Rogers Declines to Call Snowden a TraitorBut NSA Designee Says Snowden Has Caused Harm to Nation
At his March 11 Senate confirmation hearing, Navy Vice Adm. Michael Rogers, chosen by President Obama to be the next director of the National Security Agency, declined to characterize NSA leaker Edward Snowden as a traitor.
Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee to be considered for the post of commander of the military's cyber command, Rogers heard several senators call Snowden a traitor.
"It's amazing to me - and I don't see this in West Virginia at all - they're trying to lift Snowden up to [be] any type of hero," said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. "He's basically a traitor in our eyes [for] what he's done to our country. ... Basically, he just went down the sabotage route. ... So you would look at him as a traitor."
Rogers responded, "I don't know I would use the word traitor, but I certainly do not consider him to be a hero." Still, Rogers said he agreed with assessments by several senators that Snowden's leaks caused significant damage to national security (see NSA Moves to Prevent Snowden-Like Leaks).
The NSA director, an appointed official, also serves as the military cyber commander, which requires Senate confirmation. If confirmed, Rogers would replace Army Gen. Keith Alexander, who's retiring.
During the hearing, Rogers promised the NSA would be more transparent about its e-spying operations under his leadership.
"We have to ensure strict accountability on the part of the National Security Agency," said Rogers, who now heads the Navy's cyber command. "We have to make sure that we do, in fact, follow those processes appropriately, and when we make a mistake, if we fail to meet those requirements, that we're very up front about how and the why."
Speaking in Broad Terms
Rogers differentiated between exposing how NSA spying methods function - they mostly should remain secret - and explaining why the NSA takes certain approaches to information collection.
"One of my challenges is I have to be able to speak in broad terms in a way that most people can understand," he said. "And I look forward to that challenge."
Rogers said he supports the continuation of the bulk metadata collection program under section 215 of the U.S. Patriot Act, and worries that an Obama administration plan to transfer the storage of the records to an independent body could complicate the operation and prove costly (see Obama Hints of Changes in Surveillance Program). "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," he said. "Being able to quickly review phone connections associated with terrorists to assess whether a network exists is critical."
The nominee said he knows he'll need to make tough decisions regarding balancing security and privacy, noting the great threats emanating from adversaries and enemies in cyberspace who would do the nation harm. "In the end, this fundamentally boils down to an assessment of risk, both in terms of our security as a nation as well as our rights as individuals," he said. "We value both, and we've got to come up with a way to enable us to make sure that both sides of that risk formula are addressed."