WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Foreign governments, individuals and groups targeted by the U.S. National Security Agency for intelligence collection have changed their “behavior” following disclosures by former agency contractor Edward Snowden, the NSA’s new chief said on Monday.
“They’re changing the way they communicate,” said Admiral Mike Rogers, who became NSA’s new director last month following the retirement of U.S. Army General Keith Alexander. Rogers was speaking to the Reuters Cybersecurity Summit in Washington.
Rogers strongly condemned Snowden, who after fleeing to Hong Kong accepted an offer of asylum in Russia last year.
“Stealing and running is neither being accountable nor responsible,” Rogers said. “If any of our employees found themselves in that kind of situation ... I would tell them, ‘I would expect you to stand up and bring it to our attention because in the end, as the director, I am the accountable individual and I need your help to let me know if we are making mistakes.’”
In Snowden, Rogers said, he saw a different attitude: “That’s not the behavior that I’ve observed. I saw something very different: ‘I’ve got a viewpoint. I’m right. I’m not interested in much debate. I’m going to steal something.’”
Rogers declined to specify how targets for NSA eavesdropping had changed their communications methods. But he did offer a broad description of the scope of classified material that the NSA believes Snowden walked off with. Most of that material, Rogers said, had little to do with alleged abuses by the NSA.
“Mr. Snowden stole from the United States government and national security a large amount of very classified information, a small portion of which is germane to his apparent central argument regarding NSA and privacy issues. The great majority of which has zero to do with those viewpoints,” Rogers said.
“I would characterize it as ... a broad range about NSA capabilities against a range of traditional military targets, issues of concern to the nation,” Rogers added. “Nothing to do with privacy rights or actions that NSA does or does not take involving citizens of the United States.”
Rogers declined to comment on suggestions by some U.S. politicians and writers that Snowden might have somehow been guided or manipulated by spy agencies in China or Russia. “It’s just not a topic that I think is really appropriate for me as a director,” he said.
(For other news from the Reuters Cybersecurity Summit, click on www.reuters.com/summit/Cyber14)
Additional reporting by Warren Strobel, Jim Finkle and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Tiffany Wu and Jim Loney