Central Intelligence Agency
The Church Committee Hearings
In 1974, the New York Times broke a story that the CIA had violated its charter by spying on U.S. citizens who openly opposed the VIETNAM WAR. An investigation followed, headed by Senator Frank Church (D-ID). Church and his committee uncovered a wealth of damaging information about the agency that went far
beyond the issue of the Vietnam War. The Church committee hearings changed the way the public looked at the agency that is responsible for the security of its country.
The Church committee found that the CIA had been intercepting and reading mail exchanged between the United States and the Soviet bloc. The CIA had records on more than three hundred thousand U.S. citizens who had no ties with ESPIONAGE or intelligence. The CIA had also conducted LSD tests on unknowing participants, one of whom was driven to suicide. Through the CIA, the United States had tried to assassinate at least five foreign leaders, including Cuban premier Fidel Castro. The CIA had first decided to embarrass the Cuban leader and thereby damage his popularity. To accomplish this, the agency plotted to make Castro's beard fall off by placing thallium salts in his shoes. The agency had a second plot: to give Castro a personality disorder by contaminating his cigars. The agency had even enlisted the help of the mafia in its attempt to assassinate Castro. These shocking disclosures brought demands for closer scrutiny of CIA activities.
Following the Church committee hearings, Congress amended the National Security Act of 1947 in 1980 to require the CIA to inform the House and Senate Intelligence Committees of "significant anticipated intelligence activity." Within six years, however, the CIA found itself in trouble once more for failing to inform Congress of its activities.
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