New leaders for embattled NSA

Keith Alexander to be replaced, a civilian leader added, but leadership shifts are little better than P.R. stunt

Published January 31, 2014 3:15PM (EST)

Gen. Keith Alexander, who lied to Congress about the number of terror plots avoided by NSA bulk surveillance programs, will be replaced as the director of the spy agency.

Alexander will be replaced by Vice Adm. Michael Rogers, the commander of the U.S. Navy’s 10th fleet and its Fleet Cyber Command. According to the Guardian, Rogers "has a resume studded with experience in cryptography and electronic eavesdropping that are central to the NSA’s charter. Tenth Fleet, inert since World War II, was reactivated as the Navy’s cybersecurity command and based at Fort Meade, the base of operations for the military’s infant Cyber Command – which Rogers will also head, pending Senate approval – and the NSA."

While Rogers' views on dragnet surveillance practices revealed by Edward Snowden's leaks are not publicly known, it would take baseless optimism to assume that a change in leadership will do much to rein in the current state of totalized surveillance, which stretches beyond the NSA. More likely, the shift in leadership is a not-so-subtle attempt by the Obama administration to earn back some public confidence. It's a realpolitik gesture -- an attempt to appease the public without any major shifts. Indeed, Obama himself has said of NSA reforms, "the challenge is getting the details right" -- "details," not reforming, then, our paranoid national security state apparatus and ideology.

Perhaps somewhat more relevant, for Snowden's fate, at least, is the hiring announced by the Pentagon Thursday of a new NSA deputy director and top civilian leader. Richard Ledgett, the head of the agency’s investigation into Snowden, will take the position. Ledgett has floated the prospect of an amnesty -- an idea that will likely be crushed by powerful opposition, but at the very least now may find some institutional backing within NSA top brass.

By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Bulk Surveillance Edward Snowden Keith Alexander Michael Rogers Nsa Richard Ledgett Surveillance