In 1975, I was invited to join the US Senate's Church Committee that was formed after the Watergate scandals. Its goal was to investigate massive illegalities committed by the CIA, National Security Agency and FBI.
As a then staunch Republican, and having worked on President Nixon's reelection campaign developing Mideast policy, I declined.
With the wisdom of hindsight, I should have joined the investigation.
Senator Frank Church warned: " If this government ever became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. "
The Church Committee revealed Washington's role in the assassinations of foreign leaders, CIA collaboration with the Mafia, wide scale subversion around the globe, mail and phone intercepts, spying on Americans by the US Army and intelligence services, collusion with right-wing terrorist groups like Gladio, and much, much more.
Edward Snowden's revelations of NSA malfeasance have done much the same thing today. Both Church and Snowden were branded traitors by rightwing zealots and flag-wavers. Government security agencies were reined in for decades. But it's now clear they are not only back to their old tricks, but are out of control.
The gigantic rock lifted by the courageous Snowden revealed the chilling global reach of US electronic domination and intrusion.
Take operation "Stateroom." NSA reportedly used the embassies and consulates of Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand to spy on Asian targets. This was part of the "Five Eyes" system in which Anglo-Saxon intelligence agencies act as subsidiaries of US intelligence.
One reason we have so far heard little about NSA spying against these nations is that they spy on their own citizens using NSA technology, then pass the data to Big Brother in the US.
It seems that data on US citizens hoovered up by NSA is also routinely passed to Israel's intelligence services, a double violation of US law. Israel has long tapped into the US communications networks and even, it is alleged, the White House phone system - installed by an Israeli electronic firm.
Sen. Church's prescient warning was made 38 years ago when electronic were still in their infancy, compared to today's high-tech gear. Not only do we see US intelligence agencies again spying on their own citizens, but a total failure in controlling them by their ostensible "masters," the US Congress and White House.
Clearly, neither Congress nor the president know what's going on behind CIA and NSA's wall of secrecy - not to mention the 14 other US intelligence agencies.
The cowardly acceptance by Congress of the evil Patriot Act has removed any reins from intelligence/security, allowing them to spy on everyone, anytime, anywhere by simply invoking the magical mantra, "terrorism."
There was little difference between America's post-9/11 hysteria that produced the Patriot Act and Germany's frenzy after the burning down of the Reichstag in 1933, an act that opened the way to Hitler's dictatorship. In both cases, civil rights were swept away supposedly to fight "terrorism." President George W. Bush doubled the size and budget of America's Intelligence State.
America's intelligence establishment has been trying to excuse its malfeasance by the old "everyone else does it" adage. Untrue. No other nation we know of so thoroughly sifts through the world's communications, bugs 35 key leaders, targets individuals for assassination by CIA drones or US special forces and stores every word its citizens ever sent. No other case where the spy agencies are so uncontrolled. Besides, the US, which claims "exceptionalism," should be setting a good example.
We should hold Congress almost as liable. Its members have been too busy using insider information to make money in the market, and too busy boot-licking donors to do their job of supervision. They should all be fired, starting with intelligence committee chair, Diane Feinstein and the chief Republic dolt, Mike Rogers.
Ben Franklin, that great thinker and sage, put it perfectly when he said that government (read spy agencies) is like fire - a useful tool, but a terrible master.