NSA Director Gen. Alexander to retire early next year

The search is under way for a new spy chief at the National Security Agency.

Army Gen. Keith Alexander, who has served as director of the agency since 2005, will step down next spring.

His eight-year tenure was rocked this summer by revelations of surveillance on Americans through the widespread siphoning of telephone, email and other electronic communications data.

His decision to retire reportedly came last spring, Reuters reported, before NSA contractor Edward Snowden's leaks about secret U.S. surveillance programs became known.

In June, after the leaks became public, Gen. Alexander said that the NSA program gathering U.S. phone records is "very focused," as sweeping as it sounds. "This is not a program where we are out freewheeling it," he said.

In 2010 Gen. Alexander had assumed the additional role of Commander, U.S. Cyber Command.

A graduate of West Point, Gen. Alexander had previously served as Deputy Army Chief of Staff; Commanding General of U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command at Fort Belvoir, Va.; and Director of Intelligence at U.S. United States Central Command, MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.

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