The nominee to head the US National Security Agency on Tuesday
defended the use of bulk data collection but said he also wants more
transparency about the secretive spy service.
Vice Admiral Michael
Rogers, nominated by President Barack Obama to head the agency at the
center of a public firestorm over surveillance, told lawmakers the NSA
needs to be able to access the vast amounts of metadata to thwart terror
In a written response to questions from a Senate panel
for his confirmation hearing, Rogers said he sees a need to maintain the
law authorizing bulk collection of phone records, known as Section 215,
which has come under fire for trampling on the rights of Americans and
"The telephone metadata program under Section 215 was
designed to map the communications of terrorists so we can see who they
may be in contact with as quickly as possible," Rogers said in his
"I believe that we need to maintain an ability
to make queries of phone records in a way that is agile and provides
results in a timely fashion. Being able to quickly review phone
connections associated with terrorists to assess whether a network
exists is critical."
'I welcome dialogue'
told the senators in a hearing he believes the public has a right to
have better information in view of the revelations in recent months from
documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
"I would attempt to be as transparent as possible with the public about what we are doing and why," he said.
"I welcome a dialogue in this topic. I think it's important for our nation."
said one of his main challenges would be "how do we engage the American
people, and by extension, their representatives, in a dialogue in which
they have a level of comfort as to what we are doing and why."
said he is open to Obama's recommendation that the NSA give up the
database to a third party or to telecom companies, as long as the agency
could gain access as needed.
"I believe, sir, with the right
construct, we can make that work," Rogers said in response to a question
from Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the panel.
One of his
concerns, Rogers added, is "the idea of speed, the ability to query the
data... in a timely manner to generate information and insight in a way
that enables us to act in a timely way."
CIA director John Brennan
offered similar comments on surveillance programs during a Washington
forum at the Council on Foreign Relations.
"Privacy, civil liberties, individual freedoms need to be respected," Brennan said.
in the intelligence community are trying to get this right. Believe me,
we're trying to get it right. And it really is challenging. And some of
the laws have not kept up, in fact, with the changes in the private
Rogers said that one of
his priorities in the dual role heading the NSA and US Cyber Command
would be bolstering US capacity in cyberspace.
seek persistent presences on military, government, and private networks
for purposes such as exploitation and potentially disruption," he said.
as a military and a nation are not well positioned to deal with such
threats. These intruders have to be located, blocked and extracted,
sometimes over long periods of time."
Rogers added that the
country's cyber infrastructure "is not optimized for defense in its
current form, and our communications systems are vulnerable."
who trained as an intelligence cryptologist, would succeed General
Keith Alexander, who has served in the top job since 2005. He currently
heads the US Fleet Cyber Command, overseeing the navy's cyber warfare
An important goal if he is confirmed, said Rogers, is
developing a notion of "deterrence" in cyberspace to allow potential
adversaries to know they would face consequences for a cyber attack.
have effective deterrent strategies in place in the other war-fighting
domains, in the form of our demonstrated military might and capability,"
he said. "Cyber deterrence should evolve in the same way."
said the US needs to have "both offensive and defensive capabilities"
to deter cyber attacks, but that the "Cyber Command" would not use cyber
capabilities for offensive purposes without prior approval by the