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Michigan Republican Mike Rogers worked for organization that threatened privacy rights

During Rogers’ tenure, the Mitre Corporation also benefited from the gutting of a teen pregnancy prevention program.

By Jesse Valentine - June 18, 2024
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Held Tuesday, 11/10/15, former U.S. Congressman and visiting lecturer Joe Schwarz hosted a conversation with former Congressmen Mike Rogers and David Camp.
Held Tuesday, 11/10/15, former U.S. Congressman and visiting lecturer Joe Schwarz hosted a conversation with former Congressmen Mike Rogers and David Camp. (Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy University of Michigan / Flickr)

Former Rep. Mike Rogers, who is running in the Republican primary for Michigan’s open U.S Senate seat, worked for a federal contractor that designed civilian surveillance programs and pushed for right-wing social policies. 

From 2016 to 2023, Rogers was on the board of trustees of the Mitre Corporation, a non-profit that conducts federally funded research and advises government agencies. Rogers was vice chairman of the Mitre Corporation’s board from 2019 to 2021 and served as its director in 2023. Rogers launched his senate campaign in September 2023.

In 2020, Forbes reported that Mitre received between $1 billion and $2 billion in federal funds every year. The bulk of Mitre’s work is studies focused on national security and government efficiency. Mitre has received contracts from both Democratic and Republican administrations, but received its biggest payouts during the Trump era.

When Rogers joined Mitre it was working on one of its most infamous projects: developing technology that could lift fingerprints from photos posted on social media. The stated goal of the technology was to aid in FBI investigations, but lawyers at the ACLU and other human rights organizations said it could infringe on personal privacy rights.

“Nobody expects that by posting a digital photo online, they are exposing their unique biometric identifiers including their fingerprints, to collection in a law enforcement database,” Nate Wessler, staff attorney at the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, told Forbes.

Mitre also did research into scraping personal data from mobile devices.

Earlier this year, Rogers made a social media post criticizing the FBI for seizing safety deposit boxes in Nevada as a part of a money laundering investigation. Rogers said the FBI’s repeated disregard for privacy rights and the Fourth Amendment had led to a loss of public trust. He did not comment on how Mitre’s work may have contributed to this erosion.

“Americans have lost faith in the FBI and this DOJ, and it’s no wonder why,” Rogers wrote. “This attack on the 4th Amendment is just the latest example of egregious violations by the FBI. We need real reforms that will protect the rights of all Americans!”

Rogers served as an FBI agent from 1989 to 1994.

Mitre received another controversial contract during Rogers’ tenure. The Trump White House awarded Mitre $21.5 million in 2018 for a “teen pregnancy prevention study.” The stated goal of the study was to develop “medically accurate and age appropriate programs that reduce teen pregnancy.” 

The funds for the program came out of the $101 million annual budget previously reserved for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, an Obama era initiative that launched in 2010 with bipartisan support. The program funded fact-based programs and interventions designed to educate young people on preventing unwanted pregnancies. Teen pregnancies fell to an all-time low following the program’s inception.

Despite the program’s success, the Trump administration claimed, without basis, that the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program contributed to an increase in teens having sex. The program’s mission also conflicted with Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services stated policy of supporting pro-abstinence programs and messaging. 

In December 2018, Senate Democrats wrote a letter raising concerns that the Mitre contract was intended to help push abstinence-only programs. 

“By attempting to direct funding in accordance with ideological goals, rather than towards the development of evidence-based practices, the Trump-Pence administration is undoing years of progress towards supporting adolescent sexual and reproductive health and wellbeing,” the letter stated.

A 2017 study by Columbia University found abstinence focused programs were not effective in curbing unwanted teen pregnancies. Similar findings were produced by a Kaiser Family Foundation study in 2018 and a National Institute of Health study in 2011.

The results of Mitre’s study were not made public.

A Rogers campaign spokesperson confirmed that Rogers is not currently a Mitre employee. They did not answer questions concerning Rogers’ stance on abstinence-only programs.

Rogers is considered the frontrunner in the Republican primary for Michigan’s U.S. Senate race. Other Republican candidates include former Wayne County commissioner Sandy Pensler and former Rep. Justin Amash. The leading Democratic candidate is Rep. Elissa Slotkin. 

The primary is scheduled for Aug. 6.


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