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NSA director set to lose powers over US cyber warfare and defence

The NSA director could soon lose power over Cyber Command, the US military unit in charge of cyber defence and warfare, a former high-ranking administration official has told Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill.

The change is expected to be implemented when Keith Alexander, the four star general who currently heads up both the NSA and Cyber Command, steps down in the spring.

The move is seen as an attempt to curb the chance of any potential abuse of power and make oversight of the positions easier, in light of revelations that the President was not fully briefed on all snooping operations, particularly those of friendly foreign powers.

The separation of the positions is not a direct response to the revelations about the NSA's surveillance operations, however, The Hill, said.

No formal decisions have yet been made, and discussions are ongoing. The Pentagon has nevertheless drawn up a list of potential civilian candidates to take over as the NSA director, removing control of the agency from a military man. The head of Cyber Command meanwhile would remain military, with an officer leading the team of hackers.

Alexander however, is pushing for the positions to remain united, citing the possibility of tension over resources if they are split. "I believe it has to remain dual-hatted," he recently said during a cybersecurity discussion hosted by Politico.

"If you try to break them up, what you have is two teams not working together. Our nation can't afford, especially in this budget environment, to have one team try to rebuild what the other team does," he said.

The Obama administration, isn't the only force in Washington considering the split - Congress is also looking into whether different officials should lead the NSA and Cyber Command.

"Oh yeah, we're looking at it," Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin told The Hill. "I hope they're [the administration] looking at it too."