US security chief facing the sack from Obama

The idea to remove Adm Rogers was driven by breaches during his time at NSA and his leadership there.
The idea to remove Adm Rogers was driven by breaches during his time at NSA and his leadership there.

WASHINGTON • President Barack Obama is considering removing National Security Agency (NSA) director Michael Rogers from his position, after top officials expressed frustration over the slowness at which Admiral Rogers had moved to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and over the agency's repeated loss of closely guarded secrets.

President-elect Donald Trump is considering Adm Rogers, who also heads United States Cyber Command, for a top post in his administration, including director of national intelligence overseeing all 16 intelligence agencies.

Adm Rogers met Mr Trump last week, apparently without the White House's knowledge.

The recommendation to remove Adm Rogers, a career intelligence officer who was promoted to his posts by the Obama administration two years ago, came last month from Defence Secretary Ash Carter and the current director of national intelligence, Mr James Clapper.

Administration and intelligence officials, who insisted on anonymity to detail the private discussions, said the recommendation that Adm Rogers be removed was not related to Mr Trump's interest in hiring him.

Instead, they argued, it was driven by breaches during his tenure at the NSA and his leadership of the agency.

The White House and the Pentagon declined to comment on Adm Rogers' fate. Reached by phone on Saturday afternoon, Adm Rogers declined to comment.

The effort to force out Adm Rogers, which was first reported by The Washington Post, puts Mr Trump in the position of considering whether to name, as the man who would brief him on intelligence matters each morning, a four-star admiral whom the White House is considering relieving of his posts.

It also raises the question of why Mr Obama would consider firing one of the nation's top intelligence officers in the last days of his administration.

Adm Rogers' replacement would not be confirmed until after Mr Trump takes over. One senior intelligence official argued that letting word of the effort leak seemed more about politics or vengeance than about effecting any real change.

In his first major disagreement with Adm Rogers, Mr Carter had expressed mounting frustration that US Cyber Command was not acting aggressively enough to disrupt ISIS' networks in Iraq and Syria.

Top national security officials had also come to see Adm Rogers as lacking leadership at a moment of wrenching change for the NSA.

He took command after the disclosures of widespread surveillance by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, and the efforts he directed to seal up the agency proved insufficient, they said.

That perception was underlined by the disclosure last month that the FBI had secretly arrested former NSA contractor Harold Martin III, and was investigating whether he had stolen and disclosed highly classified computer code developed by the agency to hack into the networks of foreign governments.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2016, with the headline 'US security chief facing the sack from Obama'. Subscribe