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US Rep. Rogers, surveillance defender, to retire, host radio show

Chairman U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) (C) listens to testimony at the House Intelligence Committee on "Worldwide Threats", in Washington Feb
Chairman U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) (C) listens to testimony at the House Intelligence Committee on "Worldwide Threats", in Washington Feb

By Susan Heavey and Thomas Ferraro

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Mike Rogers, chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee and an outspoken defender of embattled surveillance efforts, said on Friday he would leave Congress at year's end to host a radio talk show.

"I had a career before politics and always planned to have one after," the 50-year-old Michigan Republican, a former FBI agent, said in a statement.

Rogers will begin his new job with Atlanta-based Cumulus Media Inc, which operates about 525 radio stations, in January when his 14-year career in the House ends, spokeswoman Kelsey Knight said. The talk show will focus on national security, she said, adding, "He will be very candid."

Rogers, in a letter to constituents, wrote: "You may have lost my vote in Congress but not my voice."

His decision drew a varied response.

"This is the oddest destination I have ever heard for a retiring member of Congress," said Paul Light, a political science professor at New York University. "It's weird."

Departing lawmakers often end up with private think tanks, on corporate boards, at universities, or eventually, with lobbying firms.

"Some people are actually sane enough to want some life outside politics. Good for him," said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.

House Speaker John Boehner praised Rogers, a personal friend who has headed the Intelligence Committee since 2011.

"Mike Rogers is as solid as they come - one of those patriots willing to go to the wall to keep the American people safe, no matter the strain or sacrifice," Boehner said.

Rogers has been a supporter of the controversial National Security Agency surveillance programs while criticizing other aspects of the Obama administration's foreign policy and domestic initiatives.

Rogers has also 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.

On the domestic policy side, Rogers has opposed President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul, economic stimulus package, financial regulatory reform and ending the military's ban against gay men and women openly serving in its ranks.

It was not immediately clear who would replace Rogers as chairman on the Intelligence Committee in 2015 if Republicans, as expected, retain control of the House.

It was also not immediately clear who might seek to replace Rogers in his Michigan district. He won his seventh term in 2012 with 59 percent of the vote.

In his letter to constituents, Rogers wrote:

"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 becomes the 23rd Republican and 40th member of the House to announce he is not seeking re-election in November. Republicans hold the House, 233-199 with three vacancies.

The non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report, which tracks House races, shifted its rating of Rogers's district after his announcement from "Safe Republican" to "Lean Republican."

(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Thomas Ferraro; Editing by Doina Chiacu, Paul Simao and Leslie Adler)

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