By LUIS MARTINEZ and BENJAMIN SIEGEL
President Obama is considering a recommendation by Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to separate the commands of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command that could lead to the removal of Admiral Mike Rogers who heads both commands.
Rogers’ potential removal as the head of the National Security Agency was first reported by the Washington Post.
The White House, the Defense Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment on the reports.
According to a U.S. official, in September Carter and Clapper recommended to Obama a split between the commands of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command that would result in the removal of Admiral Mike Rogers as the head of both commands.
The NSA is responsible for collecting international signals intelligence. U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) is responsible for the defense of military computer networks, but can also conduct offensive cyber operations, as it has done recently against ISIS’ cyber networks.
If the recommendation to split the commands is approved it could result in separate individuals respectively heading the NSA and Cyber Command. Rogers assumed leadership of both commands in April, 2014, a term that would likely end next April.
In an unusual move, on Thursday Rogers met with President-elect Donald Trump. No readout was given of what they discussed.
Should U.S. Cyber Command become a new combatant command, it would be up to the Defense Secretary to recommend the four star officer to head the new head of the command. Though it is a four star command, in a complex arrangement U.S. Cyber Command falls under U.S. Strategic Command, one of the nine combatant commands.
If President Obama agrees with the recommendation, Admiral Rogers or another military officer could be named to head Cyber Command and a civilian could head the NSA.
A new head of the NSA would require the input of both the Defense Secretary and the Director of National Intelligence.
In response to the possibility that Rogers could be removed as the head of the NSA, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-California, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, sent a letter to Carter and Clapper praising Rogers performance.
“Since Admiral Rogers was appointed as NSA Director in April 2014, I have been consistently impressed with his leadership and accomplishments,” Nunes said. “His professionalism, expertise and deckplate leadership have been remarkable during an extremely challenging period for NSA. I know other members of Congress hold him in similarly high esteem.”
Nunes asked Carter and Clapper “to provide a full explanation of the allegations contained in the Post article” and said he would convene an open hearing “at the earliest possible opportunity.”
“I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt if they can provide documentation and correspondence where they’ve had concerns with the admiral’s performance,” Nunes said in an interview with ABC News. “My guess is, I’ll hear crickets.”
The California Republican says he believes the leak behind the initial story was “100-percent politically motivated,” following Rogers visit with Trump in New York City, and referred to the administration, Defense Department the Office of the Director of National Intelligence as “sad, pathetic losers” for the charges about Rogers’s performance.
Nunes, who is a member of Trump’s transition team, said Rogers would be a “qualified candidate” to join the incoming administration.
Of the debate over separating the commands of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, Nunes said the issue is “quite complicated” and “not something that should be rushed into.”
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Tags: Admiral Mike Rogers, Britain, Carter, China, Clapper, cyber, cyber attacks, Cyber Command, cyberattack, cybersecurity, Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Director of National Intelligence, espionage, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, industrial secrets, Internet, James Clapper, Michael Rogers, National Security Agency, NSA, OPM, president-elect Donald Trump, Putin, Russia, security-clearance database, Snowden, stealth jet, U.S. election, U.S. Strategic Command, UK