It has been a rough few months for the National Security Agency, and specifically for its director, Gen. Keith Alexander. The leaks of details of NSA surveillance programs by former contractor Edward Snowden have taken over the news cycle this summer and put the agency’s business out in the open. Then, when Alexander spoke at Black Hat last month, he was heckled and booed as he defended the NSA’s programs. Now, there’s a petition, on the White House’s own Web site, to have Alexander removed from his position.
The petition is on the We the People section of the White House site, which allows citizens to create petitions to address a specific issue. If a petition receives enough support, it will be reviewed by the White House. The petition to remove Alexander was posted Aug. 20 and seeks to have him removed from his position as director of the NSA because the agency “has lost its way under his leadership”. Citing the recent stories in the Washington Post about the agency’s alleged collection of data on Americans, the petition is seeking 100,000 signatures.
“As the Washington Post reports, General Alexander’s NSA is an agency which flagrantly disregards privacy rules and oversteps its legal authority on a regular basis,” the petition says.
“Historically, directors of the agency have been replaced on average every 4 years. Alexander has held his post for an unprecedented 8 years. We believe this has contributed to the lack of objectivity and custodial oversight. The agency has lost its way under his leadership, and it is time for a change.”
Alexander has been under fire from all directions in recent months as the leaks from Snowden have mounted and questions about the NSA’s surveillance programs have followed. In June, Alexander was called before the Senate Appropriations Committee to face tough questions about his agency’s activities and whether they were illegal or unconstitutional.
“I do think what we’re doing does protect Americans’ civil liberties and privacy,” Alexander said during the hearing. “To date, we have not been able to explain it because it’s been classified. How can we explain it and still keep the nation secure? That’s the issue in front of us.”
In addition to running the NSA, Alexander also is in charge of the U.S. Cyber Command, the military unit tasked with defensive and offensive security operations.