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White House says the NSA director will still lead military Cyber Command

White House says the NSA director will still lead military Cyber Command

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Despite the alleged recommendations of a presidential advisory panel, the White House will not be splitting the roles of NSA head and US Cyber Command chief, The Washington Post reports. "Following a thorough interagency review, the administration has decided that keeping the positions of NSA director and Cyber Command commander together as one, dual-hatted position is the most effective approach to accomplishing both agencies' missions," wrote spokesperson Caitlin Hayden in a statement. NSA director Keith Alexander was named chief of US Cyber Command upon its establishment in 2009, but there's no inherent requirement that the two positions be held by the same person.

With Alexander stepping down next year, officials have considered putting a civilian in charge of the NSA and making the military Cyber Command post a separate role. Now, however, that seems highly unlikely. It's not entirely clear why this decision was announced today, but it comes not long after The Wall Street Journal reported that a White House oversight panel planned to suggest that the two positions be separated. Since leaked documents began exposing the breadth of NSA surveillance this summer, the move has been suggested as a way to limit the NSA's reach.

The move is partly practical, maintaining an existing policy and drawing on the NSA's technical capabilities; Alexander has held that keeping the two roles together is a good idea. But one source has suggested to the Post that it's part of a general pattern of maintaining the status quo, which doesn't bode well for the rest of the panel's recommendations, which will supposedly include an end to bulk phone-record collection and barriers between the NSA's code-making and code-breaking branches.