As the U.S. faces a flurry of new foreign threats, it’s critical that the White House has all the facts it needs to understand them. That’s why President Trump needs to restore the National Security Council to its original purpose, according to Mike Rogers, a former chair of the House Intelligence Committee.
Speaking at the RSA security conference in San Francisco on Thursday, Rogers described the Council as a cauldron of arguments and ideas that has brought together top experts across the government. In the early days of the Trump administration, however, the body is being contaminated by politics, he warned.
“If there’s a crisis that happens, you want that feed of good information that provides options for the best decision. Trying to influence early in that decision, early in the pipeline isn’t a good idea,” said Rogers, who briefly advised the Trump transition team.
Although he did not mention him by name, Rogers’s comments appeared to point to President Trump’s strategic adviser, Steve Bannon, whose elevation to the Council sparked fears that it would become a politically-charged body where people are unable to speak freely.
The politicization of national security rose to the fore this week with the ouster of Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn, who is said to have misled Vice President Mike Pence over discussions on sanctions with a Russian official.
In response to a question from Fortune’s Robert Hackett, who hosted Thursday’s discussion, Rogers explained that abrupt transitions are not unusual as a new administration finds its feet, noting the short tenure of President Obama’s first national security adviser, Jim Jones.
“The Flynn turmoil’s fine. It just can’t be happening this time next year,” said Rogers.
He added that it was unusual that Flynn had been stripped of his national security clearance, suggesting he is considered a risk to expose sensitive information.
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Rogers, who is also a CNN security commentator, also described the growing range of cyber-threats facing the United States. He identified Russia as the country’s most powerful adversary, and warned that organized crime syndicates may emerge as a major new threat in the coming year.
As for oft-heard chatter about a possible “cyber-9/11,” Rogers said a major event could come in the form of a country taking down a U.S. bank, and said there are already extensive discussions in security circles over whether this would amount to an act of war on the country.
He also wryly pointed out another potential worry. “Imagine 50 million Starbucks apps suddenly don’t work. Can you imagine 50 million un-caffeinated Americans? That’s a serious threat.”