Amid criticisms of the National Security Agency’s domestic snooping operations, the White House is considering appointing a civilian to head the agency. An official told the Hill that a list of civilian candidates has been drafted for the position.
General Keith Alexander, the current head of the agency, plans to step down from the position next spring. Since its creation in 1952, the agency has always had a military officer at the helm.
The move towards a civilian leader is viewed as a step in the right direction for the tech industry.
Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said having a civilian director of the NSA is a “significant proposal.”
“It sends a message that the NSA needs a better, non-military form of oversight,” Rotenberg said. “With the other questions now being raised about the adequacy of accountability, we would see that as a step in the right direction.”
Other changes for the agency come from Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA), who is pushing “legislation that would make the NSA director a Senate-confirmed position. She attached the provision to her committee’s bill to re-authorize funding for the intelligence agencies.”
The plan to put a civilian at the head of the NSA would only proceed if the NSA was split off from US Cyber Command, a group of military hackers that protects US computer systems and targets enemy computer systems.
A White House spokesman explained it was a “natural point” to reevaluate the director’s role at the NSA. “The current arrangement was designed to ensure that both organizations complement each other effectively. That said, in consultation with appropriate agencies, we are looking to ensure we are appropriately postured to address current and future security needs.”