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November 02, 2013

Next NSA Chief to Face Challenges, Change

by Kent Klein

Outrage over the U.S. National Security Agency's widespread collection of telephone and Internet data from American allies could lead to a changed landscape for the spy agency.
 
Allegations the National Security Agency has been eavesdropping on phone and internet communications of world leaders have angered U.S. allies in Europe and elsewhere.
 
U.S.-based Internet companies Yahoo and Google were upset to learn the NSA has been secretly tapping their data, searching private information about hundreds of millions of people.
 
The flood of revelations about NSA bulk data collections sets the stage for Congress to impose new restrictions on the super secret agency's activities.
 
NSA Director, Army General Keith Alexander, is retiring early next year, and his successor will need to restore confidence in his agency, according to Paul Tiao, a former adviser to the FBI director and now a partner at the Hunton and Williams law firm.
 
"So it is going to be important for the NSA director to be able to manage and build relationships of trust, both with foreign leaders and his counterparts in signals-intelligence agencies overseas, but also with industry, with industry leaders," he said.
 
Alexander was making retirement plans before former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed classified agency documents exposing the surveillance programs.
 
But how will the spymaster's tenure be remembered?
 
A senior fellow at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies, James Andrew Lewis, says Alexander is widely respected for running NSA, while establishing and leading the spy agency's military counterpart, Cyber Command.
 
"I have asked people, you know, after the Snowden thing, what is likely to happen to Alexander, and the answer you get from senior administration officials and from Republicans is that he is irreplaceable," he said.
 
Former NSA official and whistleblower William Binney says the NSA spying violates the U.S. Constitution, and he disputes Alexander's claim that massive domestic data collection is needed to prevent acts of terrorism.
 
Binney does not, however, expect the next NSA leader to abandon phone and Internet spying.
 
"I do not believe that anything is going to change unless they change the policy and what they are doing at NSA," he said.
 
"That is their mission," said Tiao, explaining that he also expects the surveillance to continue. "To collect communications on terrorists, on foreign intelligence actors, on cyberthreat actors."
 
Some people are calling for separate leaders for NSA and Cyber Command, saying Alexander wields too much power by holding both jobs.
 
But Lewis says Alexander has performed responsibly.
 
"It is very tightly controlled," he said. "He is part of the chain of command. There have not been any problems."
 
Either way, President Barack Obama's choice for the next leader or leaders of NSA and Cyber Command will need to work closely with Congress and America's allies.