject to Senate confirmation.
The selection of Rogers comes two weeks after Obama proposed changes to top-secret NSA activities, prompted by the exposure last year of U.S. data spying programs by former government contractor Edward Snowden. Disclosure of the agency’s collection of phone and Internet data and its spying on foreign leaders sparked a global uproar.
Rogers, a Chicago native, is a specialist in signals intelligence and code-breaking. He has long been considered Alexander’s likely successor and served previously as an executive officer of the Joint Staff, according to his Navy biography.
The NSA, part of the Defense Department, specializes in signals intelligence and electronic surveillance. Rogers would also serve as head of the military’s U.S. Cyber Command.
Hagel also said that Richard Ledgett, a civilian, has been chosen as the NSA’s deputy director. Ledgett, currently the agency’s chief operating officer, has led the NSA’s response to the fallout from Snowden’s leaks. His nomination doesn’t require Senate approval.
Ledgett said on CBS’s “60 Minutes” program last month that amnesty or some leniency for Snowden would be “worth having a conversation about” if the U.S. could be assured that any data he still has could be secured.
During his Jan. 17 speech outlining changes to the NSA, Obama vowed to restrain the government’s sweeping surveillance programs while defending the agency’s work as a bulwark against “real enemies and threats.”
In the 42-minute address in Washington, Obama said that reconciling the competing interests of national security and personal privacy is a complicated task, made all the more difficult by rapidly changing technology and an evolving threat.
The president said he would require judicial review of requests for phone records and ordered Justice Department and intelligence officials to devise a way to take storage of that data out of the government’s hands.
He promised that U.S. citizens and allies would have confidence that their privacy was protected even as major portions of the spy programs remained little changed.
Under the president’s plan, the U.S. won’t monitor the communications of leaders of close allies unless there is a compelling national security interest. Reports that the U.S. spied on communications of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff stoked tensions with those two allies and led Rousseff to cancel a planned state visit to Washington last year.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Senate panel earlier this week that Snowden’s disclosures had done “profound damage” to U.S. national security and prompted adversaries to change the ways they communicate.
Snowden, who worked for the NSA while employed by government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp. (BAH:US), said in an Internet chat last week that he wouldn’t return to the U.S. because gaps in federal whistle-blower laws leave him unprotected.
The 30-year-old gave classified NSA documents to media organizations including the U.K.-based Guardian newspaper and The Washington Post. He faces federal charges of theft and espionage, and is residing in Russia under temporary asylum.
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