Changes at the NSA are coming soon in light of the continuing fallout from the Edward Snowden leaks. A turnover in leadership within the spy agency is just around the corner, made clear by National Security Agency deputy director John Inglis’ retirement announcement on Friday. He is set to leave at the end of this year, while NSA director General Keith Alexander plans to give up his position in several months.
A policy advisory panel tasked by President Obama to evaluate the NSA is finalizing a list of recommended changes. While it does recommend the agency continue phone data gathering, it suggests new restrictions. This includes taking “steps to protect the privacy” of not just foreign citizens, but their leaders as well.
Their other recommendations include establishing a team of legal defenders to act as watchdogs on public privacy matters. They also advise greater oversight from the White House, including an annual review of the list of foreign officials being monitored by the NSA. Perhaps their most drastic proposed change includes having a third-party, possibly a phone company, hold phone metadata, and ending widespread data gathering by the NSA. Following this, the agency could only retrieve data after meeting a stricter standards.
Revelations in recent months have shown that the NSA programs include a number of world leaders, some allies, being targeted for electronic surveillance. This has led to one of the worst diplomatic crisis of Obama’s presidential career.
Other changes at the NSA have already taken place. Recently the agency revealed that several steps have already been taken to prevent another Edward Snowden-style leak. Details about the changes come from a recent interview with Richard Ledgett, an agency official tasked with handling leaks. Ledgett says that Snowden’s actions have been “cataclysmic” for the NSA. He expressed concern over the remaining documents held by Snowden, who is believed to have as many as 1.7 million secret files. However, Ledgett promises that the agency is aiming to become more transparent.
The coming leadership changes at the NSA could be an opportunity for President Obama to reconsider the way the agency operates. With deputy director John Inglis and his boss, General Keith Alexander, leaving the NSA soon, it is unclear who will replace them. Fran Fleisch is the next in the chain of command and has stepped in as acting deputy director.
It’s clear that for better or worse, the NSA is changing in response to Edward Snowden’s leaks and concerns about privacy.
[Image via Wikimedia Commons / NSA]