President Barack Obama is considering removing Adm. Michael S. Rogers from his posts as leader of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command after top officials expressed frustration over the speed at which Rogers had moved to combat the Islamic State and over the agency’s repeated loss of closely guarded secrets, administration and intelligence officials said Saturday.
President-elect Donald Trump is considering Rogers, who is responsible for surveillance and the growing arsenal of cyberweapons, for a top post in his administration, including director of national intelligence overseeing all 16 intelligence agencies. Rogers met with Trump Thursday, apparently without the White House’s knowledge.
The recommendation to remove Rogers, a career intelligence officer who was promoted to his posts by the Obama administration two years ago, came last month from Defense Secretary Ash Carter and the current director of national intelligence, James Clapper Jr.
Carter and Clapper had submitted a formal recommendation to the White House to split the NSA, which conducts foreign surveillance and secures military networks, from the still-new Cyber Command. But there are questions about whether the military cyberunit is ready to survive on its own.
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Carter’s first major disagreement with Rogers dates to last fall, when he expressed mounting frustration that Cyber Command was not acting aggressively enough to disrupt the Islamic State’s networks in Iraq and Syria.
Top national security officials had also come to see Rogers as lacking leadership at a moment of wrenching change for the NSA. He took command after the disclosures of widespread surveillance by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor, and the efforts he directed to seal up the agency proved insufficient, they said.
That perception was underlined by the disclosure in October that the FBI had secretly arrested a former NSA contractor, Harold T. Martin III, and was investigating whether he had stolen and disclosed highly classified computer code.
Administration officials had planned to relieve Rogers of his duties after the election and announce a plan to create separate chains of command for the NSA and Cyber Command. But the plan stalled in part because of opposition from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who heads the Armed Services Committee.
Under the plan, Cyber Command would remain under the Armed Services Committee’s jurisdiction, but oversight of the NSA would shift to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Trump’s victory complicated the planning.