Adm. Michael Rogers defended the legality of the National Security Agency's data-gathering operations. Here, he addresses an audience at his Assumption of Command ceremony in April. (National Security Agency)
WASHINGTON — The head of the US National Security Agency (NSA) said this morning that the scandal surrounding Edward Snowden’s revelations about American data mining on global targets is “not what’s going to define us” as an institution, though he admitted that he needs “to be more transparent ... I need to be able to tell people what we do and how we do it.”
Speaking at a Bloomberg Government event in Washington focusing on cyber issues for business, Adm. Mike Rogers strongly defended his organization in the face of heavy criticism for partaking in massive data-mining efforts on foreign and American targets in recent years. He insisted that the NSA “operates under the rule of law … what also matters is that we do it right and we do it correctly.”
He said every outside review of the agency “has come to the conclusion that there has been no systematic violation of law or policy on the part of the National Security Agency. Now, we can have a debate about if that policy is the best one, are those laws where we want to be,” but he said his organization has been vindicated as one that has operated within the framework of law written by Washington.
He also cast doubt on speculation that Snowden, who had sought refuge in China and then Russia, was working as an agent for a foreign government. “Could he have? Possibly. Do I believe that that’s the case? Probably not,” he said.
While Rogers at first claimed to have not watched the recent NBC News interview with Snowden, he did say that in the clips that were seen, Snowden appeared “intelligent, articulate” and “arrogant.”
While the Department of Homeland Security takes the point position for helping American corporations protect themselves against malicious cyber attacks, Rogers said he supports legislation percolating on Capitol Hill.
“I believe legislation is necessary,” he told a crowd of business and tech sector leaders. “We have tried to do this on a voluntary basis over the last few years and while that has generated increased cooperation, when I look at the number of incidents that are voluntarily reported vice the number that I believe are truly happening,” the gap is huge, he said.
“I am a proponent of legislation that would set up a structure for the corporate world to share information and for us on the government side to share information” with industry, he added.
The Snowden revelations have had adverse blowback on the Hill, however, according to a few industry panelists who spoke after Rogers.
The Snowden leaks “really stymied progress across the board on cybersecurity legislation,” said Michael Allen, founder of Beacon Global Strategies.
“Snowden destroyed any possibility of progressive legislation,” added Michael Leiter, senior counselor to the CEO of Palantir Technologies. ■