National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander offered to resign shortly after media stories broke based on leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The offer, which hasn’t previously been reported, was declined by the Obama administration. But it shows the degree to which Mr. Snowden’s revelations have shaken the NSA’s foundations—unlike any event in its six-decade history, including the blowback against domestic spying in the 1970s.
Alexander is set to leave his post sometime early next year, but the Journal is the first report that Alexander offered to resign when news revealing the scope of the NSA’s powers first broke.
Alexander has been an enthusiastic defender of the legal status quo, and has come under criticism for misleading the public about the breadth of the NSA’s operations. Snowden’s leaks – one of the biggest breaches of classified information in history – happened on his watch. Nevertheless, the Journal reports, “officials also didn’t think his resignation would solve the security problem and were concerned that letting him leave would wrongly hand Mr. Snowden a win.”
Congress is considering significant changes to national security law governing surveillance that could significantly narrow the NSA’s powers. The Obama administration has all but endorsed an alternative approach by Senate intelligence committee chair Dianne Feinstein, which would leave the law governing the NSA’s operations largely untouched.