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NSA director to step down in 2014

The Director of the National Security Agency (NSA) is set to step down by mid-2014, reports have revealed.

General Keith Alexander, a four-star general who headed up the agency for eight years, has formalised plans to retire as early as next March or April, according to anonymous sources. His civilian deputy, John "Chris" Inglis, will also be retiring at the end of the year.

This spate of resignations has come on the heels of a raft of revelations concerning the massive spying efforts of the NSA, alongside its British counterpart GCHQ, both participating in the parallel PRISM and TEMPORA programmes. Recent evidence has also emerged that the agency has been hoovering up the contacts lists and address books of Internet users from around the world.

General Alexander has served as the NSA director since 2005. While he looks to resign that position, it is not clear whether General Alexander will also renounce his roles as Chief of the Central Security Service (CHCSS) and Commander of the United States Cyber Command. Even without his position at the head of the agency, he could still be one of the biggest players in US cyber-defence.

The process of picking the general's successor is still underway. Some commentators have already suggested that this could be an opportunity for President Obama to move the NSA away from the scandals that have rocked it over the past year.

In September, General Alexander defended the PRISM programme, told Senator Mark Udell, "Yes, I believe it is in the nation's best interest to put all the phone records into a lockbox that we could search."

These words have begun to look less and less defensible as revelations about PRISM have continued to be released from the trove leaked by Edward Snowden.

A spokesperson for the agency said, "This has nothing to do with media leaks, the decision for his retirement was made prior," claiming that "an agreement was made with the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman for one more year - to March 2014."

One candidate already hotly tipped to replace Alexander is Vice Admiral Michael Rogers, who currently commands the US Navy's 10th Fleet, which was reorganised in 2010 into the US Fleet Cyber Command, responsible for all of the Navy's cyber-warfare operations.

Image: NSA