Skip to main content

Church Committee

Church Committee

Following the Watergate Scandal, the Senate conducted a thorough review of the function, operation, and administration of the United States intelligence community. A special committee, the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities was established to conduct the sweeping audit of national intelligence services. Known as the "Church Committee" after its chairman Frank Church, the committee investigated not only the actions and operations of the

intelligence and security services, but also abuses of those services by the Office of the president.

The Church Committee investigated suspected abuses of power by the intelligence community by interviewing hundreds of witnesses and subpoenaing thousands of relevant documents and materials. The main targets of its investigations were the CIA, FBI, National Security Agency (NSA), and Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The committee also closely noted the involvement of the executive branch and President in intelligence affairs.

In 1975 and 1976, the Church Committee issued fourteen reports. Report topics ranged from intelligence and executive branch involvement in the assassination of foreign leaders, an act prohibited by international law, to domestic espionage and political blackmail. Though the committee was initially charged with discovering the abuses of power and intelligence resources that contributed to the Watergate scandal, its investigations encompassed intelligence community operations during the entire post-World War II and Vietnam War era.

The Church Committee issued its final report in April 1976. The Committee concluded that the CIA, FBI, and other intelligence forces, had conducted concerted campaigns of domestic espionage that threatened the Constitutional rights of ordinary citizens. The Church Committee further decided that such actions could be prevented by the establishment of a permanent means of congressional review for the intelligence community. The Senate created the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, a modified version of the Church Committee, as an oversight and investagatory committee for the nation's intelligence services. In the 1970s and 1980s, the committee formalized the review and oversight process, and clearly defined instances of abuse of power and illegal activities that warrant committee investigation. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence continues to operate today.

FURTHER READING:

BOOKS:

Kurland, Philip B. Watergate and the Constitution (The William R. Kenan, Jr., Inaugural Lectures). Chicago:University of Chicago Press, 1978.

Kutler, Stanley I. The Wars of Watergate: The Last Crisis of Richard Nixon. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1992.

ELECTRONIC:

United States National Archives and Records Administration. Watergate resources. <http://www.archives.gov/digital_classroom/lessons/watergate_and_constitution/teaching_activities.html> (01 December 2002).

SEE ALSO

CIA (United States Central Intelligence Agency)

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Church Committee." Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence, and Security. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Church Committee." Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence, and Security. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 18, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/politics/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/church-committee

"Church Committee." Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence, and Security. . Retrieved November 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/politics/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/church-committee

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.