New NSA Director Says Snowden Leaks Don’t Mean ‘The Sky Is Falling’

Giuseppe Macri | Tech Editor

New National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers continued to distance himself from his predecessor’s inflammatory rhetoric in a weekend interview, where he said the Snowden leaks do not mean “the sky is falling” over U.S. intelligence.

“You have not heard me as the director say, ‘Oh my God, the sky is falling,'” Rogers said about the classified surveillance program leaks by former contractor Edward Snowden in a New York Times report Sunday. “I am trying to be very specific and very measured in my characterizations.”

Rogers said the agency was already adjusting from and compensating for the damage done by Snowden, as well as tightening security to prevent such leaks in the future.

New restrictions placed on the signals intelligence agency in the wake of the leaks will dismantle the agency’s phone-records database, and a collection of targets have been labeled officially off-limits (presumably foreign government officials in response to leaked agency surveillance of German Chancellor Angela Merkel).

“Probably more than half a dozen, but not in the hundreds by any means,” Rogers said.

In reference to the new requirement to obtain warrants to search specific telephone data — a stipulation the agency has long fought against — the new director took a more nuanced approach.

“I am not going to jump up and down and say, ‘I have to have access to that data in minutes and hours,'” he said. “The flip side is that I don’t want to take weeks and months to get to the data.”

The Navy admiral acknowledged that numerous companies and specialists have walked away from the agency in recent months.

“I understand where we are,” Rogers said. “I don’t waste a lot of time saying, ‘Why wouldn’t you want to work with us?'”

Rogers, who has helmed the agency along with the top spot in U.S. Cyber Command for just shy of three months, said NSA still retains the majority of its pre-Snowden corporate support.

The director did however repeat his assertion that terrorist groups are changing their behavior and “specifically referencing data detailed” by Snowden.

“I have seen groups not only talk about making changes, I have seen them make changes,” Rogers said.

Even still, the tone set by Rogers — the first director with a dedicated career in cryptology as well as command experience over the Navy’s cyber division — is a purposeful step away from former director Gen. Keith Alexander, who repeatedly described the Snowden leaks as “the greatest damage to our combined nations’ intelligence systems that we have ever suffered.”

Rogers contrasted himself with Alexander earlier this month when he said Snowden was “probably not” a foreign spy — an allegation Alexander and other defense officials have publicly leaned toward since the former contractor outed himself in Hong Kong last year.

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