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Admiral concerned about NSA changes

The US Navy admiral nominated to be the next head of the troubled National Security Agency is expressing concerns about the government turning over the bulk collection of telephone data to an independent third party.

Vice Admiral Mike Rogers says it could result in higher costs and delays in identifying potential threats.

Vice Adm Rogers, who has also been nominated to take over US Cyber Command, provided the first glimpse into his views of the nation's troubled surveillance programmes in answers to a questionnaire submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The panel will conduct a hearing on his Cyber Command nomination today, giving politicians their first opportunity to judge the man who would oversee reforms to NSA's sweeping data collection programmes.

"I believe that we need to maintain an ability to make queries of phone records in a way that is agile and provides results in a timely fashion. Being able to quickly review phone connections associated with terrorists to assess whether a network exists is critical," said Adm Rogers, a former intelligence director for the Joint Staff and the current head of the navy's Cyber Command.

While the president has the authority to appoint an NSA director, Adm Rogers needs confirmation by the Senate to take over Cyber Command. The hearing will give senators the chance to air their frustrations with the NSA's data collection programmes and grill him on his views of how the NSA should move forward.

Adm Rogers has been nominated to replace Army General Keith Alexander, who is retiring after nearly nine years as NSA director. Gen Alexander also became the first commander of the Pentagon's Cyber Command, which was set up in 2010.

President Barack Obama has called for reforms to the phone data collection programme, which sweeps up the metadata for every phone call made in the US, including the number called, the number from which the call is made and the duration and time of the call, but not the content of the call or the callers' names.

Asked about proposals to have a third party or telephone service providers maintain the data, Adm Rogers said both options are technically feasible, but he echoed administration worries that such changes might raise other privacy concerns, could cost more money and might not make the data available for long -enough.

While he never mentions Edward Snowden, the former NSA systems analyst who has leaked information about the data collection, Adm Rogers acknowledged the leaks, saying they have damaged relations with industry.

In other comments, he offered a grim assessment of the growing cyber threat against the United States, and the government's abilities to overcome the risks.

He said he believes enemies may consider the US "an easier mark" because the procedures and requirements governing how the nation can respond to a cyber attack "lead the adversary to believe, rightly or wrongly, that we do not have the will to respond in a timely or proportionate manner", even if it's clear who launched the breach.

Adm Rogers also says improvements are being made to staffing and resources for Cyber Command.


From Belfast Telegraph