As Gen. Keith Alexander faces a barrage of queries and outright criticism for surveillance tactics employed by the National Security Agency, reports have surfaced that the NSA director plans to soon leave his leadership role.
On Wednesday, Reuters reported that Alexander's eight-year tenure as director would end with his retirement in March or April of 2014.
An NSA spokeswoman told the news outlet that eyebrow-raising revelations exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden had “nothing to do” with Alexander's planned departure.
“This has nothing to do with media leaks," NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines told Reuters via email. "The decision for his retirement was made prior; an agreement was made with the [Secretary of Defense] and the Chairman for one more year – to March 2014."
In addition, Alexander's top civilian deputy, John “Chris” Inglis, will also be retiring from his position by the end of the year, U.S. officials speaking on the condition of anonymity told Reuters.
Most recently, Alexander has been called out for lying in June when he stated that NSA phone surveillance records – gathered using some of the programs exposed by Snowden – had led to the deterrence of 54 terror plots.
During the proceedings of a congressional committee meeting this week, however, Alexander revealed that only 13 of those terror plots had any connection to the United States and that less than a handful were uncovered as a result of phone surveillance.
This summer at the Black Hat 2013 conference, Alexander staunchly defended the NSA's mass collection programs – namely its practice of requesting citizens' data from tech companies under the FISA Amendments Act Section 702, which enabled the Prism program. Alexander went on to justify NSA's efforts as a necessary means in protecting national security, and said that the surveillance programs received congressional support and were subject to judicial oversight.
Ironically enough, famed privacy researcher Moxie Marlinspike briefly interrupted Alexander's Black Hat keynote, to ask the general “why he lied to Congress” – breaking the mostly calm and receptive atmosphere in the crowd.
A replacement for Alexander has yet to be decided on, though reports peg Vice Admiral Michael Rogers as a top choice. Rogers is the commander of the U.S. Fleet Cyber Command and the U.S. Navy's 10th Fleet, which are both headquartered at Fort Meade in Maryland, where the National Security Agency is also based.