Otis Pike

Otis Pike

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.

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) Otis Pike, letter to William Colby (28th July, 1975)

First of all, it's a delight to receive two letters from you not stamped 'Secret' on every page.... 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...

I would assume that a reasonable place to look for that statement of account would be in the Budget of the United States Government and while it may be in there, I can't find it. I hope that Mr. Lynn (James Lynn, Director of the Office of Management and Budget) may be able to help me. The Index of the Budget for fiscal year 1976 under the "C's" moves from Center for Disease Control to Chamizal Settlement and to a little old country lawyer, it would seem to me that between those two might have been an appropriate place to find the CIA but it is not there. It's possibly in there somewhere but I submit that it is not there in the manner which the founding fathers intended and the Constitution requires.

(2) Philip Agee, introduction to CIA: The Pike Report (1977)

What had happened in the United States during the two months since Welch's death? It seemed that the American public had had enough. Almost two years had passed, beginning with publication in May 1974 after a long court battle of The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence,' during which one scandal and "abuse", after another were charged to the CIA, FBI and other security agencies. After an initial overlap with the Watergate episode and the end of the Nixon presidency, the scandals had grown dramatically with revelations of the CIA's subversion of the Allende government in Chile (September 1974) and of the CIA's massive, illegal domestic operations (December 1974). My own book on the CIA' appeared first in January 1975, the same month President Ford appointed the Rockefeller Commission to investigate the CIA's domestic activities, and the same month the Senate established its investigating committee under Senator Frank Church. By February 1976 when the Pike Report was published, a large sector of the American public seemed not to want to hear it - some, no doubt, having no more stomach for scandal, disillusion and moral conflict; others, surely, because they were beginning to realize just how damaging the revelations had become.

(3) Otis Pike, CIA: The Pike Report (1977)

When legal proceedings were not in the offing, the access experience was frequently one of foot-dragging, stonewalling, and careful deception.

A few examples should suffice.

The President went on television June 10, 1975, and reassured the nation that the uncompleted work of the Rockefeller Commission would be carried forward by the two intelligence committees of the Congress. The files of the Commission, President Ford announced, would be turned over to both committees

immediately.

The Committee began requesting those files within the week. We requested and requested.86 We negotiated.

Finally, by threatening to announce publicly that the President's word had not been kept, the files were turned over-in mid-October, some four months late.

In another case, likewise involving basic research information, the Committee in early August, requested a complete set of what has become known as the "Family Jewels." This 693-page document was the very foundation of the current investigations. It had come into existence as the result of an order by former CIA Director James Schlesinger, on May 9, 1973, in the wake of Watergate revelations. Dr. Schlesinger had ordered CIA employees to report any possible past wrongdoing, and those reports were compiled into the "Jewels" on May 21, 1973.

By the end of August, the Committee had been provided only a sanitized version of the document. Letters were sent and negotiations proceeded throughout September. On October 7, 1975, the staff was told that they would not be allowed to see the complete record of wrongdoing as assembled in May 1973.

A second sanitized version was sent in mid-October, but it was hardly less sanitized than the first. As an interesting sidelight, the second version did have one page that was not in the first. It was a photocopy of a lack Anderson newspaper article, nothing more. In the first version, that page had been blanked out, with the message, "This information deleted because it reveals sensitive operational techniques and methods." The second version was not deleted, but it was classified.

The Chairman demanded a complete copy of the report, and was told that one would be forthcoming. None was. As a result, he scheduled a press conference for 12:00 noon on October 11, 1975.

At 11:45 a.m. on October 11, 1975, the report was finally delivered," after the life of the Committee's investigation was more than half over.

These two examples represent some of the most basic research materials available to the Committee. Their contents were crimes, abuses, and questionable conduct, not sophisticated or legitimate intelligence secrets.

Other important information was withheld, such as a Committee request for certain records of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. On August 25, 1975, a letter was sent asking for a copy of the Board's agendas since 1961. No written response to that letter has even been received.

The Board interested the Committee from the standpoint of command and control. There have been numerous recommendations, for example, that a pending executive reorganization make this group the key command and control unit for foreign intelligence?

The Committee is still waiting for the Board's documents to be delivered, despite the fact that the ranking minority member of the Committee took a personal interest in the matter. A month of his efforts produced only a limited right to see certain information, not the documents themselves.

(4) Otis Pike, CIA: The Pike Report (1977)

The first matter of business between the CIA and the Committee was a request by the Agency that all of the staff be required to sign six pages of CIA oaths.

These elaborate oaths stipulated, in effect, acceptable conduct for Congressional employees with respect to things CIA had determined were secret. Without oaths, secrets would not be forthcoming. The staff represents, of course, Committee members, but the members were not asked to sign oaths. Perhaps this was because members would not do anything untoward with secrets. More likely, it was because they would protest loudly.

The Committee reminded CIA that subjecting our employees to Executive oaths would violate the concept that Congress is an independent and co-equal branch of government.

It is the Constitutional responsibility of Congress to control its own staff, and this is the course the Committee followed. It required every employee to sign a statement, drafted by the Committee, reflecting the needs and considerations of Congress. and enforced by Congress.

This may seem like so much posturing; but it is important not to underestimate the significance of firmly establishing the premise that a target of an investigation does not lay down ground rules. As the Agency noted, this has not been the case in the past; and it may be one of the reasons this investigation had become necessary lm

The next move was to require the Committee to enter into agreements.

When this was rejected, a modified version of those agreements set forth proposed rules and regulations the Committee would abide by if certain classified information were to be made available. These agreements also included a proposal to "compartment" our staff. Compartmenting would mean dividing them up and restricting their access to each other's work.

The Committee refused to sign. It refused even to agree, as a matter of "understanding," that Executive rules would be binding. Such proposed understandings included allowing intelligence officials to review the notes of investigators before notes could be brought back to Committee offices. Other committees have consistently been subjected to that arrangement.

The FBI then came forward with a six-page agreement that they requested be signed before classified information could be handled by the Committee.

The FBI proposal was even more restrictive than CIA's. Secret documents would be made available in special rooms at the FBI, with FBI monitors present. Notes would be reviewed by FBI agents. After notes had been appropriately sanitized, they would be sent to our offices.

Once again, the Committee refused to sign. It did agree orally to put all future requests for documents in writing. The repercussions of this oral agreement illustrate quite nicely the problem with agreements. A few days later the Committee received a letter from the Justice Department stating that requests for materials that had been made a month earlier by Committee members in public hearings had not been fulfilled. Even though FBI officials had publicly agreed to furnish the documents promptly, the requests had not been "in writing."

(5) Gerald K. Haines, head of the CIA's History Staff, The Pike Committee Investigations and the CIA (undated)

The investigations of the Pike Committee, headed by Democratic Representative Otis Pike of New York, paralleled those of the Church Committee, led by Idaho Senator Frank Church, also a Democrat. While the Church Committee centered its attention on the more sensational charges of illegal activities by the CIA and other components of the IC, the Pike Committee set about examining the CIA's effectiveness and its costs to taxpayers. Unfortunately, Representative Pike, the committee, and its staff never developed a cooperative working relationship with the Agency or the Ford administration.

The committee soon was at odds with the CIA and the White House over questions of access to documents and information and the declassification of materials. Relations between the Agency and the Pike Committee became confrontational. CIA officials came to detest the committee and its efforts at investigation. Many observers maintained moreover, that Representative Pike was seeking to use the committee hearings to enhance his senatorial ambitions, and the committee staff, almost entirely young and anti-establishment, clashed with Agency and White House officials...

Just as he had done with the Rockefeller Commission and the Church Committee, DCI Colby promised his full cooperation to the Pike Committee. Colby, accompanied by Special Counsel Mitchell Rogovin and Enno H. Knoche, Assistant to the Director, met with Pike and Congressman McClory, the ranking Republican on the committee, on 24 July 1975. At the meeting, Colby expressed his continuing belief that the committee would find that the main thrust of US intelligence was "good, solid, and trustworthy."

Pike responded that he had no intention of destroying US intelligence. What he wanted, he told Colby, was to build public and Congressional understanding and support for intelligence by "exposing" as much as possible of its nature without doing harm to proper intelligence activities. Pike related to Colby that he knew the investigation would cause "occasional conflict between us, but that a constructive approach by both sides should resolve it." Privately, Pike indicated that he believed the Agency was a "rogue elephant" out of control, as Senator Church had charged publicly. It needed to be restrained and major reporting reforms initiated.

Colby, unaware of Pike's private views, then sought an agreement with Pike and McClory on procedural matters much like the Agency had negotiated with the Church Committee. Colby outlined his responsibility for protecting sources and methods and the complexity posed in meeting "far-flung requests for all documents and files" relating to a given topic.

Pike would have none of Colby's reasoning. He assured the DCI that the committee had its own security standards. He also refused to allow the CIA or the executive branch to stipulate the terms under which the committee would receive or review classified information. Pike insisted, moreover, that the committee had the authority to declassify intelligence documents unilaterally. He appeared bent on asserting what he saw as the Constitutional prerogatives of the legislative branch over the executive branch, and the CIA was caught in the middle.

Given Pike's position, the committee's relationship with the Agency and the White House quickly deteriorated. It soon became open warfare.

Confrontation would be the key to CIA and White House relationships with the Pike Committee and its staff. Early on, Republican Representative James Johnson set the tone for the relationship when he told Seymour Bolten, chief of the CIA Review Staff, "You, the CIA, are the enemy." Colby came to consider Pike a "jackass" and his staff "a ragtag, immature and publicity-seeking group." Even Colby's rather reserved counsel, Mitch Rogovin, saw Pike as "a real prickly guy...to deal with." Rogovin believed Pike was not really wrong in his position. "He just made it so goddamn difficult. You also had to deal with Pike's political ambitions."

The CIA Review Staff, which worked closely with both the Church Committee and Pike Committee staffs, never developed the same cooperative relationship with the Pike Committee staffers that it did with the Church Committee. The Review Staff pictured the Pike staffers as "flower children, very young and irresponsible and naive."

According to CIA officer Richard Lehman, the Pike Committee staffers were "absolutely convinced that they were dealing with the devil incarnate." For Lehman, the Pike staff "came in loaded for bear." Donald Gregg, the CIA officer responsible for coordinating Agency responses to the Pike Committee, remembered, "The months I spent with the Pike Committee made my tour in Vietnam seem like a picnic. I would vastly prefer to fight the Viet Cong than deal with a polemical investigation by a Congressional committee, which is what the Pike Committee [investigation] was." An underlying problem was the large cultural gap between officers trained in the early years of the Cold War and the young staffers of the anti-Vietnam and civil rights movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

As for the White House, it viewed Pike as "unscrupulous and roguish." Henry Kissinger, while appearing to cooperate with the committee, worked hard to undermine its investigations and to stonewall the release of documents to it. Relations between the White House and the Pike Committee became worse as the investigations progressed. William Hyland, an assistant to Kissinger, found Pike "impossible."

Pike and the committee members were just as frustrated. On 4 August 1975, Pike aired his frustration in a committee hearing. "What we have found thus far is a great deal of the language of cooperation and a great deal of the activity of noncooperation," he announced. Other committee members felt that trying to get information from the Agency or the White House was like "pulling teeth."