Strickling said the "timing is right" for the Commerce Department to start to phase out of ICANN.
Some Internet groups contend the U.S. government should remain in a supervisory position to prevent leaders in other countries with a history of suppressing free speech from trying to manipulate ICANN in a way that censors online communications.
"Without the U.S. government providing an effective backstop to ICANN's original operating principles, there would be no mechanism in place to stop foreign governments from interfering with ICANN's operations," Daniel Castro, senior analyst for the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, wrote in a Friday blog post.
The U.S. government appears to be trying to dictate the agenda for the upcoming changing of the guard at ICANN, said Greg Shatan, a New York attorney specializing in Internet issues for the law firm of Reed Smith. In the process, the U.S. could make it more difficult for other countries seizing upon the Snowden revelations to gain greater control over the agency.
U.S. leaders "didn't like the way the wind is blowing, so they are trying to move the fan to blow the wind in a different direction," Shatan said.
Fadi Chehade, ICANN's president, took a diplomatic stance to the looming shift in power. "All stakeholders deserve a voice in the management and governance of this global resource as equal partners," he said.