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‘Bulk data collection is needed’

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Vice Admiral Michael S. Rogers
Vice Admiral Michael S. Rogers

The nominee to head the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) on Tuesday defended the use of bulk data collection but said he also wants more transparency about the secretive spy service.

Vice Admiral Michael Rogers, nominated by President Barack Obama to head the agency, told lawmakers the NSA needs to be able to access the vast amounts of metadata to be able to thwart terror attacks.

In a written response to questions from a Senate panel, Vice Admiral Rogers said he sees a need to maintain the law authorising bulk collection of phone records, known as Section 215, which has come under fire for trampling on the rights of Americans and others.

“The telephone metadata program under Section 215 was designed to map the communications of terrorists so we can see who they may be in contact with as quickly as possible,” Vice Admiral Rogers said.

“I believe that we need to maintain an ability to make queries of phone records in a way that is agile and provides results in a timely fashion. Being able to quickly review phone connections associated with terrorists to assess whether a network exists is critical.”

But he told the senators in a hearing he believes the public has a right to have better information in view of the revelations in recent months from documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. “I would attempt to be as transparent as possible with the public about what we are doing and why,” he said.

Vice Admiral Rogers, who trained as an intelligence cryptologist, would succeed General Keith Alexander, who has served in the top job since 2005. He currently heads the U.S. Fleet Cyber Command, overseeing the navy's cyber warfare specialists.

An important goal if he is confirmed, he said, is developing a notion of “deterrence” in cyberspace to allow potential adversaries to know they would face consequences for a cyber attack. “We have effective deterrent strategies in place in the other war fighting domains, in the form of our demonstrated military might and capability,” he said. “Cyber deterrence should evolve in the same way.” — AFP


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