Things came to a head in the mid-1970s, around the time of Watergate. A dominant feature of political life during that period were the attempts of Congress to assert oversight of the US Presidency and the executive branch of the US Government. Revelations about past CIA activities, such as assassinations and attempted assassinations of foreign leaders (most notably Fidel Castro and Rafael Trujillo) and illegal domestic spying on US citizens, provided the opportunities to execute Congressional oversight of US intelligence operations.
In 1973, then-DCI James R. Schlesinger commissioned reports -- known as the "Family Jewels" -- on illegal activities by the Agency. In December 1974, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh broke the news of the "Family Jewels" (after it was leaked to him by DCI William Colby) in a front-page article in The New York Times, claiming that the CIA had assassinated foreign leaders, and had illegally conducted surveillance on some 7,000 US citizens involved in the antiwar movement (Operation CHAOS). The CIA had also experimented on people, who unknowingly took LSD (among other things).
Congress responded to the disturbing charges in 1975, investigating the CIA in the Senate via the Church Committee, chaired by Senator Frank Church (D-Idaho), and in the House of Representatives via the Pike Committee, chaired by Congressman Otis Pike (D-NY). In addition, President Gerald Ford created the Rockefeller Commission, and issued an executive order prohibiting the assassination of foreign leaders.
During the investigation, Schlesinger's successor as DCI, William Colby, testified before Congress on 32 occasions in 1975, including about the "Family Jewels". Colby later stated that he believed that providing Congress with this information was the correct thing to do, and ultimately in the CIA's own interests. As the CIA fell out of favor with the public, Ford assured Americans that his administration was not involved: "There are no people presently employed in the White House who have a relationship with the CIA of which I am personally unaware."
Repercussions from the Iran-Contra affair arms smuggling scandal included the creation of the Intelligence Authorization Act in 1991. It defined covert operations as secret missions in geopolitical areas where the US is neither openly nor apparently engaged. This also required an authorizing chain of command, including an official, presidential finding report and the informing of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, which, in emergencies, requires only "timely notification".
Published on Jul 9, 2012 by thefilmarchives