In 1975, Senator Frank Church, who led a committee charged with investigating and making public the abuses of American intelligence agencies, spoke of the National Security Agency in these terms:
“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. That is the abyss from which there is no return.”
The dangerous prospect of which he warned was that America’s intelligence-gathering capability – which is today beyond any comparison with what existed in his pre-digital era – “at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left.”
That has now happened. And so we need a new congressional committee like the one Senator Church led to investigate the revelations by Edward Snowden. The existing Intelligence Committees in House and Senate, gagged by secrecy and coopted by the intelligence community they supposedly oversee, have failed to check dangerously excessive surveillance of Americans’ communications.
Please join me in signing a petition to Congress that reads:
We need a new Church Committee that is fully empowered to investigate the abuses of the NSA and make public its findings, and that is charged with recommending new laws to ensure the U.S. government does not violate our constitutional rights.
Pressure by an informed public on Congress to form a select committee to investigate these revelations might lead us to bring the NSA and the rest of the intelligence community under real supervision and restraint and restore the protections of the Bill of Rights.