An anonymous former senior defense official told the Journal that some in the administration wavered in their confidence in Alexander because the security lapse occurred on his watch.
But those administration officials declined to accept Alexander's resignation, the defense official told the Journal, because they believed the general's exit from the agency wouldn't solve the security issue and would hand Snowden a win.
Alexander has defended the NSA's surveillance activity while acknowledging that the public needed to be better informed about what the agency does. But outcry over the agency's practices reached a fever pitch when it was reported the NSA monitored the phone conversations of 35 foreign leaders, drawing opposition from Senate Intelligence Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
The White House was reportedly considering whether to name a civilian to head the agency once Alexander steps down in the spring.