The Retirement of Mike Rogers, National-Security Statist

He's going to be a talk-radio host. What if all the other national-security demagogues in Congress joined him?

Representative Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, will retire from Congress to take a job in talk radio. The former FBI agent, a leading apologist for mass surveillance, is likely to keep misrepresenting the NSA controversy. But he'll no longer oversee a national-security state that co-opted him.

Instead, he'll earn lots of money at Cumulus Radio, where the current roster includes Don Imus, Mark Levin, and Michael Savage. I don't know why civil libertarians never thought of this before: NSA apologists in Congress have proved themselves adept at shameless distortion, a skill integral to right-wing talk radio. What if they can all be lured out of the legislature and into the AM echo chamber? 

Take Representative Peter King, who is vying to take over the House Intelligence Committee. He'd be perfect for talk radio. He's called the New York Times "apologists for terrorists" and a "blame America first rag" that "doesn't care about the lives of Americans being lost." When Rand Paul criticized James Clapper for perjuring himself before Congress, King called Clapper a American patriot. He said Paul disgraced himself.  

Forget defeating national-security demagogues at the ballot box. If civil libertarians can just orchestrate jobs in a vocation that suits them better than safeguarding the liberties of Americans—e.g., professional demagogue—they'll go voluntarily. Legislators who leave for cushy gigs in the private sector have never sounded so good!

Had Rogers stayed in Congress, he would've presided over the intelligence committee for two more years, a term likely to coincide with a major push for reform. "His announcement set off an unexpected scramble among some of the committee’s senior members," the Washington Post reports. "The committee’s membership is determined solely by the speaker and minority leader." In other words, if John Boehner cares about the GOP's libertarian wing, he could elevate an NSA antagonist. 

Unfortunately, GOP opponents of mass surveillance and Fourth Amendment violations, like Representative Justin Amash, are outnumbered by national-security statists. And the statists aren't just Beltway elites. The fact that Rogers is expected to have a successful talk-radio run suggests that lots of listeners agree with him.  

But I'm with Scott Shackford, who describes the "parade of awfulness" that was his agenda:

  • Rogers introduced the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which promoted sharing of data between the government and private Internet companies for the stated aim of preventing cyberattacks. It was criticized for lacking civil liberties safeguards and died after President Barack Obama threatened to veto it. He referred to critics of CISPA as "14-year-olds in their basements clicking around on the Internet."
  • He has argued that publishers could or should be charged with espionage for printing classified information if they were paid for their work.
  • He called for American intervention in Syria, saying, "This is the time to act. Don’t wait until we have 5,000 dead. That’s too late."
  • He has co-sponsored multiple bills to outlaw Internet gambling.
  • He was the primary sponsor of the censorious Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act, the legislation targeting the Westboro Baptist Church that makes it illegal to protest within 300 feet of a military funeral... 

Embracing a Mike Rogers program is not consistent with the talk-radio right's purported veneration of the Bill of Rights. But I still hope he's the toast of the echo chamber, so much so that like-minded congressional colleagues follow his in his footsteps.

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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