[Congressional Record Volume 162, Number 64 (Tuesday, April 26, 2016)]
[Pages S2451-S2452]


  Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, I wish to commemorate the 40th 
anniversary of the release of the report by the Senate Select Committee 
to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence 
Activities, better known as the Church Committee.
  On this day in 1976, the first of five books detailing egregious 
abuses of power by the intelligence community was released by the 
Church Committee. The report was the first ever comprehensive oversight 
study of the intelligence community, which had operated largely without 
any oversight since its founding during World War II. Prior to this 
study, the Intelligence Committees did not exist in either the Senate 
or the House, and there was no formal apparatus to check the actions of 
the Nation's intelligence community.
  The Church Committee truly was the first of its kind. It grew out of 
extraordinary circumstances during a period

[[Page S2452]]

of national soul-searching in the shadow of the Vietnam war and 
Watergate scandal. In the early 1970s, a series of abuses were revealed 
in the press, including an expose alleging that the CIA had been spying 
on antiwar activists around the country.
  The American people were understandably outraged, and in response, 
the Senate convened a committee to conduct a comprehensive review of 
all intelligence activities.
  The committee--under the chairmanship of Idaho Senator Frank Church, 
with Texas Senator John Tower as vice chairman--was comprised of 11 
Senators and 133 dedicated staff members. Over the next 15 months, the 
staff poured over millions of CIA and FBI records to produce a 2,500-
page report broken into 6 unique books, each covering a different topic 
including foreign assassinations, domestic spying, and an investigation 
into the killing of President Kennedy.
  What they discovered was shocking, including vast abuses both 
domestic and abroad that showed the intelligence community operated 
outside the framework of the Constitution and undermined the Bill of 
  The committee found that, in the decades leading up to and including 
the 1970s, the CIA and FBI had been conducting a massive, illegal 
domestic spying operation, which included the following: The CIA opened 
and photographed over one-quarter million pieces of domestic mail, the 
FBI maintained extensive files on over half a million American 
citizens, and the NSA wiretapped all international calls from the 
United States and documented the callers.
  In addition to mass data collection, the agencies conducted targeted 
operations as well. Civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., was 
the subject of an aggressive surveillance program overseen by FBI 
Director J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover sought to compile a detailed record of 
King's personal life in order to blackmail and delegitimize him as a 
public figure. King's phone was tapped without a warrant, for example.
  The NAACP, Black Panthers, and antiwar groups were also all spied 
upon. In fact, President Eisenhower on several occasions received 
advanced copies of NAACP speeches from informants.
  The abuses didn't stop at our border. The Church Committee uncovered 
evidence that the CIA had plotted or engaged in assisting in the 
assassination plots of the leaders of Cuba, the Congo, the Dominican 
Republic, Chile, and South Vietnam.
  In the Congo, the CIA reached the final stages of a plot to 
assassinate Patrice Lumumba and had even delivered poison to its 
agents. However, before the plan was carried out, Lumumba was executed 
following a coup.
  Most infamously, the United States conspired in numerous plots 
against Fidel Castro, though none were ever carried out.
  The public airing of these--and other--allegations shook our country 
and our partners abroad and prompted swift action by Congress and the 
executive branch.
  On February 18, 1976, President Ford issued Executive Order No. 
11905, banning all assassinations. The order has stood ever since.
  Within months of the release of the Church Committee report, the 
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence was formed by a vote of 72 to 
22. The committee was established to conduct constant and vigorous 
oversight over the intelligence community.
  In addition, in 1978, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence 
Surveillance Act which established the FISA Court to oversee requests 
for intelligence warrants within the United States.
  The Church Committee study revealed to the world the danger of 
allowing intelligence agencies to operate in the shadows and with 
unchecked power.
  Our duty to conduct oversight is one I take very seriously. As the 
chairman of the Intelligence Committee from 2009 to 2015 and as vice 
chairman since 2015, I have undertaken this responsibility with the 
awareness that, without the efforts of the Church Committee, 
congressional oversight of the intelligence community would never have 
been possible. We must also remember that the Church Committee and its 
reports had their vocal and adamant opponents. Oversight is, at times, 
resisted, a fact we discovered firsthand in completing and 
declassifying as the Committee's Study of the CIA's Detention and 
Interrogation Program.
  The legacy of the Church Committee report lives on in the study the 
Intelligence Committee released in 2014.
  The study reviewed over 6.3 million cables, emails, memoranda, and 
transcripts. It is a documentary history of the CIA's words and actions 
in the years during which the CIA conceived of, carried out, and made 
representations about its Detention and Interrogation Program. The 
public is familiar with the report's 500-page executive summary and 
findings and conclusions that were declassified and released. The full 
study is over 6,700 pages long and includes 38,000 footnotes. To this 
day, critics of the study have not demonstrated a single factual 
  Among many revelations, the study showed that, contrary to the CIA's 
claims, the use of torture was brutal and did not result in otherwise 
unavailable intelligence that ``saved lives.'' It also demonstrated 
that the CIA provided inaccurate information about the program to the 
White House, the Department of Justice, to Congress, and the public.
  Much like the Church Committee report before it, the study 
demonstrated the important role oversight plays in securing our 
country's commitment to the rule of law.
  The importance of the work the Church Committee did back in 1975 and 
1976 cannot be understated. Our government operates on the basis of 
trust from the American people. The oath each of us take in public 
service is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
  The actions of the intelligence community leading up to the Church 
Committee violated that trust and must never be repeated.
  Senator Church and his committee, in shedding light on these dark 
times, helped right the ship of American democracy and set an important 
example for all future Members of this body of how to conduct vigilant 
and thorough oversight.