Der Spiegel's translation of the interview said McCain was asked if he felt Alexander, head of the NSA, should resign. The senator's office noted that McCain was asked whether "they" -- Alexander, Obama and the Congressional Intelligence Committees -- should resign, not just Alexander.
McCain's office released the following statement on the comment:
"Senator McCain believes that there needs to be accountability for the Snowden leaks, but he is not calling for the resignation of General Alexander, who is retiring soon."
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is calling on Keith Alexander to resign as director of the National Security Agency.
In an interview with Der Spiegel published Sunday, the senator and former Republican presidential candidate said the NSA head should be held accountable for the leaks by former government contractor Edward Snowden, who obtained classified documents on the agency's surveillance programs.
"Now we have a contractor employee, not a government employee, who has access to information which is, when revealed, most damaging to the standing prestige of the United States and our relations with some of our best friends," McCain said. "Why did Edward Snowden have that information? And what are we doing as far as screening people who have access to this information? It's outrageous, and someone ought to be held accountable."
McCain was then asked if he believed Alexander should resign over the security issues.
"Of course, he should resign, or be fired," McCain said. "We no longer hold anybody accountable in Washington."
McCain also spoke to the German news magazine about the report that the United States had been spying on allied world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
"Knowing how angry Angela Merkel was, [Obama] should have apologized," McCain said. "You know, I've had to do that on numerous occasions in my life. The pain doesn't last very long."
Last month, McCain said he planned to investigate the eavesdropping on Merkel and other allies.
"I think it may even call for a select committee, perhaps even bicameral, when you look at the damage that this has done to our relationship with some of our closest friends and allies," McCain said.