1970s Church investigations presaged Snowden affair

The Johnson Post today has an excellent look back at the work of the (Idaho US Sen Frank) Church committee, which revealed the ugly underbelly of the US “intelligence” apparatus in the 1970s.

The Johnson Post is the blog of my mentor at Idaho public TV, Marc Johnson. In the early 1980s, we produced the nightly “Idaho Reports”

Marc, in his blog, quotes a recent  article in Harper’s magazine’s online Stream, On the NSA’s “That ’70s Show” Rerun:

“The Snowden Affair is a ‘rerun’ of issues first uncovered during the 1970s, though these problems trace back to the earliest American efforts at espionage,” says [Pat] Shea. Between 1975 and 1976, the Church committees produced more than a dozen reports detailing the illegal activities of the NSA, CIA, and FBI, which included opening mail, intercepting telegrams, planting bugs, wiretapping, and attempting to break up marriages, foment rivalries and destroy careers of private citizens. “We thought we put a stop to this wholesale collection of information on Americans forty years ago,” says Peter Fenn, another former Church staffer.

Looks like we’re condemned to repeat some history here. Marc notes in his blog, as I did a few days ago, that the polling data show a lot of ambivalence on the part of our fellow citizens “and perhaps as a result poll-sensitive elected officials, with the exception of Wyden and Udall, are laying low. Again, I suspect, Church would be stunned.” I sure am!

The situation is much worse now than then. The nation has bought into an omnipresent danger of terror in the land. It’s one way of keeping a fragile polity united.

Be sure to check out The Johnson Post

 

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