The New York Times reports that the Obama Administration will announce tomorrow, Friday, that Vice Admiral Michael S. Rogers will become the new director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and the commander of the new Pentagon unit that directs the country’s offensive cyberoperations, succeeding General Keith Alexander, who has served as NSA director for nearly nine years and was the first to direct both the civilian spy agency and the four-year-old Cyber Command.
Admiral Rogers, a cryptologist by training who has quietly risen to the top of naval intelligence operations, will become the public face of the NSA at a moment that it is caught in the crosshairs of the roiling debate about whether its collection of information about American citizens and foreign leaders has exceeded legal constraints, and common sense.
Read more here
The Washington Post reports that after saying “Snowden claims that he has won and that his mission is accomplished,” Clapper added, “If that is so, I call on him and his accomplices to facilitate the return of the remaining stolen documents that have not yet been exposed to prevent even more damage to U.S. security.”
Clapper did not clarify what he meant by “accomplices,” or whether he was referring to journalists who have received documents from Snowden. A spokesman said Clapper was “referring to anyone who is assisting Edward Snowden to further threaten our national security through the unauthorized disclosure of stolen documents related to lawful foreign intelligence collection programs.”
Let me preface this post with two comments:
First, I believe that NSA surveillance methods and activities must be constitutional, yet effective enough to protect our national security and the safety of our citizens. I am also of the opinion that Edward Snowden’s means do not justify the ends — no matter how noble — and that he broke many laws, revealed classified information to our enemies, especially sources and methods thereby possibly endangering lives. Consequently that he must face our justice system.
Second, that I am well aware that many believe that James Clapper Jr, the director of national intelligence, lied to Congress when testifying in March that the NSA was not collecting data on millions of Americans* and that, to those people, the following additional statements by Clapper will sound suspicious at best, “just another lie” at worse.
With the above in mind, I will try to stick very closely to the Armed Forces Press Service’s (AFPS) report on today’s testimony given by Clapper and other officials from the intelligence and law enforcement communities to the Senate Intelligence Committee.
It was part of an assessment on worldwide threats to the nation, from ongoing espionage and cyber operations by an assertive Russia and a competitive China to more diversified threats posed by al-Qaida and other terror groups that have allegedly benefited from the Snowden disclosures about sources and methods, making them harder to track.
Nick Simeone at AFPS:
Seven months after Snowden gave documents about the NSA’s highly classified metadata and eavesdropping programs to several newspapers, the nation’s top intelligence officer described “the profound damage that his disclosures have caused and continue to cause,” which he said has left the nation less safe and its people less secure.
“As a result, we’ve lost critical foreign intelligence collection sources, including some shared with us by valued partners,” he said. “Terrorists and other adversaries of this country are going to school on U.S. intelligence sources, methods and tradecraft, and the insights they are gaining are making our job much, much harder.”
Clapper would not say during today’s hearing whether he believes the Russian government has gained access to the Snowden trove, saying that question should be addressed in a classified setting.
During the briefings, Clapper called on Edward Snowden to return the classified documents and prevent more damage to national security.
Another official, Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Defense Intelligence Agency director, characterized the disclosures as “grave,” with the consequences likely to prove deadly to American forces someday. “We will likely face the cost in human lives on tomorrow’s battlefield or in some place where we will put our military forces,” he said.
“The impact of the losses caused by the disclosures will be amplified by the substantial budget reductions we’re incurring,” he said.
“The stark consequences of this perfect storm are plainly evident. The intelligence community is going to have less capacity to protect our nation, and its allies, than we’ve had.”
The hearing also touched on risks to national security posed by the civil war in Syria and on security for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
* Robert Litt, the general counsel to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, has denied the allegation that Clapper lied to Congress about the collection of bulk phone records by the NSA.
In a letter to the New York Times and responding to an editorial entitled “Edward Snowden, Whistle-Blower” Litt wrote, “As a witness to the relevant events and a participant in them, I know that allegation is not true.”
According to the Guardian, Litt continued in his letter:
“Senator Ron Wyden asked about collection of information on Americans during a lengthy and wide-ranging hearing on an entirely different subject. While his staff provided the question the day before, Mr Clapper had not seen it. As a result, as Mr. Clapper has explained, he was surprised by the question and focused his mind on the collection of the content of Americans’ communications. In that context, his answer was and is accurate.
“When we pointed out Mr. Clapper’s mistake to him, he was surprised and distressed. I spoke with a staffer for Senator Wyden several days later and told him that although Mr. Clapper recognized that his testimony was inaccurate, it could not be corrected publicly because the program involved was classified.”
Litt concluded: “This incident shows the difficulty of discussing classified information in an unclassified setting and the danger of inferring a person’s state of mind from extemporaneous answers given under pressure. Indeed, it would have been irrational for Mr. Clapper to lie at this hearing, since every member of the committee was already aware of the program.”
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.