NSA ninja hackers get new deputy chief

The famed ninja hackers of NSA's Tailored Access Operations team are getting a new deputy chief, the U.S. military let slip Friday afternoon.​

The famed ninja hackers of NSA’s Tailored Access Operations team are getting a new deputy chief, the U.S. military let slip Friday afternoon.

Rear Adm. Steven Parode, the current director of intelligence for U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, is being transferred to Fort Meade in Maryland, the Defense Department said in a release.

A D.C. native, Parode was commissioned out of the Navy ROTC unit at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1986 and trained as a cryptographer, according to his official biography.

As intelligence director for U.S. Stratcom, Parode is the senior intelligence officer for the command and the principal intelligence adviser to its commander Adm. Cecil D. Haney. Prior to that appointment he had an assignment as a fellow at the prestigious Strategic Studies Group — a program for up-and-coming naval officers that’s dedicated to producing ‘revolutionary innovation,’ according to its website.


Notably, Parode is effectively swapping jobs with his predecessor, Rear Adm. Ronald Copley. In April, Copley, the then-deputy director of TAO, was assigned to the intelligence job at Stratcom, according to a DOD release.

Parode previously worked in the office of the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, where he where he ‘validated [Information Operations]/Cyber requirements, served as program manager for special program capability development and guided policy implementation for intelligence support to [Information Operations],’ according to his biography.

Tailored Access Operations, or TAO, was made involuntarily famous by the Snowden megaleaks.

Up until that point, according to Matthew Aid, a former NSA official and the author of an unofficial history of the agency, TAO was ‘a mystery to many NSA employees’ — a special access program that set hundreds of hackers out to break the security of IT and telecom networks used by foreign adversaries of the U.S.

The Washington Post, based on classified budget documents prepared for Congress and retrieved from the massive Snowden trove, and other reporting, described the TAO’s war room, the Remote Operations Center, or ROC, pronounced ‘rock,’ as ‘where the hackers live” in the NSA, citing an anonymous former official. “It’s basically the one-stop shop for any kind of active operation that’s not defensive.”


‘Getting the ungettable’ was the NSA’s own description of its duties, reported Der Spiegel. ‘It is not about the quantity produced but the quality of intelligence that is important,’ the German newspaper quoted a former unit chief as asserting in documents.

The man who will be Parode’s immediate superior, TAO chief Robert Joyce appears to have bowed the inevitable and made a public outing in January. At the Usenix Enigma security conference in San Francisco, he gave a talk about how to keep sophisticated hackers like his team out of computer networks.

Shaun Waterman

Written by Shaun Waterman

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