31. Editorial Note

On January 21, 1975, Senator John O. Pastore (D–Rhode Island) introduced legislation (S. Res. 21) to establish a Senate Select Committee to Study Government Operations With Respect to Intelligence Activities. By a roll call vote of 82–4 on January 27, the Senate approved the creation of a bipartisan 11-member Select Committee and gave it broad power to establish whether any U.S. intelligence or law enforcement agency had engaged in “illegal, improper, or unethical activities” as alleged in the press. (Congress and the Nation, Volume IV, 1973–1976, page 185) S. Res. 21 mandated the exploration of four specific issues: 1) whether the Central Intelligence Agency has conducted any illegal domestic intelligence operation; 2) the conduct of domestic intelligence and counterintelligence operations against United States citizens by the Federal Bureau of Investigation or any other Federal agency; 3) the origins and disposition of the Huston Plan; and 4) the need for legislative authority to govern the operations of any intelligence agencies. To accomplish this, the new Select Committee was given subpoena powers.

The following day, January 28, Senator Frank Church (D–Idaho) was named chairman of the Committee, composed of six Democratic [Page 66]and five Republican members. Thereafter, the Select Committee would be known informally in public and policymaking circles as the Church Committee. In a statement to the press, Church asserted that his committee would “review the work of Vice President Rockefeller’s commission on the Central Intelligence Agency” and stated, after the committee’s first organizational meeting, that all of its members were “agreed that very strong security procedures must be established” before it began dealing with classified materials requested from the intelligence agencies. (“Senator Church Heads New C.I.A.–F.B.I. Panel,” New York Times, January 29, 1975, page 12)