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'Church Committee' Chairman Issued Warning in '75 About Intel Community's Ability to 'Impose Total Tyranny' in US

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The late Democratic Sen. Frank Church of Idaho issued a warning back in 1975 about the ability of the U.S. intelligence agencies — like the CIA and the FBI — to abuse their power and help impose tyranny in the country.

The senator was named chairman that year of a select committee commissioned to study the activities and abuses by the intelligence community, which became known as the Church Committee.

On Tuesday House Republicans passed a resolution establishing a subcommittee to look into the “weaponization of the federal government,” which is to be modeled after the Church Committee, ABC News reported.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio is expected to chair the so-called “Church 2” subcommittee.

“We’re going to set up that Church committee to look at some of these federal agencies that are weaponizing government to go after families across this country based on their political views. That’s not what the government should be doing,” House Majority Leader Steve Scalise said.

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Creating the committee was one of the concessions members of the Freedom Caucus secured in order to gain their support for Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California to become speaker of the House.

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in August 1975, Church, who served in U.S. Army intelligence in World War II, laid out the capability of the intelligence community to imperil liberty.

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“In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air,” Church said.

“Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or potential enemies,” he continued. “We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything — telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.”

Nowadays that capability includes monitoring emails and text messages too.

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“If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny,” Church said.

The lawmaker went on to discuss the work of his committee, which had been created by an overwhelming vote in the Senate in January 1975.

“Why is this investigation important? I’ll tell you why,” Church said. “Because I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge.”

He argued that federal agencies that possess surveillance capabilities — like the CIA and the FBI — must be made to “operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss” into tyranny.

Church spoke specifically about the FBI in a hearing that took place on Nov. 18, 1975, saying, “There has never been a full public accounting of FBI domestic intelligence operations.”

“Therefore this committee has undertaken such an investigation,” he recounted. “Its purpose is not to impair the FBI’s legitimate law enforcement and counter-espionage functions, but rather to evaluate domestic intelligence according to the standards of the Constitution and the statutes of our land.”

Church said the committee was investigating “political abuses of FBI intelligence and several specific cases of unjustified intelligence operations.”

Some of the reforms that resulted from the Church Committee included the creation of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to provide oversight of the intelligence community; the establishment of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, where warrants must be obtained to surveil American citizens; and limiting FBI directors’ terms to 10 years, according to the Levin Center.

No doubt some of the issues the “Church 2” subcommittee will be looking into are the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane operation aimed at then-Republican candidate Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, the agency’s raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Largo home this past summer, the FBI’s involvement in the suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story in the weeks before the 2020 election, its investigation into parents who object to school policy, and the bureau’s ongoing roundup of those who engaged in non-violent protests regarding the 2020 election on Jan. 6, 2021.

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