30-year-old American Edward Snowden, a contract employee at the National Security Agency, is the whistleblower behind significant revelations that surfaced in June 2013 about the US government's top secret, extensive domestic surveillance programmes. Snowden flew to Hong Kong from Hawaii in May 2013, and supplied confidential US government documents to media outlets including the Guardian.
US considers splitting command of NSA, cyber agency after Snowden
The White House is considering a proposal to split the work of the single military commander who now oversees both the National Security Agency and cybersecurity operations, possibly reshaping the spy agency in the wake of harsh criticism of its sweeping surveillance programmes.
Army General Keith Alexander is top officer at both the US Cyber Command and the NSA, and he is retiring next spring.
White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said on Thursday that no final decision had been made about how to handle the commands after Alexander leaves, but that it was a "natural point" to consider a change.
The consideration of a split comes in the wake of revelations about the agency's widespread monitoring of telephone, e-mail and social-media data from documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
The concentration of power over two such different missions has been controversial. Alexander's departure gives President Barack Obama a chance to make changes at the two agencies.
"The current arrangement was designed to ensure that both organisations complement each other effectively," Hayden said. "We are looking to ensure we are appropriately postured to address current and future security needs."
Alexander has led the NSA since 2005 and he added the Cyber Command to his duties when that entity was created in 2010.