Retired Navy Adm. Michael Rogers, the former head of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, revealed his reasoning for not joining scores of other veteran intelligence officials in denouncing President Trump for recently revoking former CIA director John Brennan’s security clearance.
In his first public appearance since retiring in June, Mr. Rogers explained Tuesday why his autograph was absent from open letters condemning the president’s decision last month to sever the career intelligence official’s access to classified information.
“I said to myself, is this going to be effective?” he said during a panel discussion held at George Mason University’s Arlington, Virginia, campus. “And I just thought a group of former senior intelligence individuals complaining about how another former senior intelligence individual is being treated I’m not sure is the most effective way to address a very valid concern.
“I also thought pouring gasoline on a fire is not going to reduce the flame,” Mr. Rogers continued. “We got enough fires burning right now, guys. We need to focus on what are the outcomes we need to achieve as a nation.”
The White House announced Aug. 20 that Mr. Brennan had been stripped of his security clearance for making “unfounded and outrageous” charges concerning the Trump administration, and that several other former intelligence officials, including Michael Hayden, a former head of both the NSA and CIA, and James Clapper, the Obama administration’s director of national intelligence, risked facing similar repercussions.
At least 175 former intelligence officials subsequently denounced the administration’s decision within days of stripping Mr. Brennan’s security clearance, Mr. Hayden and Mr. Clapper among them, though Mr. Rogers avoided publicly discussing the matter until Tuesday’s event while flanked by both.
In addition to finding the criticism ineffective, Mr. Rogers said he feared it would create the impression of a bias and potentially affect the operations being conducted by current members of the U.S. intelligence community.
“Intelligence is most effective when the perception of the customers is that what they are seeing represents a true objective analytical assessment that is not in any way influenced by political view, administration [or] particular policy,” Mr. Rogers explained during the discussion. “And so for me, as I’ve talked to the teams I’ve led in my intelligence career, we must ensure that nothing we do calls into question the objective nature of intelligence.
Mr. Rogers, 58, was appointed by former President Barack Obama to helm both the NSA and Cyber Command in 2014. He was succeeded earlier this year by Paul Nakasone, a four-star Army general.