Obama's NSA Nominee Pledges Transparency to Senate Panel

Tuesday, 11 Mar 2014 10:24 PM

By Jason Devaney

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Vice Admiral Michael Rogers, President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the National Security Agency, faced a firestorm of questions by a Senate panel on Tuesday.

The Senate Armed Services Committee peppered him with queries related to the leaked documents taken by Edward Snowden, government surveillance, and everything in between, Politico reports.

Would he classify Snowden as a traitor?

"I don’t know that I’d use the word 'traitor,' but I certainly do not consider him to be a hero," Rogers said in response to Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s question.

Rogers is commander of the U.S. Navy’s Tenth Fleet, which leads the U.S. Fleet Cyber Command. If he is named the NSA’s chief, he’ll also lead the U.S. Cyber Command. He needs Senate confirmation for the latter, but not for the NSA post.

Current NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander is retiring.

In the wake of the NSA spy program's becoming public, Rogers was asked to be open about the agency’s practices related to spying on Americans, world leaders and the like.

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona had an idea to make the NSA more transparent:

"Maybe give some speeches in various venues where you could explain better to the American people exactly what you’re doing; perhaps not exactly what you’re doing, but why you’re doing it."

Rogers countered by saying he would "attempt to be as transparent as possible with the broader nation about what we’re doing and why. It’s a mission that involves attention in our society, given the fact that the fundamental rights of the individual are so foundational to our very concept of the nation. I welcome a dialog on this topic. I think it’s important for us as a nation. I look forward to being part of that dialog."

The vice admiral did say, however, that there’s a fine line between privacy and keeping the nation safe.

"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."

McCain, who is calling for the formation of a new congressional committee that would investigate the government’s surveillance practices, tried to draw a response from Rogers on the subject.

The exchange got a bit testy.

"Sir, steps which would try to bring together those focused . . ." Rogers said.

"I’d ask if you have a view on whether we should have a select committee or not, Admiral," McCain said, cutting off Rogers. "I’m not used to obfuscation here. OK? Let’s not start out that way. Would you or would you not agree that a select committee would be a good idea?"

"Yes, Sir," Rogers replied.

As for the Snowden situation, Rogers said the NSA is still examining the damage caused by the ex-government contractor. Snowden has since relocated to Russia but is reported to be seeking asylum elsewhere.

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