The decade's most triggering comedy
In early January, Republicans in the House announced the formation of a new committee to investigate the weaponization of government agencies, like the FBI and the CIA, for potential abuses of power against American citizens.
Dubbed the “Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government,” the new committee will aim to get to the bottom of things like the FBI’s connection to the Russia collusion hoax, what it knows about the January 6 Capitol breach, its apparent targeting of pro-life activists, its handling of the Hunter Biden laptop, and its relationship to tech companies like Twitter among other concerns.
Advocates of the commission have likened the newly formed body to the Church Committee of the 1970s which uncovered a myriad of serious abuses of power by the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA. The Church Committee was headed up by Senator Frank Church (D-ID) and began in January 1975.
The committee combed through hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, many of which were made available to the public or later declassified.
The commission discovered shocking details about the operations and proposals of the intelligence community and led to the passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a fixed term limit for the FBI director, the banning of political assassinations, and permanent congressional intelligence committees.
Though much of what the senators uncovered was alarming, several programs drew particular attention.
Here are the five most shocking charges against the intelligence community.
Probably the most infamous of the intelligence operations uncovered during the Church Committee was the MK-ULTRA program, which involved the CIA attempting to learn mind control techniques and experimenting with LSD on unwitting participants.
The evidence was apparently so damning that outgoing CIA Director Richard Helms worked with CIA chemist Sydney Gottlieb, who headed the program, to destroy evidence of the project’s work in the early 1970s before the program was reportedly shuttered.
“Gottlieb wanted to create a way to seize control of people’s minds, and he realized it was a two-part process,” journalist Stephen Kinzer, author of “Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control,” told NPR in a 2017 interview. “First, you had to blast away the existing mind. Second, you had to find a way to insert a new mind into that resulting void. We didn’t get too far on number two, but he did a lot of work on number one.”
According to Kinzer, Gottlieb arranged for the CIA to buy out the world supply of LSD in the 1950s which he then distributed to hospitals, prisons, and other research institutions to research how LSD impacted humans.
“The CIA actually hired the vivisectionists and the torturers who had worked in Japan and in Nazi concentration camps to come and explain what they had found out so that we could build on their research,” Kinzer explains.
One of the areas investigated by the Senate was whether the U.S. had or at least attempted to assassinate the leaders of countries the U.S. was not at war with. According to one report from the committee, the “evidence establishes that the United States was implicated in several assassination plots.”
For example, the senators said they had “strong evidence” that the U.S. was involved in a plot to kill Patrice Lumumba, the prime minister of the Congo who was assassinated in 1961. Testimony from one official indicated that President Dwight Eisenhower had authorized an assassination of the leader.
Another favorite target of the CIA was Cuban communist dictator Fidel Castro, with one proposal appearing to involve poisoning a box of Castro’s favorite cigars. The investigators found other plots and assassination proposals, which they detailed in a roughly 300-page report.
In their conclusion, the senators noted that at the time there was no U.S. official policy against assassinations, and recommended that assassination should not be “an instrument of American policy.”
Interestingly, a source from inside the intelligence committee has claimed that the agency was “involved” in the killing of President John F. Kennedy, according to Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
COINTELPRO was an FBI operation that involved the infiltration of extremist groups by informants and FBI agents. Aspects of the operations were widely condemned as violations of the First Amendment with the Church Committee describing the program as “covert action” against American citizens equivalent to operations a country would take during war.
“In these programs, the Bureau went beyond the collection of intelligence to secret action designed to ‘disrupt’ and ‘neutralize’ target groups and individuals. The techniques were adopted wholesale from wartime counter intelligence, and ranged from trivial (mailing reprints of ‘Reader’s Digest’ articles to college administrators) to the degrading (sending anonymous poison-pen letters intended to break up marriages) and the dangerous (encouraging gang warfare and falsely labeling members of a violent group as police informers),” the Church Committee found.
According to the report, there were more than 2,000 COINTELPRO operations approved during the program’s existence. The senators said that the operation’s law enforcement had essentially accepted the premise that they could do whatever they wanted in order to protect the “existing social and political order.”
At one point, former FBI Deputy Associate Director James Adams told investigators that the FBI had roughly 2,000 informants out of 10,000 members of the KKK, meaning individuals linked to the FBI made up one-fifth of the organization’s membership.
While Bureau officials told senators that COINTELPRO had been discontinued, the lawmakers seemed skeptical that the program had actually been ended.
Recently, the large number of FBI informants involved in the plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) and the confirmed presence of informants among January 6 rioters have raised questions about whether the bureau has resumed similar activities.
Operation Mockingbird was a CIA program aimed at gaining access to the media through a network of journalists, both at home and abroad. According to the committee, the CIA had “covert relationships” with 50 American journalists until 1976 when the agency introduced a new policy barring it from paid relationships with American reporters.
These individuals, alongside hundreds of foreign journalists, provided the CIA with intelligence and “at times attempt[ed] to influence foreign opinion through the use of covert propaganda.”
While the CIA maintained the impact of this operation was wholly felt by foreign nations, reporter Carl Bernstein wrote that the agency’s relationship to the American press was closer than detailed by the committee.
According to Bernstein, top executives were working with the CIA, including William Paley (CBS), Henry Luce (Time), and Arthur Sulzberger (The New York Times). Other organizations that also worked with the agency included ABC, NBC, the Associated Press, and Reuters, Bernstein said.
While the operation gained a lot of attention at the time, it is unclear if the legacy press learned any lessons about becoming pawns of the intelligence community. In recent years, the press eagerly ran with the assurances of former intelligence officers who falsely suggested that the Hunter Biden laptop was not legitimate, but rather Russian propaganda.
Project MK-Naomi was a CIA operation tasked with creating poisons and biochemical weapons, including dart gun technology. One dart gun that they created could shoot a dart about 100 meters, according to former CIA Director William Colby.
The program also developed poisons, some to kill crops and others people, and kept stores of shellfish and cobra derived poisons despite then-President Richard Nixon’s express orders for government bodies to destroy all poisons.
According to sources who spoke with The New York Times in the 1970s, the CIA ran a trial of a potential biological weapons attack on New York City by flooding the city’s subway system with a “harmless stimulant.”
Church said that “hundreds of thousands” could die if the shellfish toxin was used in a certain way.
Though not uncovered by the Church Committee, Operation Northwoods merits mention because of the scope of the proposed operation.
In essence, Northwoods was a proposal of several false flag incidents to be orchestrated by top U.S. officials with the goal of justifying a war or other aggressive action against Cuba. In documents from the proposed operation, U.S. officials proposed arranging a “Remember the Maine” style incident (the explosion of the USS Maine provoked the Cuban-American War in 1898).
Possible incidents might include the blowing up of a U.S. ship in Guantanamo Bay and the developing of a “Communist Cuba terror campaign” in Miami and other U.S. cities. This campaign could be directed at “Cuban refugees seeking haven in the United States,” according to U.S. officials.
This terrorism campaign could involve exploding bombs in U.S. cities and hijacking planes, events which could be pinned on Cuba.
The officials proposed sinking “a boatload of Cubans enroute to Florida (real or simulated)” and fostering “attempts on lives of Cuban refugees” in the U.S. up to the point of “wounding” them.
Operation Northwoods was eventually rejected by then-President Kennedy.
Church, who was spied on by the NSA during his time in office, declared in remarks on his committee’s work that the intelligence community had the tools and resources to have a tyrannical control over America, which is why they needed oversight.
“Now, why is this investigation important? I’ll tell you why: because I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss,” he said in a 1975 interview. “That is the abyss from which there is no return.”
The original Church Committee uncovered the rampant abuse of power that can come when a select few have a massive amount of power with limited accountability.
Hopefully the new House committee will be able to claw back some of the excesses of today’s deep state, or at least hold their feet to the fire for some much-needed oversight.