In unusually passionate and stark terms, the head of the nation’s top spy agency made clear on Saturday in Colorado that he will stand up to anyone -- even the president of the United States -- who asks him to use the U.S. intelligence community as a political prop.
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“We are not about particular viewpoints. We are not about particular parties. We just can’t work that way,” National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers said at the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado.
Rogers added that the U.S. intelligence community owes U.S. citizens “honesty and integrity.”
Saturday’s remarks come only months after Rogers and at least two other senior U.S. officials were personally asked by President Trump to publicly rebut news reports laying out details of the federal government’s probe into Russia’s alleged efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.
Although Rogers has refused to publicly discuss his private conversations with Trump, he has previously vowed to keep politics out of his agency’s work. But his remarks today at the annual gathering of senior officials, reporters and others tied to the U.S. intelligence community were noteworthy in their intensity and passion.
Punctuating each word -- one by one -- the U.S. Navy admiral said, “I will not violate the oath that I have taken in the 36 years as a commission officer.”
Rogers’ face hardened and his voice cracked as he added: “I won’t do that.”
He went on to say that he often relays this message to his workforce: “We are intelligence professionals. We raise our right hand and we take an oath to defend the citizens of this nation and the values that are embodied in the Constitution …” he said. “Your integrity isn’t worth the price of me or anybody else. You stand up and you remember that oath that we take.”
Rogers’ comments drew a round of applause inside the room.
Nevertheless, Rogers added he has “never been directed to do anything that I felt was illegal, immoral, unethical or inappropriate. Nor have I felt pressured to do so. Nor would I do so.”
Rogers also said he’s more than willing to offer Trump his assessment even when he knows the president disagrees.
“He has never shut me down,” Rogers said. “He gives me good, direct feedback, sometimes, ‘Mike I don’t agree with that. Mike I’m in a different place than you are.’”
“That’s exactly the way this is supposed to work,” Rogers insisted.
Rogers joined other senior officials at the Aspen Security Forum in affirming the U.S. government’s conclusion that Russia is to blame for a cyber assault on the 2016 election.
“No doubt at all,” Rogers said.