Too responsible to run for president: Frank Church and the 1976 presidential election

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    In 1975, Senator Frank Church led the first US Senate review of the conduct of the United States intelligence community, popularly known as the Church Committee. The committee identified a plethora of constitutional abuses by the intelligence community in the early Cold War that shocked the nation, and initiated wholesale reform of congressional intelligence oversight. Conservative critics used Church’s subsequent campaign for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 1976 as evidence of his use of the investigation to further his presidential aspirations. Using newly-discovered archival evidence and oral history interviews, this article establishes that such conclusions are erroneous, and that Church knowingly sacrificed his ambitions to maintain the committee’s public standing. Furthermore, it argues that contemporary and later criticism of Church’s conduct was aimed at negating the impact of the Church Committee’s report and protecting the intelligence community from unwanted reform.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)213-231
    Number of pages19
    JournalJournal of Intelligence History
    Issue number2
    Early online date5 Nov 2020
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022


    • Church Committee
    • Frank Church
    • presidency
    • Ford administration
    • public opinion


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