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NSA Director Keith Alexander to retire as early as March

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General Keith Alexander, who since 2005 has served as the director of the National Security Agency, will retire in the spring of 2014.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Guardian that means either March or April.

The fact that Alexander’s tenure was slated to run out was established at least as early as May 2013, when he told Reuters he’d retire in the first half of 2014.

That's a month before what would prove a legacy-altering turn of events. In June, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked scores of classified internal agency documents to the media, showing that the agency both collects records of scores of Americans’ communications and has enormous power to spy on much of the Internet. Alexander has suddenly become very unpopular, straining or severing his relationship with much of the civilian hacking and cybersecurity world.

In a statement provided to the Daily Dot, a representative for the NSA noted that Alexander has already headed the NSA, as well as the country’s cybersecurity agency, U.S. Cyber Command, for a long tenure:

GEN Alexander assumed responsibility as the Director of the NSA in 2005 and was dual-hatted as the Commander, U.S. Cyber Command, in 2010. Over the past several years, his tenure was extended three times (in 2009, 2010 and again in 2013 with the stand-up of CYBERCOM). The process for selecting his successor is ongoing.

He’s served well beyond a normal rotation, having been “extended” three times since he became NSA's director in 2005. This has nothing to do with media leaks; the decision for his retirement was made prior.

The search for Alexander’s replacement is still ongoing, the NSA representative said. The glaring question is whether the agency will next be helmed with a different attitude toward privacy.

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