1975 January 27

Senate Creates Church Committee to Investigate Abuses by Intelligence Agencies

 

In the wake of the Watergate scandal and the attendant abuses of power by the Nixon administration, and also recent revelations of illegal CIA spying on Americans in The New York Times on December 22, 1974, the Senate created on this day the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with respect to the Intelligence Agencies. Known as the Church Committee after its chair, Senator Frank Church (D–Idaho), the committee held public hearings about abuses by the intelligence agencies, and eventually published 14 reports on violations of the rights of American citizens by the intelligence agencies. The vote to create the committee was 82–4, indicating the depth of disgust over alleged abuses by the FBI and the CIA in the Senate.

The Church Committee reports are still an extremely valuable resource on the history of violations of American rights in the twentieth century. The Church Committee was paralleled by the Pike Committee, created by the House of Representatives on February 19, 1975. Following the revelations about the CIA by the Times, President Gerald Ford tried to head off Congressional investigations by creating the Rockefeller Commission to investigate the CIA on January 4, 1975, but that effort failed when Congress created the two committees.

The Church Committee hearings created sensation after sensation, with revelations of CIA assassination plots, and more. The Church Committee reports are still an invaluable source of information about the abuses of the CIA, the FBI, and other federal agencies. The reports also document the involvement of presidents, both Republican and Democratic, in approving many if not most of the abuses by the intelligence agencies.

Read the Church Committee’s reports: http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/contents/church/contents_church_reports_book3.htm

Learn more about the Church and Pike Committee investigations: Kathryn Olmstead, Challenging the Secret Government: The Post-Watergate Investigations of the CIA and FBI (1996)

Watch Senator Church open the hearings on the CIA in 1975: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pceuQZbVymg

And more: Loch Johnson, A Season of Inquiry: The Senate Intelligence Investigation (1985)

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