In September, CovertAction Magazine published an article entitled “We Need a New ‘Church Committee’ to Curb Massive Intelligence Agency Criminality Ranging From Illegal Surveillance to Torture and Assassination.”
And low and behold, the House-led GOP has set up what they call a new Church Committee—the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.
The committee is headed by Jim Jordan (R-OH), a staunch Trump ally who has for months been investigating what he says is a bias in federal law enforcement against conservatives and who plans to use his gavel and subpoena power to escalate and expand that inquiry, according to The New York Times.
Tom Cole (R-OK), the GOP chairman of the House Rules Committee, said the subcommittee modeled on the U.S. Senate’s 1970s Church Committee that investigated abuses by U.S. intelligence agencies, “will probe the radical left weaponization of the federal government in recent years.”
The “radical left,” however, has been marginalized in U.S. politics for decades thanks largely to what the original Church Committee helped to expose—the FBI’s counterintelligence operation (COINTELPRO), in which it illegally infiltrated, sabotaged and destroyed left-wing groups.
The original Church committee had also exposed massive CIA interference in foreign nations, which Tom Cole, Jim Jordan and most other Republicans have long been cheerleaders for.
The Scourge of Immorality in Undercover Intelligence Operations
A former military intelligence officer in the China-Burma India theater of World War II with a strong liberal voting record on matters pertaining to the environment, Frank Church’s career ambition was to chair the Senate Foreign Relations Committee like his political idol William Borah, an isolationist also from Idaho, who had supported U.S. neutrality in World War I; favored the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact outlawing war; and opposed U.S. imperialism in Central America in the 1920s.
The Economist of London characterized Church (D-ID) as “the scourge of immorality in undercover intelligence operations and the inquisitor of corrupt practices by American corporations abroad.” [Church had also chaired a Senate investigation on multinational corporations.]
The same designation does not apply to Jim Jorden, who is a great friend of corporate America and the intelligence agencies, having fought against tax hikes throughout his career and supported the USA Patriot Act and covert regime-change operations in countries like Syria and Iran.
More Dubious Heirs to Church
On January 6, 2023, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) announced on the Tucker Carlson show the idea for a new Church Committee, saying that it had the approval of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and that McCarthy would appoint him to sit on the committee.
See clip of show here.
When Massie first won election to Congress in 2012, he thanked “the Tea Party, the liberty movement and Ronald Reagan”—an avowed foe of the Church Committee, whose administration worked assiduously to undercut its attempt to establish better oversight of the intelligence agencies, and orchestrated a massive covert intervention in Nicaragua that led to the Iran-Contra scandal.
Massie’s extreme right-wing views were apparent in his sponsorship of bills to abolish the Department of Education and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and his being the keynote speaker at the John Birch Society’s 60th anniversary celebration, where he referred to Massachusetts, where he went to college, as the Soviet Socialist Republic of Massachusetts.
The John Birch Society is an extreme right-wing group—named after an Office of Strategic Services (OSS) agent allegedly killed by the Communists during the Chinese civil war—which accused President Dwight Eisenhower and Vietnam War architect and rumored CIA agent Walt W. Rostow of being Soviet Communist agents.
In December 2021, just days after a series of school shootings, Massie earned notoriety for posing for a Christmas photo with his family proudly carrying guns and asking for more ammo.
One of the major revelations of the original Church Committee, it should be remembered, was the discovery that the CIA had manufactured a poison dart gun that was supposed to be used for assassinating foreign leaders and other enemies of the state.
Better Than Almost All Dems on Foreign Policy
As bad as he has been on many issues, Massie has called for the pardoning of Edward Snowden and aligned with Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) in opposing the U.S. sanctions on Russia and other countries and military aid to Ukraine, and was the only member of Congress to oppose an act that refused to recognize Russia’s “annexation” of Crimea (the Crimean people voted to rejoin Russia after the CIA backed an illegal coup in Ukraine in February 2014).
Further, Massie voted to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Iraq and against $1 billion in funding for Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system, and introduced legislation to stop unauthorized military operations in Egypt and Syria, as well as legislation blocking unauthorized military aid from being sent to Syrian jihadist rebels.
More Men of the Radical Right
As a staunch liberal, Frank Church, if he were still alive, would surely have serious concerns not only about Massie but also new House Speaker McCarthy.
An ally of President Trump, McCarthy received a 3% rating from the League of Conservation voters, a D rating from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), and is Congress’s top recipient of campaign contributions from Saudi lobbying firms.
In January 2020, after the United States assassinated Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, McCarthy adopted a playbook out of the old John Birch Society by criticizing then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for “defending Soleimani,” when Pelosi had called Soleimani a “bad person” who “did bad things.”
Jim Jordan’s record is even more dubious than that of McCarthy. Not only has he called for cutting federal funding to Planned Parenthood and sought to prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases, but he has also been named as a defendant in a lawsuit against Ohio State University for his role in allegedly covering up sexual abuse by the wrestling team physician when he was an assistant wrestling coach in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Failure of the Left
The fact that it is the radical right poised to establish a new Church Committee—at least in name—is a reflection of the moral decline of the Democratic Party since Frank Church’s day.
Church had been part of a group of genuinely progressive Democrats in the 1970s who opposed U.S. involvement in Vietnam, rallied behind George McGovern’s 1972 “Come Home America platform,” and tried to expose and reign in CIA abuses.
Today’s Democratic Party, by contrast, and its media echo chamber plays along with CIA psychological warfare operations—such as those in support of Russiagate and Zelensky—and has adopted mostly hawkish positions on wars waged by Democratic Party presidents and the new Cold War.
It has also often pejoratively labeled people who try and probe into the abuses of the intelligence agencies as “conspiracy theorists”—a term invented by the CIA in the attempt to discredit people who, based on a wealth of evidence, challenged the Warren Commission’s conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin of JFK.
By refusing to call out or challenge the abuses of the intelligence agencies, what passes for the left has ceded ground to the radical right, which is the one now exploiting the public’s distrust of the foreign policy establishment to bolster its own political fortunes.
Deranged Ploy by MAGA Extremists?
Jim McGovern (D-MA) decried the new “Church” Committee on the House floor as “nothing more than a deranged ploy by MAGA extremists who have hijacked the party and want to use taxpayer money to push their far-right conspiracy nonsense.”
Jordan responded: “A ploy? It’s not a ploy when the Department of Justice treats parents as terrorists—moms and dads simply showing up at a school board meeting to advocate for their son or daughter. It’s not a ploy when the FBI pays Twitter $3 million to censor American citizens. It’s not a ploy when the Department of Homeland Security tries to set up a ‘disinformation governance board’ because we all know that the department of homeland security can tell what’s good speech and what is bad speech.”
These comments make clear that there are at least some legitimate areas of investigation.
Chip Roy (R-TX) told Fox News, however, that as part of the deal that secured his position as Speaker of the House, Rep. McCarthy had committed to giving the new Church hearing at least as much funding and staffing as the House special committee that investigated the January 6 riots, stating that “we got more resources, more specificity, more power to go after this recalcitrant Biden administration.”
This suggests a clear partisan agenda that goes against the spirit of the original Church Committee, and will spoil an opportunity to properly educate the public about the nefarious influence of the intelligence agencies and interrelated corruption of executive branch politicians in both major parties.
Luke Broadwater and Catie Edmondson, “House Approves Panel to Review Government Bias,” The New York Times, January 11, 2023, A1. ↑
Massie voted against sanctions to North Korea and Iran, and in 2017, expressed warranted skepticism over the role of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in the 2017 Khan Shaykhun chemical attack. Also to his credit, on November 20, 2019, Massie was the sole “no” vote in Congress on the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, which he called an “escalation” with the People’s Republic of China. ↑
McCarthy also led House efforts to repeal the modestly progressive Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). ↑
Jordan has been accused of witness tampering and initimidation in the case. His locker had been next to that of Richard Strauss, the team physician, who committed suicide after the allegations came to light in 2005. Dunyasha Yetts, a former wrestler, said, “For God’s sake, Strauss’s locker was right next to Jordan’s and Jordan even said he’d kill him if he tried anything with him”—implying he knew what he was doing with the others. ↑
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About the Author
Jeremy Kuzmarov is Managing Editor of CovertAction Magazine.
He is the author of five books on U.S. foreign policy, including Obama’s Unending Wars (Clarity Press, 2019), The Russians Are Coming, Again, with John Marciano (Monthly Review Press, 2018), and Warmonger. How Clinton’s Malign Foreign Policy Launched the U.S. Trajectory From Bush II to Biden (Clarity Press, 2023).
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.