When Democrats and Republicans joined together to expose government wrongdoing

As it becomes increasingly clear that Republican members of the House and Senate actively supported Donald Trump’s attempted coup on January 6th, it seems that it was in an alternate universe that Democrats and Republican senators came together in 1975 to hammer then-Central Intelligence Agency director William Colby on his agency’s assassination program. Compare that to the present ongoing cover-up by Republicans in Congress to the coup plot and the first non-peaceful transfer of presidential power, outside of assassination, in the nation’s history.

On November 3, C-SPAN 3′s American History TV series made available part of the televised hearing conducted on September 16, 1975 by the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities. The committee was chaired by Senator Frank Church, a progressive Democrat who, in what seems unbelievable today, represented Idaho. The vice chairman, who was almost as dogged in his questioning of Colby, was Texas Republican John Tower, who, over a decade later, would chair a commission tasked with investigating the Reagan administration’s Iran-contra scandal.

The fact that this type of hearing was held in open session, albeit with few of the public in the audience—as cited by my old friend Paul Duke in his introduction—bears witness to how far the governance of this nation has fallen since the post-Watergate years of the Gerald Ford administration.

Members of the Church Committee, which would later morph into the permanent Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, included, in addition to Church and Tower, Senators Philip Hart (D-MI), Walter Mondale (D-MN), Walter Huddleston (D-KY), Robert Morgan (D-NC), Gary Hart (D-CO), Howard Baker (R-TN), Barry Goldwater (R-AZ), Charles Mathias (R-MD), and Richard Schweiker (R-PA). Of these senators, only Hart is still alive. It should also be noted that President Biden served in the Senate during the time of these hearings.

Two Ford administration officials, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, had attempted to block Colby’s open testimony before the committee.

Postscript: On May 6, 1996, Colby’s body was found on a riverbank of the Chesapeake Bay, not far from where his canoe had been discovered near his weekend home at Rocky Point, Maryland. Maryland Chief Medical Examiner John E. Smialek’s post-autopsy report stated that Colby had suffered either a heart attack or stroke from “severe calcified atherosclerosis” and that his death was caused by “a complication of this atherosclerosis which precipitated him into the cold water in a debilitated state and he succumbed to the effects of hypothermia and drowned.” Or, he was shot by one of the CIA’s heart attack guns like the one he produced for the Church Committee to the gasps of many on the committee and among the press.

On April 5, 1991, Tower and his daughter Marian died in the crash of Atlantic Southeast Airlines Flight 2311. The plane crashed while approaching the Brunswick, Georgia, airport, killing all on board. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded the crash occurred due to a faulty propeller control unit.

Church died on April 7, 1984 at the age of 59 from pancreatic cancer. Hart’s presidential campaign collapsed in 1987 after he was subjected to a hyped-up scandal concerning an extramarital relationship with Donna Rice. Most of the scandal innuendo was driven by The Washington Post, which had a long history of cooperation with the CIA.

Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.

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Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist, author and nationally-distributed columnist. A member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the National Press Club. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).

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