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Church Committee

Senator Frank Church, D-Idaho.
Senator Frank Church, D-Idaho.

After the resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974, an aggressive media and a reform-minded Congress began uncovering abuses by the CIA, FBI, and other intelligence agencies. President Ford appointed a Commission on CIA Activities in the United States, headed by Vice-President Nelson Rockefeller. But this was quickly overtaken by the Senate Select Committee to Study Government Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, headed by Senator Frank Church of Idaho.

The so-called "Church Committee" most famously delved into U.S. plots to assassinate foreign leaders including Fidel Castro and Patrice Lumumba, but its investigation went well beyond these plots. The Committee published 14 volumes of reports on a variety of activities in 1975 and 1976. These included the FBI’s CointelPro program to infiltrate and disrupt domestic organizations, mail opening programs by the FBI and CIA, abuses by the Internal Revenue Service, and much more.

The Church Committee also conducted a limited investigation of the Kennedy assassination, focusing on how well the FBI and CIA supported the Warren Commission. This short report sharply faulted those agencies, stating that the Committee "developed evidence which impeaches the process by which the intelligence agencies arrived at their own conclusions about the assassination, and by which they provided information to the Warren Commission. This evidence indicates that the investigation of the assassination was deficient."

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