Frank Church

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Person.png Frank Church   SpartacusRdf-icon.png
Frank Church.jpg
Born Frank Forrester Church III
July 25, 1924
Boise, Idaho
Died April 7, 1984 (Age 59)
Bethesda, Maryland
Nationality United States
Alma mater Stanford University
Religion Presbyterian
Children • Frank Forrester Church IV
• Chase Clark Church
Parents • Frank Forrester Church II (1889–1950)
• Laura Bilderback Church (1892–1983)
Spouse Bethine Clark Church
Member of Church Committee, Phi Beta Kappa
Party Democratic
Leader of the Church Committee, which probably did more than any other organisation to expose the activities of the US intelligence agencies.

Employment.png United States Senator from Idaho

In office
January 3, 1957 - January 3, 1981
Succeeded by Steven Symms

Employment.png Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

In office
January 3, 1979 - January 3, 1981
Preceded by John Sparkman

Employment.png Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging

In office
January 3, 1971 - January 3, 1979

Church was a key figure in American foreign policy during the 1970s, and served as chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations from 1979 to 1981. Church was one of the first senators to publicly oppose the Vietnam War in the 1960s, although he had initially supported the conflict[citation needed]. He argued that the opponents of the Vietnam War needed to prevent the corruption of the nation and its institutions.

Church Committee

Full article: Church Committee

Church gained national prominence during his service in the Senate through his chairmanship of the U.S. Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities from 1975 through 1976, more commonly known as the Church Committee, which conducted extensive hearings investigating extra-legal FBI and CIA intelligence-gathering and covert operations. The committee investigated CIA drug smuggling activities in the Golden Triangle and secret U.S.-backed wars in Third World countries.[1][2][3][4]

Warning about the NSA

Church was stunned by what the committee learned about the mass surveillance capabilities of the National Security Agency (NSA), an agency whose existence was unknown to most Americans at the time. Church stated in 1975: "That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide."[5] He is widely quoted as also stating regarding the NSA: "I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge... I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."[5]

Glenn Greenwald praised Church for his prescient warning regarding this turning around by the NSA to monitor the American people, arguing that the NSA undertook such a turning in the years after the September 11 Attacks.[6]

Blackmail claim

Claudia Mullen has stated that Frank Church was filmed "Was filmed doing something incriminating" and that this was used to blackmail him.[7]


Three years after leaving the Senate, Church was hospitalized for a pancreatic tumor on January 12, 1984. Less than three months later, he died at his home in Bethesda, Maryland, aged 59.


  1. Knott, Stephen F (November 4, 2001). "Congressional Oversight and the Crippling of the CIA". History News Network. 
  2. Mooney, Chris (November 5, 2001). "Back to Church". The American Prospect. Archived from the original on 2006-12-05. 
  3. Burbach, Roger (October 2003). "State Terrorism and September 11, 1973 & 2001" (—Scholar search). ZMag. 16 (10). [dead link]
  4. "Debate: Bush's handling of terror clues". CNN. May 19, 2002. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  5. a b Bamford, James (December 25, 2005). "The Agency That Could Be Big Brother". The New York Times. 
  6. Greenwald, Glenn (June 25, 2013). "Liberal Icon Frank Church on the NSA - Almost 40 Years Ago, the Idaho Senator Warned of the Dangers of Allowing the NSA to Turn Inward". The Guardian. 
  7. Document:Beyond Dutroux ties to 1950s-era CIA covert operations
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DescriptionLeader of the Church Committee, which probably did more than any other organisation to expose the activities of the US intelligence agencies. +
Died on7 April 1984 +
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