Return of the Church Committee?

By: Matt McBride

In 1974, it was revealed that the CIA was involved in illegal intelligence operations against thousands of American citizens. The following year, a special committee, chaired by Idaho Senator Frank Church, was tasked with conducting an investigation into the agency. While there was no dramatic overhaul of the federal programs, the Church Committee reports did lead to the creation of the permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Fast-forward nearly forty years, and privacy rights naysayer Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is chairing that same committee. Senator Feinstein has praised the NSA’s spying programs and even insisted: “This is not a surveillance program.” While Feinstein and other surveillance state advocates have hoped that public outcry against NSA spying would have faded by now, it has remained a hot button issue.

According to a recent HuffPost/YouGov poll, 54 percent of Americans think federal courts and rules put in place by Congress do not provide adequate oversight over the phone and Internet data the NSA can collect about Americans. So the question remains, do we need a new special committee to provide more oversight of the NSA? The Electronic Frontier Foundation shares the sentiment of the majority of Americans and advocates for such a committee:

…One thing is clear.  Congress now has a responsibility to the American people to conduct a full, public investigation into the domestic surveillance of Americans by the intelligence communities, whether done directly or in concert with the FBI.  And it then has a duty to make changes in the law to stop the spying and ensure that it does not happen again. In short, we need a new Church Committee.

The NSA and the White House will continue to lie and deny accusations about the extent of the spying programs, just as they did in 1975, when the Church Committee ran into immediate resistance from the Ford administration. After assessing the legacy of the Church Committee, historian Henry Steel Commager said, “It is this indifference to constitutional restraints that is perhaps the most threatening of all the evidence that emerges from the findings of the Church Committee.”

It does not matter if it is the Ford administration or the Obama administration or the Bush administration. It does not matter if your own government is illegally collecting personal information by way of telegrams, phone calls, or emails. What does matter is that your own government is violating the most sacred American document there is: the Constitution. Campaign for Liberty will always defend the sanctity of the Constitution and fight for the right to privacy.

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