[Congressional Record Volume 161, Number 51 (Thursday, March 26, 2015)]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E442]



                         HON. JOHN CONYERS, JR.

                              of michigan

                    in the house of representatives

                        Thursday, March 26, 2015

  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, today I wish to recognize the efforts of 
eight individuals whose actions in 1971 helped uncover the illegal 
actions by some working on behalf of our own government to suppress the 
civil rights of many of our citizens. These eight individuals were 
members of a group who called themselves the Citizens' Commission to 
Investigate the FBI (the ``Citizens' Commission''). The Citizens' 
Commission was responsible for obtaining documents from the Media, 
Pennsylvania office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation that helped 
prompt the national debate about the intelligence community's domestic 
surveillance programs. The ensuing discussion ultimately led to the 
first congressional investigations of all intelligence agencies and to 
the establishment of the first congressional intelligence oversight 
  We know the names of six of these individuals: William C. Davidon, 
Keith Forsyth, Bonnie Raines, John C. Raines, Robert Williamson, and 
Judi Feingold. Two members of the Citizens' Commission whose actions 
are equally commendable and contributed just as significantly to the 
cause and legacy of the Citizens' Commission have chosen to remain in 
  On the evening of March 8, 1971, the members of the Citizens' 
Commission entered the satellite office of the FBI in Media, 
Pennsylvania, and left having taken nearly all of the documents they 
found within the office. In the following months, the members of the 
Citizens' Commission repeatedly mailed to reporters at several news 
publications documents detailing the contours of our intelligence 
agencies' programs that spied on American citizens and the vast length 
to which our civil rights had been violated for decades in the name of 
J. Edgar Hoover's desire to quell political dissent. These programs 
included COINTELPRO, or Counter Intelligence Program, a series of 
covert and often illegal programs conducted by the FBI targeted at 
disrupting domestic political organizations. It has been said that the 
intent of COINTELPRO was to accomplish its goals by destroying lives 
and ruining reputations.
  The revelations made by the Citizens' Commission sparked a national 
debate concerning these programs as well as the importance of civil and 
privacy rights to all Americans. The news reports generated by the 
documents that had been made public helped form the basis for creation 
of the congressional committees that investigated intelligence agencies 
in 1975. Hearings held by the Senate committee, known as the Church 
Committee for its chairman, the late Senator Frank Church of Idaho, 
revealed the wide scope and impact of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI on American 
life throughout his nearly half century as director of the Bureau. 
Testimony before the committee revealed that he had secretly used his 
power to destroy individuals and organizations whose opinions and 
purposes he disliked. He secretly punished civil rights and antiwar 
activists and also average Americans who expressed their dissent in 
letters to newspapers or by participating in demonstrations. In the 
Bureau's harassment operations--as opposed to law enforcement or 
intelligence gathering--officials of the FBI secretly operated as 
prosecutor, judge and jury against people Hoover regarded as 
subversive. Thousands of people in government and education lost their 
jobs as a result of unverified files created by FBI informers that were 
used against people who were not permitted to face their accusers.
  From the beginning of the Vietnam war, Hoover made himself the 
watchdog of dissent against the war--dissent by average Americans as 
well as Members of Congress who questioned war policy. In August 1964, 
when only two senators, Senator Ernest Gruening, Democrat from Alaska, 
and Senator Wayne Morse, Democrat from Oregon, opposed the Vietnam War 
authorization legislation--known as the Gulf of Tonkin resolution--the 
FBI director regarded their votes as subversive. Agents collected the 
names, and started files on people who sent telegrams to Senator Morse 
expressing support for his stand against the authorization bill. Two 
years after the resolution was passed, when Senator J. William 
Fullbright, Democrat from Arkansas, convened hearings to assess the 
progress of the war, Hoover placed Fullbright under surveillance to 
determine if he was a communist or dupe of communists.
  The Church Committee's extensive final report stated:
  ``Many of the techniques used would be intolerable in a democratic 
society even if all the targets had been involved in violent activity, 
but COINTELPRO went far beyond that. The unexpressed major premise of 
the programs was that a law enforcement agency has the duty to do 
whatever is necessary to combat perceived threats to the existing 
social and political order.''
  The Church Committee further concluded, ``Too many people have been 
spied upon by too many government agencies, and too much information 
has been collected.''
  As a result of the actions of the Citizens' Commission, the resulting 
national discussion about these issues led to important changes to our 
government's domestic surveillance operations. The FBI's policies and 
practices were evaluated and reformed with respect to how the agency 
addressed domestic security threats, and the Department of Justice 
instituted investigative guidelines on domestic intelligence gathering.
  Because of the important contribution the Citizens' Commission made 
to the public awareness and debate concerning domestic surveillance, 
national security, civil rights, and privacy, these eight individuals 
deserve our recognition as some of them have recently made their 
identity known. The identities of six of them and the impact of their 
non-violent act of resistance recently became known in the documentary 
film 1971, directed by Johanna Hamilton, and in the book The Burglary: 
The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI, written by Betty 
  While we continue to discuss the proper use of domestic surveillance 
techniques today, particularly as technology evolves in ways that could 
not have been foreseen during the 1970s, we must remain vigilant to 
abuses of power, even if done with the stated goal of protecting the 
public. May we strengthen our resolve to protect the rights these 
individuals cherished and helped preserve over forty years ago.