31 January 2014, 21:09

Michael Rogers: Navy cryptologist to take over embattled NSA

This week, US President Barack Obama has nominated Vice Admiral in the US Navy Michael Rogers, as the new head of the National Security Agency. If his candidacy is approved by the Congress, Admiral Rogers will succeed General Keith Alexander, who has served as NSA director for almost nine years.

Just like General Keith Alexander he will direct both the civilian spy agency and the Cyber Command. The new NSA chief will have to work on recovering the agency’s image that was tarnished by Edward Snowden’s revelations about its mass surveillance program.

Admiral Rogers has been considered the most likely candidate to head the National Security Agency because of his wide experience as a cryptologist. However Michael Rogers began his career not in intelligence or electronics, but in traditional surface warfare. In the early 1980-s he worked in combat naval gunfire support, serving in operations off Grenada, Beirut and El Salvador.

In 1986, he began specializing in cryptology, and trained in both electronic and information warfare. He took part in United States and NATO missions in the Balkans and in Afghanistan. During the war in Iraq he specialized in cyberwar attacks.

In 2007, he became director of intelligence for the military’s Pacific Command.

Two years later he became director of intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and then was named commander of the Fleet Cyber Command, with responsibility for all of the Navy’s cyberwarfare efforts.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he had recommended Michael Rogers as the new NSA head to President Barack Obama, citing his "extraordinary and unique qualifications." Mr. Hagel expressed confidence that Admiral Rogers had the wisdom to help balance the demands of security, privacy, and liberty.

Obama nominates Navy cyber warfare chief as new NSA head

The Obama administration is nominating Michael Rogers, head of US Fleet Cyber Command, as the new head of the National Security Agency (NSA) and US Command at a moment when US surveillance practices are under intense scrutiny.

"This is a critical time for the NSA, and Vice Admiral Rogers would bring extraordinary and unique qualifications to this position as the agency continues its vital mission and implements President Obama's reforms," Hagel, who is currently visiting Poland, said in a statement.

If confirmed, Rogers would replace current director Keith Alexander who has been the head of the NSA over almost 5 years. Rogers was also nominated as chief of the Central Security Service, the statement said.

Rogers, who trained as an intelligence cryptologist, currently heads the US Fleet Cyber Command, overseeing the navy's cyber warfare specialists, and over a 30-year career has worked in cryptology and eavesdropping, or "signals intelligence."

Although well-versed in code-breaking and digital warfare, Rogers will be confronted with civil liberties and privacy questions under an intense public spotlight.

His confirmation hearings in the Senate are likely to be dominated by the ongoing debate about the NSA's espionage, and whether its sifting through Internet traffic and phone records violates privacy rights and democratic values.

Hagel said he was "confident that Admiral Rogers has the wisdom to help balance the demands of security, privacy and liberty in our digital age."

Like Alexander, the naval officer would not only run the powerful NSA but would also serve as chief of the US military's Cyber Command.

Obama has decided to keep the "dual-hatted" arrangement, even though some top officials recommended splitting up the two jobs.

The president also rejected suggestions to name a civilian as NSA director.

The Pentagon announced that the new NSA deputy director would be Richard Leggett, making him the agency's senior ranking civilian, acting as a chief operating officer.

Leggett has managed the NSA's media leaks task force, which evaluated the effect of Snowden's disclosures of reams of classified information.

In a December interview with CBS television's "60 Minutes," Leggett said he would be open to "having a conversation" with Snowden about a possible amnesty in return for a full accounting of what the ex-contractor took and where the files are now.

"I would need assurances that the remainder of the data could be secured, and my bar for those assurances would be very high," he said.

In 2013 the NSA turned out to be in the focus of discussion in the US after ex-agent of the special services Edward Snowden published facts about the secret programmes of mass electronic surveillance.

Information provided to the media by Snowden revealed a massive surveillance programme of telephone and internet records, as well as spying on foreign leaders.

Snowden faces an array of espionage charges in the US and has been granted asylum in Russia.

Describing himself as a whistleblower, Snowden has said in media interviews that he feels vindicated by the public debate over the NSA's role that has followed his leaks.

Voice of Russia, Reuters, RIA, dpa

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