February 2, 2014
The embattled National Security Agency is about to get new leaders to deal with the ongoing fallout from whistleblower Edward Snowden’s surveillance disclosures.
Vice-admiral Michael Rogers, the commander of the US navy’s tenth fleet and its Fleet Cyber Command, will take over from NSA Director Keith Alexander, who reluctantly became a global figure in the wake of the Snowden revelations.
Rogers is a longtime cryptologist in the Navy, whose informal turn it was to nominate a director for the NSA. Alexander is an Army general; and his predecessor, Michael Hayden, hailed from the Air Force.
Rogers has a resume studded with experience in cryptography and electronic eavesdropping that are central to the NSA’s charter. Tenth Fleet, inert since World War II, was reactivated as the Navy’s cybersecurity command and based at Fort Meade, the base of operations for the military’s infant Cyber Command – which Rogers will also head, pending Senate approval – and the NSA. Rogers also served for two years on the military’s Joint Staff as intelligence director, a prestigious Pentagon post.
But his low-profile commissions have not provided him with a platform to articulate his views on the propriety and appropriate scope of the bulk surveillance of a large swath of world communications, the subject of Snowden’s disclosures that have been published in the Guardian, the Washington Post and other news outlets worldwide.
Nor will the Senate have a chance to scrutinize him, at least formally. The NSA directorship is not a position confirmed by the Senate. Rogers’ appointment to head US Cyber Command, which is co-located with the NSA and largely reliant on its personnel and expertise to protect US military networks, will require Senate approval, making Rogers’ forthcoming Senate Armed Services Committee hearing a proxy venue to learn his views on surveillance.
“Rogers has never had to make the public case that the country’s intelligence apparatus is not abusing its legal authorities,” wrote Shane Harris in a recent Foreign Policy profile.
Whether or not Rogers will endorse any further reigning in of those NSA programs is a matter that will likely not be known until and if he is officially confirmed to take control. According to at least one interview with the Navy cryptologist, though, he’s likely to continue Gen. Alexander’s ethos of ensuring the US can collect and control seemingly all of the intelligence that’s transmitted around the globe.
Speaking in late-2012 to CHIPS, the Department of the Navy’s Information Technology magazine, Rogers indicated that he favored not just increasing the offensive power of the American military’s cyber units, but also stressed the importance of the US maintaining its dominance over the world’s information.
“The Navy’s cyber warriors are doing an incredible job every day defending the network and achieving information dominance,” he told CHIPS. “To preserve the Navy’s cyber warfighting advantage, we must continue to develop an elite workforce that is recruited, trained and educated to better understand the maritime environment, employ the latest technological advances and deliver cyber warfighting capability anywhere around the world,” he told CHIPS.
“In summary, the Navy’s success across the maritime domain is guaranteed by our ability to defend, project power and prevail in cyberspace with an exceptionally trained cyber force, continued vigilance, proven tactics and an unshakable warrior ethos,” he added. “If you are not excited by the opportunity that cyber represents to the Navy then you do not have a pulse,” he said in a separate interview last year to the Navy Times.
Richard Ledgett, the head of the agency’s investigation into Snowden – who publicly floated the prospect of an amnesty for the former contractor – will become the NSA’s new deputy director and top civilian leader.
The appointments, both long anticipated, were announced by the Pentagon on Thursday.