Intelligence committee chairman not alarmed by administration gaffes

Steven Nelson Associate Editor
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Michigan Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, defended in an interview with Bloomberg the performance of two senior administration officials at his committee’s Thursday hearing.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said before the committee that Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood was a “largely secular” organization. The comment attracted significant criticism and led to a clarification by Clapper.

Rogers downplayed the significance of Clapper’s statement. “I think that he did correct the record,” said Rogers, “he said that they were a religious organization that was working with a secular government.”

CIA Director Leon Panetta also received criticism Thursday for his testimony to the committee. Panetta declared that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was poised to resign. Hours later Mubarak announced that he had no intention of doing so.

Roger said Panetta had simply used “an unfortunate choice of words.” He said that Panetta “was trying to make a point that it could happen. It could happen now. It could happen tonight. It could happen tomorrow.”

Rogers said that the United States should be encouraged by, and in turn encourage, the secular elements that have driven pro-democracy protests in Egypt.

“This whole spark was done by secular movements, these were student movements, all of those were secular movements,” said Rogers.

“I doubt the secular movement in Egypt is going to trade one autocrat for a theocracy at the end of the day,” said Rogers, reflecting a level of optimism for Egyptian secularists that has been largely absent among fellow Republicans.

Rogers made the statements in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s special coverage “Egypt on Edge” with Lizzie O’Leary.