Frank Church

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Frank F. Church
Frank Church.jpg
Former U.S. Senator from Idaho
From: January 3, 1957 – January 3, 1981
Predecessor Herman Welker
Successor Steve Symms
Party Democrat
Spouse(s) Bethine Clark
Religion Presbyterian
Military Service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Service Years 1943–1946
Rank Second Lieutenant
Battles/wars World War II

Frank Forrester Church, III (July 25, 1924 – April 7, 1984) was four-term United States Senator from Idaho, serving from 1957 to 1981.

Political career

Early career and environmentalism

Frank Church was elected to the Senate in 1957. Similar to George McGovern, he was a liberal politician coming from a conservative state. Originally getting into conflict with then Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Baines Johnson, Church was comforted by Senate Minority Leader William F. Knowland. He was known in the Senate for his environmental causes, as he supported and sponsored multiple pieces of environmental legislation throughout his career, such as a 1964 law that defined wilderness in the United States and a 1968 law that created the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

Church voted for Everett Dirksen's proposed amendment to allow school prayer.[1]

Church was subject to recall efforts in 1967, but a court ruled them unlawful.[2] He then proceeded to win re-election the next year.

Throughout his career, Church would speak out against gun control.[3] He voted against the Gun Control Act of 1968.[4]

Foreign policy

Church was the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1979 to 1981. He was an opponent of the Vietnam War, though he had been an initial supporter of the war.[3]

Church Committee

Church headed the "Church Committee" the senatorial committee that would become the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is the Deep State's arm in the Senate. There he uncovered the Lockheed Bribery scandal.[5]

While on the committee, Church learned of the surprising power of the NSA to monitor people and intrude into their lives through surveillance. Speaking of the electronic monitoring power of the NSA, Church said in 1975:

That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide. If a dictator ever took over, the N.S.A. could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.[6]

Because of his criticism of the Vietnam War (and perhaps the NSA), the NSA monitored him in "Project Minaret," along with Martin Luther King Jr. and Howard Baker. The NSA would later say that "Project Minaret" was "disreputable if not outright illegal."[7]

The Church Committee uncovered several foreign coups, assassinations, and attempted assassinations of foreign leaders, often by rogue elements within the CIA without presidential authorization, congressional oversight, or advise and consent of the Congress.[8] This marked the beginning of a permanent Senate Intelligence oversight committee.[9] CIA director William Colby revealed to Congress the plans to kill Fidel Castro and the 1953 Iranian coup.[10] President Gerald Ford signed an executive order in 1975 banning the CIA from engaging in coups and assassinations on its own without Presidential authorization,[11] known as a Presidential Finding. The CIA director now must report to the permanent committee every 30 days on its ongoing activities. The director must inform the committee of all covert operations, including if the CIA has killed anyone within the past 30 days, whether it be authorized by a Presidential Finding or for the purposes of maintaining operational security.[12]

The committee also learned of Operation Mockingbird, the extent of infiltration and control of American media and the press to influence American public opinion and perceptions about CIA activities.[13]

In 2023, the incoming GOP majority that took control of the House of Representatives pledged to establish a new Church Committee to investigate the politicized misuse of the FBI and DOJ.[14]

Later career

Church sponsored a "conscience clause" that prohibited the government from requiring church-affiliated hospitals to perform abortions.[15] Regarding the clause to the Church Amendment, he said, "It clears up any ambiguity in the present law by making it explicitly clear that it is not the intention of Congress to mandate religious hospitals to perform operations that are contrary to deeply held religious beliefs."[16]

He ran for president in 1976, but withdrew from the race in support of Jimmy Carter.

In 1980, as part of the "Reagan Revolution", he lost his Senate seat to conservative Republican Steve Symms.


The Church Committee held public hearings where many outrageous and embarrassing horror stories about the CIA were aired to a live television audience. During the Carter administration, the CIA was put on a leash and its budget gutted. Many blame these actions as the cause for the 1979 Soviet-backed Iranian Revolution, the fall of the Shah of Iran, a longtime ally who helped defeat Hitler, the rise of the theocratic Islamic Republic of Iran, the Iranian Hostage Crisis, the defeat of President Carter and 9 incumbent Democrat Senators including Church, and the election of President Reagan.


Church was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer after leaving the Senate. He died in 1984 at the age of fifty-nine.

See also


  2. Bohrer, John R. (May 10, 2010). A Tea Party’s Quixotic Effort to Recall the Senate. Huffington Post.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Anderson, Larrey (February 11, 2010) The Rise and Fall of Frank Church: A Lesson for Conservatives American Thinker. Retrieved July 9, 2021.
  5. October 17, 2016. The Man Who Pulled the Trigger on a Scandal. Boise State University.
  7. Aid, Matthew M.; Burr, William (September 25, 2013). Secret Cold War Documents Reveal NSA Spied on Senators. Foreign Policy.
  8. - Report on CIA Assassination Plots (1)”, Richard B. Cheney Files at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library
  9. "The Senate acted first in May 1976, creating the Select Committee on Intelligence. The House followed suit a little over a year later, creating the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Both committees were made responsible for authorizing expenditures for intelligence activities (although the Senate was limited to "national" intelligence, whereas the House mandate included both "national" and "tactical" intelligence activities), and for conducting necessary oversight. The resolutions creating both committees recognized that they would be kept "fully and currently informed" of intelligence activities under their purview. Both committees were added to the list of those to receive notice of covert actions under the Hughes-Ryan amendment. The Senate committee also was given responsibility for handling the confirmation proceedings when the DCI and the Deputy DCI were nominated by the President. While efforts were made in succeeding months to let emotions over intelligence activities subside and to establish more "normal" relationships between the Legislative and Executive branches, the hiatus was relatively short-lived. In 1977, the Senate Committee reexamined the question whether the aggregate intelligence budget should be released publicly. This issue would continue to be debated for the next two decades. The statement of newly-appointed DCI Turner that he had no problem with the release of this figure aroused protests from those who believed disclosure could assist hostile intelligence services in deciphering U.S. intelligence activity. In August 1977, DCI Turner prompted a more substantial controversy by announcing his intention to reduce the CIA's Directorate of Operations by 800 people. The first reductions occurred on 31 October 1977 (called the "Halloween Massacre" within CIA) when 200 officers were fired. Critics of the DCI charged that he was destroying the CIA's human source collection capability in favor of technical collection programs run by the Department of Defense. (Some in Defense, on the other hand, perceived Turner as attempting to take over those programs.) On 24 January 1978, President Carter issued a new Executive Order on intelligence which reaffirmed the DCI's Community-wide authority over priorities, tasking, and the budget; contained additional restrictions on collection techniques, participation in domestic activities, and human experimentation; and reiterated the ban on assassinations. Intelligence agencies were specifically required to promulgate procedures to govern the collection of information on U.S. citizens and persons admitted to the U.S. for permanent residence. Notwithstanding the new presidential order, both congressional committees proceeded to consider bills in 1978 which would have dramatically overhauled the Intelligence Community. Following the suggestions of the Church Committee as well as incorporating various aspects of the Executive branch reforms, the Senate committee developed a comprehensive bill entitled the "National Intelligence Reorganization and Reform Act of 1978." The Evolution of the U.S. Intelligence Community-An Historical Overview, Federation of American Scientists
  10. See: Clinton_body_count#William Colby. Some say Dir. Colby was assassinated 20 years later while investigating the Clinton's connections to Mena airport and the cocaine smuggling scandal known as Iran Contra because Colby could not be trusted after ratting-out earlier CIA misdeeds.
  11. This is often mistakenly referred to in mainstream media and academia as the "ban on assassinations". More properly, it is a ban on CIA assassinations and coups acting on their own without presidential authorization. The first generation of CIA command and operatives were of the World War II generation, accustomed to longterm duty assignments without contact with their superiors, and who felt instinctively they knew how to deal with America's enemies without burdening their commanders for permission.
    The President still retains the power, under his oath to "preserve protect and defend" the Constitution, to order assassinations and coups. This serves as due process, even against American citizens.
    Drone killing policy withstands challenge, scotusblog
  12. Covert Action: the Delicate Balance, Diane C. Snyder
  13. The CIA's Family Jewels, National Security Archives
  15. The History and Effect of Abortion Conscience Clause Laws
  16. See 119 Cong. Rec. 9,595 (1973) (statement of Sen. Church) at 9,600.

External links

  • Profile at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  • Biography at Britannica
  • Profile at Find a Grave