In 1975, Frank Church became the chairman of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities. This committee investigated alleged abuses of power by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Intelligence.
The committee looked at the case of Fred Hampton and discovered that William O'Neal, Hampton's bodyguard, was a FBI agent-provocateur who, days before the raid, had delivered an apartment floor-plan to the Bureau with an "X" marking Hampton's bed. Ballistic evidence showed that most bullets during the raid were aimed at Hampton's bedroom.
Church's committee also discovered that the Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation had sent anonymous letters attacking the political beliefs of targets in order to induce their employers to fire them. Similar letters were sent to spouses in an effort to destroy marriages. The committee also documented criminal break-ins, the theft of membership lists and misinformation campaigns aimed at provoking violent attacks against targeted individuals.
One of those people targeted was Martin Luther King. The FBI mailed King a tape recording made from microphones hidden in hotel rooms. The tape was accompanied by a note suggesting that the recording would be released to the public unless King committed suicide.
In 1975 Church's committee interviewed Johnny Roselli about his relationship with the secret services. It emerged that in In September 1960, Roselli and fellow crime boss, Sam Giancana, took part in talks with Allen W. Dulles, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), about the possibility of murdering Fidel Castro.
In its final report the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities concluded: Domestic intelligence activity has threatened and undermined the Constitutional rights of Americans to free speech, association and privacy. It has done so primarily because the Constitutional system for checking abuse of power has not been applied.
Further details of Operation Mockingbird was revealed as a result of the Frank Church investigations (Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities) in 1975. According to the Congress report published in 1976: "The CIA currently maintains a network of several hundred foreign individuals around the world who provide intelligence for the CIA and at times attempt to influence opinion through the use of covert propaganda. These individuals provide the CIA with direct access to a large number of newspapers and periodicals, scores of press services and news agencies, radio and television stations, commercial book publishers, and other foreign media outlets." Church argued that the cost of misinforming the world cost American taxpayers an estimated $265 million a year.
Frank Church showed that it was CIA policy to use clandestine handling of journalists and authors to get information published initially in the foreign media in order to get it disseminated in the United States. Church quotes from one document written by the Chief of the Covert Action Staff on how this process worked (page 193). For example, he writes: “Get books published or distributed abroad without revealing any U.S. influence, by covertly subsidizing foreign publicans or booksellers.” Later in the document he writes: “Get books published for operational reasons, regardless of commercial viability”. Church goes onto report that “over a thousand books were produced, subsidized or sponsored by the CIA before the end of 1967”. All these books eventually found their way into the American market-place. Either in their original form (Church gives the example of the Penkovskiy Papers) or repackaged as articles for American newspapers and magazines.
In another document published in 1961 the Chief of the Agency’s propaganda unit wrote: “The advantage of our direct contact with the author is that we can acquaint him in great detail with our intentions; that we can provide him with whatever material we want him to include and that we can check the manuscript at every stage… (the Agency) must make sure the actual manuscript will correspond with our operational and propagandistic intention.”
Church quotes Thomas H. Karamessines as saying: “If you plant an article in some paper overseas, and it is a hard-hitting article, or a revelation, there is no way of guaranteeing that it is not going to be picked up and published by the Associated Press in this country” (page 198).
By analyzing CIA documents Frank Church was able to identify over 50 U.S. journalists who were employed directly by the Agency. He was aware that there were a lot more who enjoyed a very close relationship with the CIA who were “being paid regularly for their services, to those who receive only occasional gifts and reimbursements from the CIA” (page 195).
Church pointed out that this was probably only the tip of the iceberg because the CIA refused to “provide the names of its media agents or the names of media organizations with which they are connected” (page 195). Church was also aware that most of these payments were not documented. This was the main point of the Otis Pike Report. If these payments were not documented and accounted for, there must be a strong possibility of financial corruption taking place. This includes the large commercial contracts that the CIA was responsible for distributing. Pike’s report actually highlighted in 1976 what eventually emerged in the 1980s via the activities of CIA operatives such as Edwin Wilson, Thomas Clines, Ted Shackley, Raphael Quintero, Richard Secord and Felix Rodriguez.
Frank Church also identified E. Howard Hunt as an important figure in Operation Mockingbird. He points out how Hunt arranged for books to be reviewed by certain writers in the national press. He gives the example of how Hunt arranged for a “CIA writer under contract” to write a hostile review of a Edgar Snow book in the New York Times (page 198).
Church comes up with this conclusion to his examination of this issue: “In examining the CIA’s past and present use of the U.S. media, the Committee finds two reasons for concern. The first is the potential, inherent in covert media operations, for manipulating or incidentally misleading the American public. The second is the damage to the credibility and independence of a free press which may be caused by covert relationships with the U.S. journalists and media organizations.”
The committee also reported that the Central Intelligence Agency had withheld from the Warren Commission, during its investigation of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, information about plots by the Government of the United States against Fidel Castro of Cuba; and that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had conducted a counter-intelligence program (COINTELPRO) against Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
The Mafia boss, Sam Giancana was ordered to appear before the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities. However, before he could appear, on 19th June, 1975, Giancana was murdered in his own home. He had a massive wound in the back of the head. He had also been shot six times in a circle around the mouth. At the same time Jimmy Hoffa, another man the committee wanted to interview, also disappeared. His body was never found.
Johnny Roselli was also due to appear before Church's committee when he was murdered and in July 1976 his body was found floating in an oil drum in Miami's Dumfoundling Bay. Jack Anderson, of the Washington Post, interviewed Roselli just before he was killed. On 7th September, 1976, the newspaper reported Roselli as saying : "When Oswald was picked up, the underworld conspirators feared he would crack and disclose information that might lead to them. This almost certainly would have brought a massive U.S. crackdown on the Mafia. So Jack Ruby was ordered to eliminate Oswald."
As a result of Church's report and the deaths of Sam Giancana, Jimmy Hoffa and Johnny Roselli, Congress established the House Select Committee on Assassinations in September 1976. The resolution authorized a 12-member select committee to conduct an investigation of the circumstances surrounding the deaths of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King.