On August 7, BORDC co-sponsored an event in Salt Lake City, about how Utahns can help stop the NSA dragnet. This blog post includes the prepared remarks of former Salt Lake City Mayor Ross C. “Rocky” Anderson.
During the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations, US intelligence agencies engaged in widespread illegal misconduct, far outside the checks and balances of constitutional government. The FBI, after engaging in warrantless wiretapping, tried to blackmail Martin Luther King, Jr. into committing suicide. The CIA hired the Mafia to try to assassinate Fidel Castro. The CIA supported the overthrow of Chile’s democratically elected government. In the COINTELPRO program, the FBI, in the name of national security, conducted illegal investigations of people and organizations engaged in lawful conduct, meted out secret punishments, and promoted violence, broke up marriages of civil rights workers, falsely labeled people as government informers to provoke reprisals against them, and effectively prevented citizens from speaking, teaching, writing, and publishing. The FBI and CIA also engaged in a massive letter-opening campaign, all without warrants and with knowledge of its illegality.
There are times when our government rises to the occasion and casts a light on wrongdoing that inspires us as as to the grand possibilities of our democracy in safeguarding our liberties and providing us the truth about what our government is doing, and what it has done. The Church Committee, during 1975-76, investigated and disclosed to the American people horrendous abuses by the intelligence community, providing the sort of disclosure and wisdom that restores the health and integrity of our threatened republic. It demonstrated that vigilance and an insistence upon the truth are, indeed, essential to our freedoms and democracy. The Church Committee’s work serves as an inspiring object lesson for what urgently needs to happen if we are to keep our republic.