- by theguardian
- 21 Sep 2023
Frank Forrester Church sat in the US Senate for 24 years. His tenure was consequential. A Democrat, he battled for civil rights and came to oppose the Vietnam war. He believed Americans were citizens, not subjects. Chairing the intelligence select committee was his most enduring accomplishment. James Risen, a Pulitzer-winning reporter now with the Intercept, sees him as a hero. The Last Honest Man is both paean and lament.
For 16 months, Church and his committee scrutinized the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency and their many abuses. Amid the cold war, in the aftermath of Vietnam and Watergate, Congress grappled with the balance between civil liberties and national security, executive prerogative and congressional authority.
Political assassinations, covert operations and domestic surveillance finally received scrutiny and oversight. A plot to kill Fidel Castro, with an assist from organized crime, made headlines. So did the personal ties that bound John F Kennedy, mob boss Sam Giancana and their shared mistress, Judith Campbell Exner.
Giancana was murdered before he testified. Before John Rosselli, another mobster, could make a third appearance, his decomposed body turned up in a steel fuel drum near Miami.
And then came Donald Trump.
In 1980, Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush beat Carter and Mondale in a landslide. The election also cost Church his seat and the Democrats control of the Senate. Four years later, Mondale bested Hart for the Democratic nomination, only to be shellacked by Reagan-Bush again.
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