Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Remembering the Church Committee

On December 22, 1974, The New York Times published a lengthy article by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh detailing CIA operations both at home and abroad. Dubbed the "family jewels", these operations included assassination attempts against foreign leaders, the subversion of foreign governments and domestic spying on anti-war activists and other U.S. citizens. Coming on the heels of Watergate, these revelations shocked an American public who demanded a further accounting. Between 1975-1976 a U.S. Senate committee chaired by Senator Frank Church (D-ID) conducted investigations into the CIA and FBI's activities. The Church Committee, as it became known, brought to light everything from plots to poison Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba, the surveillance of John Lennon , JFK's plans to employ the mafia to assassinate Fidel Castro, the further exposure of COINTELPRO and more. Recognizing the potential for unscrupulous politicians and a power drunk executive branch to abuse intelligence gathering in the search for nebulous enemies, The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) were recommended by the Church Committee and eventually put in place.

In our current times, with revelations of torture tactics, domestic spying, black sites and extraordinary rendition, and continuing debates in Congress and the White House over whether we need to "look forward" rather than hold people accountable for illegal activities, perhaps some "looking back" to the Church Committee is warranted.

More after the fold:

The CIA's Family Jewels -George Washington University's National Security Archives.

The Church Committe and FISA -Bill Moyer's Journal, October 26, 2007.

Flashback: A Look Back at the Church Committee’s Investigation into CIA, FBI Misuse of Power -Democracy Now, April 24, 2009.


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