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New NSA chief contradicts predecessor over Snowden revelations

Published time: June 30, 2014 17:35
Admiral Michael Rogers.(AFP Photo / Saul Loeb)

Admiral Michael Rogers.(AFP Photo / Saul Loeb)

The new chief of the United States National Security Agency has a difference of opinion when it comes to how his predecessor perceived the outcome caused by former contractor Edward Snowden’s intelligence breach.

US Navy Admiral Mike Rogers, the newest director of the NSA, told the New York Times during a recent interview that his take on the Snowden leaks differs greatly compared to that of Keith Alexander, the four-star general who manned the helm of that agency and the US Cyber Command until retiring earlier this year.

“You have not heard me as the director say, ‘Oh, my God, the sky is falling,’” Admiral Rogers told David Sanger of the Times. “I am trying to be very specific and very measured in my characterizations.”

Adm. Rogers’ take on the Snowden leaks differs greatly from that of his predecessor, who reportedly asked US President Barack Obama to except his resignation as head of the NSA last year after the disclosure brought widespread condemnation and criticism to the secretive spy agency.

AFP Photo / Frederick Florin

On his part, Alexander has said publically that the Snowden disclosures have caused "the greatest damage to our combined nations' intelligence systems that we have ever suffered,” and elsewhere has qualified the extent of the damage as “irreversible and significant.”

Indeed, Rogers told the New York Times during an interview conducted Friday at NSA’s headquarters in Ft. Meade, Maryland that Mr. Snowden’s unauthorized disclosures have, in fact, caused targets of the US intelligence community to develop new tactics.

“I have seen groups not only talk about making changes, I have seen them make changes,” he said.

At the same time, however, Rogers added that the NSA itself has already made some adjustments as well.

"There are some specific targets where we've been instructed, 'Hey, don't collect against them anymore,'" Rogers told the Times. The admiral declined to say how many targets have had their status changed, noting, "probably more than half a dozen, but not in the hundreds by any means.” According to Sanger, however, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has indeed had her name removed from the list of foreign targets previously spied on by the NSA.

Other programs, however, appear to be intact. According to the Times, Rogers said that some revelations have prompted former partners to reconsider their relationships with the NSA, but some key alliances remain in place.

General Keith B. Alexander, head of the National Security Agency (AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowsky)

“Admiral Rogers said the majority of corporations that had long given the agency its technological edge and global reach were still working with it, though they had no interest in advertising the fact,” Sanger wrote. “He was unapologetic about the agency’s past activities, even as he said he recognized that unlike his predecessors for the past six decades he was going to have to engage ‘in a public dialogue’ about how the agency operated.”

Speaking during a debate held by MSNBC early Monday, Gen. Alexander defended the agency he worked at for nearly a decade and insisted that its operations have been authorized across the board.

“NSA is not the policy makers,” Alexander said, “NSA has done exactly what the administration, congress and the courts has authorized. It is not NSA running amuck. NSA has been asked to do this to defend our country, pure and simple.”

Rogers, 62, retired from the NSA and CYBERCOM in March. Prior to taking his place, Rogers worked as a cryptologistand commanded the Navy’s Fleet Cyber Command.