Barbara McNamara, the National Security Agency's second-in-command and one of the highest-ranking women in the U.S. intelligence community, said yesterday that she will be leaving the agency's Fort Meade campus to become its London contact.
McNamara, who has been at the agency 37 years, the past two as its deputy director, follows four of her predecessors who have passed through the London post.
Starting this summer, she will work as a liaison to British authorities at the Government Communications Headquarters, England's cryptologic organization and one of the United States' key partners in spying.
McNamara came to the NSA as one of many Chinese linguists. In 1995 she became the first female deputy director of operations in charge of all intelligence gathering. In September 1997 she was promoted to deputy director.
McNamara has been criticized by some in the intelligence community in recent months as resistant to change, a position some at the agency have said is incompatible with the style of Director Michael V. Hayden, who took over the agency less than a year ago.
Yesterday, NSA officials denied that had anything to do with the move and said McNamara had been promoted because of her ability to forge "cooperative alliances."
"She is very much looking forward to this and is expecting to enjoy the position," said Judy Emmel, spokeswoman for the agency.