Otis Grey Pike was born in Riverhead, Suffolk County, on 31st August, 1921. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor Pike joined the United States Marines and served as a pilot in the Pacific War. He was awarded five medals during the Second World War.
Pike graduated from Princeton University (1946) and Columbia University Law School (1948) and worked as a lawyer in Riverhead. He was also justice of the peace in the town between 1954-60. A member of the Democratic Party, Pike was elected to the 87th Congress in 1960. He eventually was appointed as a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence.
On 22nd December, 1974, Seymour Hersh published an article in the New York Times where he claimed that the Central Intelligence Agency had been involved in domestic spying activities. President Gerald Ford responded by asking Nelson Rockefeller to head a commission to investigate CIA activities in the United States.
Congress also reacted to this information and decided to investigate the entire intelligence community. On 27th January, 1975, the US Senate established the Senate Select Committee to Study Government Operations With Respect to Intelligence Activities under the chairmanship of Frank Church.
On 19 February 1975, the House of Representatives voted to create a House Select Intelligence Committee. Its first chairman was Lucien Nedzi. Five months later he was replaced by Otis Pike.
The House Select Intelligence Committee examined the effectiveness of the CIA and its cost to the taxpayers. The CIA and the White House did not take kindly to this investigation and Pike and his committee had considerable difficulty gaining access to documents. In a letter written to William Colby on 28th July, 1975, Pike claimed that he was not interested in history, sources and methods, or the names of agents. "I am seeking to obtain information on how much of the taxpayers' dollars you spend each year and the basic purposes for which it is spent".
Officially, Henry Kissinger cooperated with the committee but according to Gerald K. Haines, the CIA official historian, he "worked hard to undermine its investigations and to stonewall the release of documents to it". On 4th August, 1975, Pike made a public statement that: "What we have found thus far is a great deal of the language of cooperation and a great deal of the activity of non-cooperation".The final draft report of the Pike Committee claimed that the cooperation of the CIA and the White House was "virtually nonexistent." The report asserted that they had practiced "foot dragging, stonewalling, and deception" in response to committee requests for information.
Senior CIA officials were extremely upset when they first read the draft report. They recommenced deleting large sections of the report, including almost all the budget references. Otis Pike and his committee refused to accept these suggestions. The final report also recommended that Congress draft appropriate legislation to prohibit any significant transfer of funds or significant expenditures of reserve or contingency funds in connection with intelligence activities without specific approval of the Congressional intelligence committees.
On 19th January, 1976, Pike sent the final draft of a 338 page report to the CIA. Mitchell Rogovin, the CIA's Special Counsel for legal affairs, responded with a scalding attack on the report. He complained that the report was an "unrelenting indictment couched in biased, pejorative and factually erroneous terms." He also told Searle Field, staff director of the House Select Committee: "Pike will pay for this, you wait and see....There will be a political retaliation.. We will destroy him for this."
Despite the protests of the CIA, on 23rd January 1976 the committee voted 9 to 7 along party lines to release its report with no substantial changes. Republican Party members on the committee, strongly supported by President Gerald Ford and William Colby, now led the fight to suppress the report. Colby called a press conference to denounce Pike's report, calling it a "totally biased and a disservice to our nation." Colby added that the report gave a thoroughly wrong impression of American intelligence.
Robert McCory, the leading Republican on the House Select Intelligence Committee, made a speech on 26th January, 1976, that the release of the report would endanger the national security of the United States. Three days later the House of Representatives voted 246 to 124 to direct the Pike Committee not to release its report until it "has been certified by the President as not containing information which would adversely affect the intelligence activities of the CIA." Pike was furious and pointed out: "The House just voted not to release a document it had not read. Our committee voted to release a document it had read." Pike was so upset that he threatened not to file a report at all because "a report on the CIA in which the CIA would do the final rewrite would be a lie."
Worried that the report would never be published, someone on the House Select Intelligence Committee leaked the report to Daniel Schorr. He gave it to The Village Voice, which published it in full on 16th February 1976 under the title "The Report on the CIA that President Ford Doesn't Want You to Read." This led to his suspension by CBS and an investigation by the House Ethics Committee in which Schorr was threatened with jail for contempt of Congress if he did not disclose his source. Schorr refused and eventually the committee decided 6 to 5 against a contempt citation.
Pike resigned from Congress in 1978. He became president of the South Oaks Hospital in Amityville. He also worked as a syndicated columnist for the Newhouse Newspaper Group until his retirement in 1999. He now lives in Vero Beach, Florida.