National Security

Former NSA chief breaks with other ex-intel officials over Brennan letter

Greg Nash

A former director of the National Security Agency (NSA) on Tuesday split with other former intelligence officials who signed a letter condemning President Trump’s decision to revoke former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance.

In Mike Roger’s first public appearance since retiring from his dual-hat role as NSA director and chief of Cyber Command under Trump, Rogers criticized the decision of other former senior officials who spoke out against the president on Brennan’s behalf — all while sharing the same stage with some of the signees at a panel discussion.


Sitting alongside former CIA Director Michael Hayden and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper — both frequent critics of the president who signed the letter — Rogers dismissed the sentiment behind it, saying he did not believe it was the best way to fight the president’s controversial decision.

Rogers gave two reasons: It wouldn’t be effective and it may impact the work of current intelligence officials.

“I just thought to [see] a group of former senior intelligence officials 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,” Rogers said at the Hayden Center event, “Secrets, Presidents, and Dissent,” hosted at the George Mason University’s Schar School.

Rogers also noted that this move could complicate matters for the men and women in the intelligence community.

“As a guy who was on the inside for part of this … I said, ‘Guys, this is not helpful,’” Rogers said.

“We must ensure that nothing we do calls into question the objective nature of intelligence,” Rogers continued, noting that this is what he stressed to his teams while working for the government.

Rogers specifically “applauded” the way retired four-star Adm. William McRaven spoke out against the Brennan decision — praise that contrasted with his seemingly critical view of the dissent letter.

McRaven — who is famous for leading the raid that killed Osama bin Laden — published an open letter saying he stands with Brennan, stating that Trump should revoke his security clearance too.

“I thought what he did was truly professional. I thought that was really effective. Someone who had no dog in the fight per se directly spoke up to say, look, there is a fundamental principle here. Gasoline on a fire is not going to reduce the flame. We have enough fires going,” Rogers said of McRaven.

The former NSA chief noted that it is the right of former intelligence officials to decide when to speak out — that is a right of every citizen that intelligence officials spend their careers protecting.

“Everyone has to do what they think is right and I do what I think is right,” he added.

Last month, Trump made the controversial decision to revoke Brennan’s security clearance in what was largely seen as a move to silence his critics. 

“We all agree that the president’s action regarding John Brennan and the threats of similar action against other former officials has nothing to do with who should and should not hold security clearances — and everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech,” over a dozen intelligence officials including Hayden and Clapper write, according to a copy of the statement obtained by The Hill.

Hayden and Clapper are among those whose security clearances are also under review by the White House, according to a list read by press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders last month. Like Brennan, both men have fiercely criticized the president. And like Brennan, both have said such a move would not stop them from speaking out. 

Tags Donald Trump James Clapper John Brennan National Security Agency security clearances

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