National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander on Tuesday sought to reassure his employees that the outcry over surveillance programs leaked by Edward Snowden was not directed at them and that agency leaders would "take the heat."
In a statement to agency employees, which are rarely made public, Alexander said the surveillance programs helped disrupt terrorist plots in the United States and over 20 countries.
"The ongoing national dialogue is not about your performance," he said.
The information leaked by Snowden, a former NSA contractor, to media outlets created an uproar among American privacy and civil rights advocates and other countries over whether the United States was spying on their communications.
Alexander said the NSA workforce "has executed its national security responsibilities with equal and full respect for civil liberties and privacy."
He added: "Please do not let this distract you from your work, or cause you to worry that your work is not valuable, valued, and honorable. It is all three."
Alexander said the senior leadership team would continue to "take the heat" on the issue. "We need you to focus on our primary mission of defending our nation and our allies."