Washington (AFP) – President Barack Obama has nominated a U.S. Navy officer, Vice Admiral Michael Rogers, to take over as head of the embattled National Security Agency.
Rogers, 53, would take the helm at a fraught moment for the spy agency, which is under unprecedented pressure after leaks from ex-intelligence contractor Edward Snowden revealed the extent of its electronic spying.
“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,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who recommended Rogers for the post, said in a statement Thursday.
If confirmed by lawmakers, Rogers would also take over as head of the military’s cyber warfare command.
In response to the furor triggered by the Snowden media leaks, Obama has proposed reforms to rein in the NSA’s spying authority in some areas.
Rogers, who trained as an intelligence cryptologist, would succeed General Keith Alexander, who has served in the top job since 2005.
He currently heads the U.S. 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.