40 years ago, Church Committee investigated Americans spying on Americans

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Church Committee calling CIA Director William Colby to testify on revelations that U.S. intelligence agencies had engaged in controversial covert action  against foreign leaders and U.S. citizens. Chaired by Senator Frank Church (D-ID), the committee held a series of hearings and published 14 reports as it investigated the legality of intelligence operations by the CIA, NSA, and FBI, including attempts to assassinate foreign leaders, spying on Martin Luther King, Jr., and monitoring the political activities of other U.S. citizens. Today, the reforms put in place following the Church Committee hearings are up for discussion in the wake of the Edward Snowden intelligence leaks and the revelation of how much data the government, especially the NSA, was collecting on U.S. citizens. Brookings Nonresident Senior Fellow Stuart Taylor, Jr. detailed the history of U.S. government surveillance programs, and the Church Committee’s response, in his Brookings Essay, “The Big Snoop: Life, liberty, and the Pursuit of Terrorists.”