Biography for Frank Church
Frank Forrester Church was a Democratic senator from Idaho and an opponent of U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. He headed the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that conducted a notable investigation into the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1975. Church was born in Boise, Idaho on July 25, 1924. He attended public schools, and in 1941, his speech "The American Way of Life" won the American Legion's national high school oratorical contest. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army as a military intelligence officer in Burma, China, and India. He graduated from Stanford University in 1947 and from Stanford Law School in 1950. Church then returned to Boise, where he started a law practice. Elected as a Democrat to the Senate in 1956, he was a member of the Committee on Foreign Relations. An early critic of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, in 1963, the liberal Church opposed U.S. aid to the Ngo Dinh Diem regime. In June 1965, he called for direct negotiations with the Viet Cong, free elections in the South, and a scaling down of the U.S. effort there. During the remainder of 1965 and throughout 1966, Church voted against supplemental appropriations for the war. In May 1967, he drafted a letter signed by 16 antiwar senators, warning the Democratic Republic of Vietnam that the U.S. objective was to settle the war at the conference table, but not at the expense of American commitments or unilateral withdrawal. In the spring of 1970, Church and Senator John Cooper introduced an amendment to the foreign military sales bill that barred funding future military operations in Cambodia. Although the bill eventually passed the Senate, the House of Representatives rejected it. A scaled-down version did pass in December 1970 as part of the defense appropriations bill. As a result, limitations were imposed on the president's power as commander in chief. In 1973, Congress passed a bill sponsored by Church and Senator Clifford Case that authorized a complete cutoff of all funding of American combat operations in Indochina. In 1975, Church headed up the Select Committee on Intelligence investigation into the CIA, which had come under fire for allegations of misconduct. After 15 months of interviewing hundreds of people and collecting files from several government agencies, the Church Committee issued 14 reports chronicling a long list of intelligence abuses. The report alleged, among other things, that the CIA was indirectly involved in assassination plots against Fidel Castro of Cuba, Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, Diem of South Vietnam, President Sukarno of Indonesia, and François Duvalier of Haiti. The report also suggested that the CIA distributed arms to rebels in countries controlled by unfriendly governments, including Chile, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic. The Church Committee concluded that the U.S. government's domestic intelligence policies and practices required fundamental reform. As a result, both the House and the Senate established permanent intelligence committees to monitor how the United States conducted its espionage. Church was defeated in his bid for reelection in 1980. In 1983, he cofounded the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization that monitors the flow of money in political campaigns and its influence on public policy. He died of cancer in Washington, D.C. on April 7, 1984.