A storm broke over the CIA on 22 December 1974, when Seymour Hersh published a front-page article in The New York Times headlined “Huge C.I.A. Operation Reported in U.S. Against Anti-War Forces.” Hersh’s article alleged that the Agency had been engaged in massive domestic spying activities. His charges stunned the White House and Congress.
In response, President Ford established a blue-ribbon panel, the Rockefeller Commission, to investigate CIA activities in the United States. Ford later complicated the already-delicate issue further by hinting of CIA involvement in assassination attempts against foreign leaders. Congress soon launched its own investigation of the entire Intelligence Community (IC) and its possible abuses. On 27 January 1975, the US Senate established the Senate Select Committee to Study Government Operations With Respect to Intelligence Activities (the Church Committee). On 19 February 1975, the House voted to create a House Select Intelligence Committee (the Nedzi Committee, which was replaced five months later by the Pike Committee.)
These Congressional investigations eventually delved into all aspects of the CIA and the IC. For the first time in the Agency’s history, CIA officials faced hostile Congressional committees bent on the exposure of abuses by intelligence agencies and on major reforms. In the Congress, there was no longer a consensus to support intelligence activities blindly. The old Congressional seniority system and its leadership was giving way. With the investigations, the CIA also became a focal point in the ongoing battle between the Congress and the executive branch over foreign policy issues and the “imperial presidency.”