The damage to U.S. national security incurred by former-NSA contractor Edward Snowden's classified leaks has altered the way “terrorist groups” operate to avoid detection but there is no reason to worry that “the sky is falling," America’s new surveillance chief has said.
Adm. Michael S. Rodgers, who became director of the National Security Agency (NSA) in March, said that he would endeavor to shore up U.S. intelligence and cyber security to reduce the chances of a similar feeding of classified surveillance techniques to the media. But he added there was no way to guarantee another U.S. employee with security clearance could not do as Snowden did, and leak potentially damaging government secrets.
“Am I ever going to sit here and say as the director that with 100 percent certainty no one can compromise our systems from the inside?” Rodgers said. “Nope. Because I don’t believe that in the long run.”
Rodgers echoed many of the concerns voiced by his predecessor, Gen. Keith Alexander, who suggested that America’s enemies would alter the way they operate to avoid U.S. surveillance strategies exposed by the Snowden leaks. He said the NSA has intercepted communications among groups that target the U.S. “specifically referencing data detailed” by the Snowden revelations.
“I have seen groups not only talk about making changes, I have seen them make changes,” he said.
But he added: “You have not heard me as the director say, ‘Oh, my God, the sky is falling.’ I am trying to be very specific and very measured in my characterizations.”
Rodgers said the NSA had taken steps to prevent another rogue intelligence officer from downloading millions of documents.
He also suggested that the relationship between the NSA and U.S. telecommunications firms, which used to share user data unbeknownst to most Americans, had been permanently altered by new changes introduced to safeguard telephone metadata. Under an Obama administration order, telecom companies can only be compelled to hand over cell phone usage and other data to intelligence agencies under court order.