NSA’s Rogers: Guarded Chief, Vague Mission

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The first thing you notice about Admiral Michael Rogers is his vast intensity. Since taking the helm as director of the National Security Agency and commander of U.S. Cyber Command in January, he’s had to come out from under the protective blanket of the Washington intelligence community and try to portray a human face for an NSA mired in deep mistrust from the American press and public and foreign allies which it has spied on.

You also realize he possesses Richard Nixon eyes—their deep set further pressed by skin shading indicating a weariness from long hours.

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NSA Director Admiral Michael Rogers

But most of all, you begin to understand that, when speaking publicly in his new role, he talks in generalities, wanting to sound like he’s guiding the NSA to succeed in an honorable mission of defending the nation and its allies, following the law, and protecting citizens rights. But is he?

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Last week, in a talk and follow-up discussion at a National Intelligence and Security Alliance (NISA) dinner in Washington, that’s how he came across in the C-SPAN airing of the event.

He constantly stressed that the NSA wants to make and maintain partnerships both with allies and with corporations. He also acknowledged toward the discussion’s end that the public has little trust in the NSA and, indeed, the federal government in general. He indicated that a part of his mission is to return that trust.

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NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, MD.

He attempted to pepper that trust idea by referring to himself as “Mike Rogers,” as if he’s just your neighbor smiling from across the picket fence. And he stressed that NSA employees (over 30,000 according to NSA) are just like us, simply American citizens who want to follow the law and defend our country. Shucks.

His big problem is that there was little transparency contained in his tapestry of generalities. This left us with concern about his intent through some of those general phrases.

He said he’s proud of the strong relationship the NSA has with the federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and also the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI): his NSA’s two main allies within Washington. That sounds nice until you recall just two examples of those agencies’ plans and practices that appear unconstitutional. Peculiar Progressive has written about both:

In May 2012, we discussed DHS’s plan to take control of the Internet, revealed in the words of a Homeland Security lawyer at a Washington security conference. Bruce McConnell, a senior cybersecurity counselor with DHS, reported to a cybersecurity gathering that Homeland Security will establish “institutions” on the Internet to govern it, including working with other nations to determine what content is “proper.” McConnell led his presentation by explaining that President Obama had instructed DHS to protect the Internet because it is a “civilian” agency.

In May 2013, The Associated Press reported that the Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of AP’s reporters and editors “in what the news cooperative’s top executive called a ‘massive and unprecedented intrusion’ into how news organizations gather the news.” This is a blatant attack on the Constitution and freedom of the press.

Those incidents, plus focus on wording of some Rogers’ other generalities makes one wonder if he isn’t wanting to simply return the NSA to business as usual.

For example, at one point he said the NSA had “given up some capabilities through compromise,” seeming to mean that, after Edward Snowden began revealing NSA illegalities, Congress required the agency to change those practices. Rogers said he would look to “get those capabilities back.” But he was so general, it’s difficult to pin him down on whether his plans involve legal or illegal practices, even though he stressed more than once the NSA’s desire to “follow the law.”

Also, on the one hand, Rogers said he wanted to cooperate with American corporations, having NSA workers go in and learn their operations and have corporate execs come in and learn how the NSA works—a real partnership, right? Yet, he followed by saying any corporate citizen coming into the NSA would have to sign a nondisclosure agreement. Why would they learn NSA practices and not be able to reveal them? Unless the plan may be to indoctrinate them and send them back to the corporation to…dare we say it…spy?

Were Rogers more specific, he might have proper answers for those questions. But the answers didn’t come in his presentation, and the questions didn’t come from the discussion moderator.

To get such answers. if you want them, you’ll need to get organized, educated, and active in making your Congressional delegation aware of your concerns, and demand they keep the NSA, DHS, and FBI in line–following the Constitution and truly protecting your country and human rights.