NSA director forgets name of NSA program, hopes nobody is recording his speech


NSA Director Adm. Michael Rogers attended a Reuters CyberSecurity Summit in Washington this month -- and was presumably thinking about something other than what NTOC means. (Reuters/Larry Downing)

Answering questions at a cybersecurity symposium Wednesday, U.S. Cyber Command Chief and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers tried to explain his job -- but while doing so, he forgot the name of an NSA program.

First, Rogers explained the role of the Information Assurance Directorate, or IAD, the part of the NSA that protects and defends classified systems. But when he got to another program, which goes by the acronym NTOC, he couldn't quite recall what the all of the letters stood for -- until a shout-out from the audience reminded him: the National Threat Operations Center, or more formally, the NSA/CSS Threat Operations Center.

"That's terrible -- nobody's recording this, right? So no one at the NSA is going to know that I can't remember what the T in NTOC is...," Rogers joked about the minor flub to a ballroom full of government employees and cybersecurity company reps eating baked chicken with carrots at the Capitol Hilton in Washington.

Since the revelations about U.S. cybersnooping from documents leaked by former government contractor Edward Snowden, the NSA has been the butt of quite a few surveillance jokes. And, of course, a number of reporters in the room were recording Rogers's comments at the symposium hosted by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association.

Despite needing a tiny refresher on the name of the program, Rogers was able to explain NTOC's job: It provides insight into what individuals and groups are doing on government systems and networks.

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.
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