U.S. President Barack Obama has nominated Vice Admiral Michael Rogers, a Navy cyber-warfare specialist to be the next Director of the National Security Agency, the government institution whose global Internet and telephone surveillance programmes have attracted sharp criticism since June 2013.
Mr. Rogers, whose nomination was announced by Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel on Thursday, will wear two hats, as he also will, subject to confirmation by the U.S. Congress, be the boss of the Pentagon’s Cyber Command.
He will take over from the current NSA Director Keith Alexander, who is set to step down in March. Mr. Hagel also announced the NSA’s new Deputy Director would be its current Chief Operating Officer, Rick Ledgett.
At the NSA Mr. Rogers may well face a trial by fire as he takes over at a time of deep public and Congressional concern over whether the Agency is violating privacy rights or other civil liberties as it carries out large-scale spying activities under the guidance of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court.
The entire framework of the NSA’s work, focused on what is called ‘Signals Intelligence’ analysis, came into the spotlight after whistleblower and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden made public a series of secret documents outlining the extent and some methods of the NSA’s spying activities.
Mr. Ledgett is said to be the NSA official leading the task force “assessing the damage done” by the revelations of Mr. Snowden and make internal changes that could prevent a repeat of “the biggest leak of secret data in American history.”
However Mr. Ledgett raised eyebrows recently when he said in a television news interview, “It’s worth having a conversation” about giving Mr. Snowden “amnesty from prosecution in return for a full accounting of what he took from the NSA.”