Newly appointed National Security Agency director Michael Rogers spoke Friday at the RAND Corporation's biannual post-election conference, Politics Aside.
His remarks were regarding the image problems the agency has been facing since Edward Snowden leaked top secret documents about their surveillance techniques.
“We don't monitor the behaviors of American citizens,” Rogers declared. “That's not what we're about. That's not our mission. That's not what we're here to do. So we've got to work our way through this.”
Rogers, a U.S. Navy admiral, took over the agency in April after it was discovered that his predecessor, Keith Alexander, lied about collection data on Americans during a Congressional hearing in March of 2012. In July of 2013, James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, admitted that the NSA does collect metadata on millions of Americans' phones.
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The agency has been dealing with expressed frustration on a national scale that their activities are shady and illegal. "You can argue, is the law right, is the law good, is the law bad? That's a fair discussion for us as a society, as a nation, to have," Rogers said. "But every review to date has come back [saying] that NSA fully complies with the law."
Director Rogers continued his defensive remarks by explaining that everyone who works at the agency is a person too. They are people who have a mission with a framework to execute that mission, saying his workers “do not come to work and say to themselves, 'Hey, how can I systematically override the laws and the authorities that I've been granted?'"
He acknowledged that the reason he was speaking was to increase the transparency between the NSA and the public.
But how can we move forward on this issue?
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Rogers noted, "The level of privacy versus secrecy, and the role of the government versus the role of the private person — we have watched that change over time, and it will continue to change. ... We've got to sit down as a nation and have a true discussion about what privacy means in the digital age."