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House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rogers to retire, host U.S. radio show

Source: Reuters - Fri, 28 Mar 2014 14:43 GMT
Author: Reuters
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(Adds Rogers quotes, background)

By Susan Heavey and Thomas Ferraro

WASHINGTON, March 28 (Reuters) - Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and an outspoken defender of U.S. surveillance programs, said on Friday he would leave Congress after this year to host a talk radio show for Cumulus Media Inc.

"I had a career before politics and always planned to have one after," the Michigan Republican said in a statement. Rogers plans to start his Cumulus show in January, the Detroit News reported.

"You may have lost my vote in Congress but not my voice," he told constituents in a letter on Friday.

Rogers, a former FBI agent who has been chairman of the House Intelligence Committee since 2011, has been a vocal supporter of the controversial National Security Agency surveillance programs even while criticizing other aspects of the Obama administration's foreign policy and domestic initiatives.

President Barack Obama has been under pressure to rein in the U.S. government's collection of so-called metadata since last year when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden disclosed classified details about the breadth of the surveillance.

The Obama administration on Thursday announced details of its plan to end the bulk collection of data about phone calls made in the United States, including new procedures to get judicial approval before asking companies for such records.

Rogers also unveiled this week a bipartisan measure with his Democratic counterpart, Representative Dutch Ruppersberger, to reform metadata collection that is similar to Obama's plan.

But Rogers has criticized the Obama administration's handling of Russia's seizure of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula.

"I think (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is playing chess and I think we're playing marbles," he told "Fox News Sunday" earlier this month. "And I don't think it's even close."

"As I close this chapter in my life, I am excited to begin a new one that allows me to continue serving as a voice for American exceptionalism and support a strong national security policy agenda," Rogers said on Friday.

In a statement, Cumulus Chief Executive Officer Lew Dickey said: "We are thrilled to have Chairman Rogers join our team. He has been instrumental helping to shape many of the most important issues and events of our time and will play a significant role in our expanding content platform."

It was not immediately clear who would replace Rogers as chairman on the panel in 2015 if Republicans retain control of the House of Representatives as expected. House Republican leaders are expected to make that decision next year.

FROM PAKISTAN TO UKRAINE

An Army veteran who served in the FBI from 1988 to 1994, Rogers had been mentioned as a possible nominee to head the FBI and CIA. He used that military and law enforcement background in his role leading the House's intelligence panel.

"What other job on earth could take you from sitting in the CIA director's office helping to plan the operation to kill Osama bin Laden one week, to traveling to the far reaches of the tribal areas of Pakistan where few Americans have ever been the next, to meeting with a protester in Ukraine who had his ear cut off standing up to Vladimir Putin's goons the next?" Rogers wrote to those in Michigan's 8th congressional district.

Rogers, 50, was elected to Congress in 2000, the same year that Republican George W. Bush won the White House, and described his political philosophy as consistent with Bush's "compassionate conservatism."

He has had a very conservative voting record during Obama's presidency, joining fellow Republicans in opposing the Democratic president's landmark 2010 healthcare overhaul, economic stimulus package and Wall Street financial reform.

"Many want to keep our country divided and replace the notion of hard work, blood, sweat and tears with government reliance on everything from the size of your paycheck to the size of your effort to live your own life," he wrote on Friday.

Rogers, who has served seven terms in Congress, is the 23rd Republican and 40th member of the 435-member House to announce that they are not seeking re-election in November. Republicans now hold the House, 233 to 199 with three vacancies, and are widely expected to increase their margin in November.

It was not immediately clear who might seek to replace Rogers in his Michigan district. Rogers won his last two races with 64 percent and 59 percent of the vote respectively, according to the Almanac of American Politics.

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden, in a statement, said he has "every confidence we will elect another Republican leader from this district." (Reporting by Susan Heavey and Thomas Ferraro; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Paul Simao)

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