Chris Hayes has the cover story in this week’s Nation with a case why we need a new Church Committee to investigate CIA abuses. Or rather, we need something even better than the Church Committee.
As historian Kathy Olmsted argues in her book Challenging the Secret Government, Church was never quite able to part with this conception of good Democrats/bad Republicans. Confronted with misdeeds under Kennedy and Johnson, he chose to view the CIA as a rogue agency, as opposed to one executing the president’s wishes. This characterization became the fulcrum of debate within the committee. At one point Church referred to the CIA as a “rogue elephant,” causing a media firestorm. But the final committee report shows that to the degree the agency and other parts of the secret government were operating with limited control from the White House, it was by design. Walter Mondale came around to the…
So, this is a Fox News video called “Under Attack Again”, which says the CIA is suffering much as it did during the Church Committee era, and a bunch of stuff you should cock a skeptical eye at. But wait — who’s that strikingly expert voice we hear in the middle?
In fairness, they did go to someone who knew what she was talking about. But I bet she had more to say than we heard. I think if you want to know some of that you should probably buy this book. Which I’m sure you have, but maybe you need an extra one or two or three, to give to your friends. Buy some for your conservative friends and tell them you saw the author on Fox News. Go on, it’ll help the economy.
After fielding yet another media call about the supposed “dismantling” of the CIA by the Church Committee, I feel moved to systematically address the neoconservative assumptions that dominate the current debate. In 1975, staffers in the Gerald Ford White House, most notably chief of staff Dick Cheney, started an organized effort to spin the press coverage of Senator Frank Church’s investigation of the CIA.
The talking points of the Ford administration are now taken as gospel truth. This is not just a matter of historical accuracy; it’s directly relevant to the current discussion. Because if the Church Committee did destroy the CIA, then we can say that “history tells us” that all CIA investigations are inherently destructive and will endanger our safety.
So, let’s look at the record. Right after Watergate, Senator Church’s Senate Select Committee to Investigate …
The current claims by the so-called Birther movement that Barack Obama is not a “natural-born citizen” of the United States may seem part of the lunatic fringe. But the Birthers’ basic premise – that the U.S. president is actually the agent of an enemy conspiracy – has a long history in America, and it highlights the tension between American openness and American paranoia.
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This blog is a blog about history, Yiddishkeit, and the Muppets, neither exclusively nor necessarily in that order. And as William Gibson said about this very blog (no, really), “History can save your ass.” Yiddishkeit and the Muppets are just extras.
is the associate director of the Cornell in Washington program and a senior lecturer at Cornell University. He teaches courses on European history, modern military history, guerrilla war, and the role of popular will in waging war.
is a professor of history at UC Davis. He is the author of A River and Its City: The Nature of Landscape in New Orleans, which won the Abbott Lowell Cummings Prize in 2004, and his new book, A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over the Memory of Sand Creek, will be published by Harvard University Press in fall 2012.
is a professor of history at UC Davis. She is the author of Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11 (Oxford, 2009); Red Spy Queen: A Biography of Elizabeth Bentley (North Carolina, 2002); and Challenging the Secret Government: The Post-Watergate Investigations of the CIA and FBI (North Carolina, 1996).