WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama is expected to name a US Navy admiral as the next head of the embattled National Security Agency, the Washington Post reported Monday.
If confirmed by lawmakers, Vice Admiral Michael Rogers, 53, would take over at a difficult moment for the spy agency, which is under unprecedented scrutiny after leaks from ex-intelligence contractor Edward Snowden revealed the extent of NSA eavesdropping.
The White House declined to comment on the report, which said that Obama interviewed Rogers for the post last week — a rare move that underlined the importance of the job.
Rogers, who trained as a Navy intelligence cryptologist, has been mentioned previously as a likely candidate to succeed the current NSA chief, General Keith Alexander, who has served in the top job since 2005.
Like Alexander, the naval officer would not only run the powerful NSA but would also serve as chief of the US military’s cyber warfare command.
Obama has decided to keep the “dual-hatted” arrangements, even though some top officials recommended splitting up the two jobs. And the president also rejected suggestions to name a civilian as chief of the NSA.
In more than 30 years in the Navy, Rogers has worked in cryptology, eavesdropping or “signals intelligence” and cyber warfare.
He currently runs the Navy’s signals intelligence and cyber warfare operations and has worked in senior military intelligence posts during a career of more than 30 years. Rogers previously served as the director for intelligence for the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.
While he has a thorough knowledge of the NSA’s work, which focuses on code breaking and electronic eavesdropping, it remains unclear how Rogers will navigate the treacherous political waters he will face as head of the controversial spy agency.
Since June 2013, media leaks have lifted the lid on the vast reach of the NSA’s electronic spying, exposing how it scoops up Internet data and phone records around the world.
The revelations have sparked a global furor and prompted calls for change by rights activists and some members of Congress, some of whom favor curtailing the NSA’s powers to safeguard privacy rights.
To allay public concerns, Obama has announced a number of reforms to the NSA, including promising to end the government’s storage of telephone “metadata.” He also said he had ordered a stop to NSA eavesdropping on friendly world leaders.