Nearly 40 years ago, in the wake of abuse perpetrated by various American intelligence agencies including the National Security Agency, the US Senate convened the Church Committee.
Its task was oversight, and the Church Committee’s findings revealed major intelligence operations against American civil liberties.
The problems included the regular interception of telegrams, the opening of mail, Project Shamrock, and Project Minaret, which intercepted electronic communications of select Americans and foreigners alike. Project Minaret even targeted people like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Muhammad Ali, Jane Fonda, and Sen. Frank Church himself, the chair of the oversight committee.
On Monday, surviving members and staff of the Church Committee published an open letter (PDF) to Congress, President Barack Obama, and the American public, calling for a “Church Committee for the 21st Century—a special investigatory committee to undertake a thorough, and public, examination of current intelligence community practices affecting the rights of Americans and to make specific recommendations for future oversight and reform.”