tv Church Committee Hearing on FBI Informants CSPAN May 30, 2016 4:40pm-5:45pm EDT
deeply troubling to the general public and especially to members of this committee. the committee tried to handle the information that they had in a very responsible way. we now know what the content of those wiretaps was. we know what was recorded in those hotel rooms. we now know that. but at the time during the course of this hearing, the members themselves and the staff never revealed the content of that wiretap. and they did that very consciously. they said we don't want to further violate the family's privacy. o-it was reported by members of the press what the content of that material was. but it does suggest that dealing with some of this information was very challenging for members of the committee and their staff. because they wanted to present the material to the american public to help them understand these egregious abuses and they
wanted to do it in a way that respected the individuals who had been under surveillance. that's a difficult thing to do. >> kate scott thank you very much. >> thank you. our coverage of the church committee 40 years later continues. this is american history tv, only on cspan3. >> real america is looking into the activities 40 years ago of the church committee which did a broad examination of the work of the fbi, the cia, and the nsa. today as we continue, we're going to be looking at testimony of two fbi informants before the committee. from december 2nd, 1975, we're going to show you a clip of a ku
klux klan by the name of thomas rowe. let's watch. >> in connection with the freedom writers incident that you mentioned, did you inform the fbi about planned violence prior to that incident? >> sir, i gave the fbi information pertaining to the freedom writers approximately three weeks before it occurred. >> what did you tell them? >> i stated to them i had been contacted by a birmingham city detective who in turn wanted me to meet with a high ranking officer to set a reception for the freedom writers. >> you mean the birmingham policemen set up the beating of them and you told the fbi that? >> that's correct sir. >> were they beaten? >> they were beaten very badly, yes. >> did they give you the time? >> yes, sir. we were promised 15 minutes with
absolutely no intervention from any police officer whatsoever. the information was passed onto the bureau. we had our 15 minutes. approximately 15 minutes after they were attacked, a police officer ran over to me and stated god damn it, god damn it, get them out of here. your 15 minutes are up. >> so fritz schwarz watching this, let me have you underscore for the public exactly what it is we're hearing here. we just heard testimony that the fbi and the birmingham police co-lewded to allow people to come in and beat the freedom riders unaffected for 15 minutes before the authorities moved in. is that correct? is that what we just heard? >> that's what you just heard and that's what happened. that day, we had two witnesses, gary thomas rowe and a young
woman who was in the vietnam veterans against the war, maybe she worked for that group. she was an informer for the fbi. now, again, our point was not you should not have any informers. informers are a legitimate law enforcement tool. however, there was absolutely no process for deciding what -- how and who you would pick as an informer. and as that story about knowing beatings of the freedom writers shows, the informers sometimes do some very bad things in order to maintain their credibility. now, rowe, had come out into the public. he testified in murder trial against three ku klux klan people who had murdered a civil
rights worker on a march in the south, maybe in selma. and she was shot by the three ku klux klan people and killed because she was riding in the car with two black young men. so he had become pib -- gone public and testified at the murder trial against his three confederates in the ku klux klan. with about half an hour to go before the hearing, he said to me, i can't appear on television. we really wanted him on television because it was such a dramatic story. under the rules of a senate, at least then, a witness who didn't want to appear on television didn't have to appear on television. so i came up with the idea of putting a bag over his head and slits over his eyes and maybe for his mouth so that he could
see and talk. i thought that was a pretty clever idea. one of the assistants for senator tower who was presiding that day, frank church was away, said you did that in order to embarrass senator tower. now, senator tower never said any such thing to me. i think if he thought it, he would have said it. i think it was a great idea and it got this guy to testify and it perhaps added a little bit of drama for having this person with a bag over his head given that very dramatic testimony that you just played. >> so again to understand the fbi's motivation in this, they allowed the ku klux klan to proceed with the beatings so this that this gentleman could maintain his anonymity in the midst of them and maintain as an informa informant. >> yeah. you can go back to world war ii
and when we broke the german code, we had to do -- we and the british broke the german code. we had to do some things in order to maintain credibility and not to have the germans know we'd broken their code. there's the story about how churchhill allowed the raid -- the german bombing raid to take place on ckov entry because he was afraid if they were to take people out of the town of coventry, because we've broken the german code and knew it was about to happen, it might have destroyed the knowledge -- or revealed the knowledge that the americans and the british had broken the german code. so informers are inherently ambiguous. and our hearing was designed to bring that out, to bring out that they do some pretty
horrible things and that -- that the fbi allowed a beating to go on is -- they didn't have to do that, by the way, to keep this guy's anonymity protected. they could have said, we've heard to the birmingham police, you simply can't allow the beating of these freedom writers. then the public policy point after having developed those facts was to make some suggestions for improvements in how the fbi would authorize and then manage informants. >> elliot maxwell, this hearing was chaired by the republican senator vice chairman of the committee john inventory. -- john tower. could you speak a little bit about john tower and his approach to the work of this
committee? >> my own belief is that john tower was picked as the vice chair as -- as a possible bullwork against a much more liberal frank church and where he might take the committee. on the whole, i think tower was reasonably supportive of the work. i think that that was an important part of why it was able to move forward, that he did not take a kind of absolutely obstructionist view of the committee. by as i said earlier, they -- they -- there was a great range of opinion on the republican
side and tower, goldwater were on the right end of that. and would -- would sort of, i think, coral to prevent it from going maybe further than it would otherwise. >> this is a big topic, i know, if you could briefly tell us, what was the level of cooperation from the ford white house into the hearings? >> on that subject john tower was extremely helpful in pushing for the documents. we had to get documents. i knew this from my experience in lawyer and private practice if you don't have documents and you just have witnesses you get stories but you can't prove the real facts. tower was greatly helpful on that. there came a time probably around in december when the atmosphere particularly on our foreign work changed a bit
because a cia station chief in athens had been assassinated and obviously we had nothing to do with that and george h.w. bush admitted we had nothing to do whatsoever with that. it changed the atmosphere in the country a little bit. after that point on the foreign intelligence work i think tower was less cooperative than he had been all the way into november. but in general he was a good guy. i think elliot had it just right. yes he may have been cautious but i thought in the early parts of our work there wasn't much difference between john tower and frank church or john tower and fritz mondale and he was essential i believe to our winning and winning when we did in getting the documents.
>> in response to the question about the white house i think in general the white house position with respect to the committee was they want today be able to preempt the committee and through they had an activity led by vice president rockefeller. and they thought perhaps that if their activity at looking at intelligence activities in response to the public concern over them, that you could preempt the work of the church committee. so there was some tension with the white house. there is continually between senate committees and the white house. but in that sense there was a kind of maybe we can manage our way out of this, limit what the committee does, limit the documents and access to people that would otherwise be available but in the end that didn't work. >> we are about to show 45 minutes of this segment. you referenced another informant
by the name of mary joe cook. she representathize fbi's work investigating people who protested the war in vietnam. we should not be remised in talking about her. who was she and what did the committee want to learn from her? >> well, i remember her name. i remember her testifying. i know she was in the working with the vietnam veterans against the war, but i do not remember the specifics of her testimony. she obviously was good or useful or we wouldn't have chosen to put her on as a witness. >> can you talk in general what you remember about the fbi's concerns about vietnam protesters? >> well, they believed fbi protesters were communist agents. and in that connection lyndon johnson pushed them very hard to
investigate the people who were against the war. the bureau probably would have done it anyway but johnson was a force that was pushing the bureau to do that. he believed they were communists or said he believed they were communists and, of course, they weren't. >> it certainly went well beyond johnson into the nixon era. it is a kind of lessen i think for us today that it's pretty easy to go as fritz talked about earlier from the people who oppose your policy to -- people who you think may be dangerous to everybody. >> and you also made the point in an earlier installment of our series, both of you, that this was not limited to johnson or nixon but really all presidents who tried to push the limits of their executive power in this
area of intelligence gathering back to fdr. >> and it is the fact of secrecy that allowed that to happen. so that's the great tension in intelligence activities that they are supposed to be conducted in secret. and the secret exercise of power is incredibly alluring. >> at this point we will watch as we promised 45 minutes of the church committee's investigation into fbi informants. this was recorded by nbc cameras on december 2, 1975. >> in previous sessions we have examined the bureau's use of mail openings, electronic and other means of surveillance, entry and organizational bank records, income tax returns and other sources of intelligence information. it is clear that under proper judicial scrutiny as mandated by the congress and the courts, limited invasions of individual
privacy involving all foregoing could be properly undertaken. an aid of bureau's law enforcement mission. the focus of our inquiry has been and will continue to be the use of these and other techniques without the sanction of judicial authority and for purposes often unrelated to law enforcement as it has been defined in our country. i stress the mandate is to examine intelligence gathering activities of governmental agencies and is not in any way an assessment of overall fbi law enforcement effort. we make no attempt at overall assessment. with respect to those fbi activities which have come to be known as domestic intelligence our inquiry has revealed further biforication of areas of concern
as previously discussed by the committee's council in our last session approximately 20% of the bureau's budget is devoted to intelligence activities. this is divided between so-called domestic intelligence and counter espionage activities. we have accepted and we support the bureau's position that further budgetary break down detailing the precise expenditures for each category might adversely effect national interest by revealing exact amount for counter espionage. therefore while the nature and extent is less than precise from a budgetary standpoint this inquiry represents a critical area to our investigation. testimony and other evidence received by the committee to date indicates that a variety of techniques not limited to those decided were employed against
individuals and organizations without even color or legislative or judicial authority. the impact of those abuses on individuals and on legitimate political, social, religious and philosophical interest represents dangerous erosion of our constitutional guarantees. in survey of the issues during our last session we examine a range of activities expanding from information gathering to disruption of the lives of vimgs and organizations who witness intelligence functions in our review of counter intelligence program against dr. martin luther king. today we turn to in depth review through examination of bureau's widely used technique, informants. the concept of informing is
usually distasteful. however, the informant technique is a valid and recognized one in the intelligence field often leads to very solid results. at issue is the bureau's abusive employment of the technique and abuse at least partially due to abs senten abs -- absence. the legitimate concern of the fbi and investigating criminal conduct and preventing criminal activities can never testify law enforcement agents to operate outside the law with regard for the rights of others. an informant is used to penetrate an organization, to provide intelligence information, the possible impact of this influence, his influence on the activities of that organization cannot be ignored. surely the infiltration of
informants and groups and organizations which seek to bring about changes in our society represents at the very least a chilling effect on the freedom of citizens to gather and to debate and work for such changes. the fact that an informant in carrying out his role may hinder or alter the advancement of legitimate objectives is a matter with which we must all be concerned. furthermore, the bureau has used informants in large numbers and in circumstances where priority is dubious in the first place poses an additional item of concern. as i have already noted, the bureau's use of the informant is part of the fbi's catalog of technique for carrying out its work. our hearing we will focus on the roles played by two informants, one who infiltrated the ku klux
klan, another who infiltrated vietnam veterans against the war. first witnesses will be mary joe cook and gary thomas roe. mr. row will be wearing a hood so he cannot be physically identified. he believes physical identification would be anemical to personal safety. he resides at a location not to be disclosed under an alias which has been given to him by the government. do you solemnly swear that the testify you are about to give before this committee is the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you god? the witnesses are represented by
council today. would council identify themselves for the record? >> [ inaudible ]. >> you may be seated. the chair now recognizes -- >> [ inaudible ]. >> thank you. >> the chair now recognizes the minority council for the committee. >> inquiry with examination of ms. cook. and if you will y would li--i wd like to begin by starting with your first affiliation with the bureau of investigation. it is my understanding that your contact began in the summer of 1973. if you could, just briefly for the committee explain how that contact came about.
>> excuse me. i was living with a man who -- >> pull your mic closer. >> i was living with a man who was working for the bureau and had been working for the bureau for a couple of months as an informant. he asked me. i observed his activities. we discussed his activities and then he subsequently asked me if i would consider becoming an informant. >> which group was he informing for? >> for the fbi. >> and who was he informing about? >> on the vietnam veterans against the war winter soldier organization. he took me to a meeting. we discussed in more detail how he felt about being an informant, why he did it. when i said i would be open to talking about being an informant with the fbi he set up a meeting and fbi came to my house to
discuss it with me. >> what was the nature of that discussion? what were you asked, if anything, to do? >> major understanding that i got from the meeting was that it was an organization primarily of veterans who were possible victims of manipulation. they had been through the vietnam war. they had legitimate readjustment needs and the bureau was afraid that they could become violent, could become manipulated and they wanted me to go in there, participate in the organization and make sure that the veterans didn't get quote/unquote ripped off. they used words like be a voice of reason, be a big sister, be sort of a guiding force in the organization and keep things calm, cool and collected. that sounded like a legitimate thing to do so i agreed to work
for the fbi. >> in addition to maintaining reason and keeping things calm and cool, what other functions were you assigned by the fbi? >> well, this whole scenario presented was called being an informant. so i was to go to meetings, write up reports or phone in reports on what happened, who was there. in some way to try to totally identify background of every person there, what their relationships were, who they were living with, sleeping with, to try to get some sense of the local structure and the local relationships among the people in this organization. and so i would go to a meeting, identify the people who are present, identify them as individuals and then identify the substance of the meeting. >> you identified the attendees by name? >> yes. or by physical description if i
didn't know the name. >> did you identify friends of persons who associated with the organization? >> yes, i did. >> did you provide information on these persons places of employment? >> yes, i did. >> and you said you provided information on their personal relationships? >> yes, i did. >> how did you come to gain this kind of information? >> much of this information would be initially gathered at a meeting. people would joke in personal conversations, they would drop information about themselves. as i got to know them as personal friends later then a much more information i had access to much more information. >> did you report back to the bureau all information gained? >> no, i did not report to the bureau all information gained. initially when i worked for the bureau i did. i had little way -- i was alien to the situation. they said go into this. so i had no way of really knowing what was important and
what wasn't important. in one sense i was a vacuum cleaner for information, just gathering it. as i became more familiar with the context i was able to make decisions of what was important information and what was not splmpt . >> was this on your initiative or were you given guidance as to what to exclude? >> this was my initiative. >> did you report information on political views of these persons? >> yes, i did. >> how many people were involved in this reporting back process? how many people did you report on? >> well, i figure there were about 50 core people in the organization in the local chapter in buffalo. if you look at it in concentric circles perhaps 250 people in the buffalo community whose names i identified as being leadership one way or the other in social issues that they were active in and perhaps 400 people nationally when you take a look
at national organizations that i came into contact with. when you add to that the mailing lists that i have turned over and the names that came into my hands as being active or interested members that's perhaps maybe as many as 1,000 names. >> with respect to the value of what you had given to the bureau, was there any formal process for identifying what was important as opposed to what may have resulted from communications. >> repeat the question? >> what system, if any, was communicated to you regarding the importance of certain kinds of information? was it determined on the basis of some guidance by the bureau? was it determined based on the amount of pay received for information? any system designed to communicate what was important?
>> beyond general guidelines, identifying people who are present and being aware of people with a propencity for violence there were no guidelines as to what information was important or wasn't important. my financial arrangement with them was on the basis that i would turn over all information gathered. they would look it over. they would decide what was a value to them and what wasn't, pay me accordingly without necessarily identifying what they considered essential. they rarely gave me information. they didn't define my context and then ask me to go into it. they just said we want you to go in there. you figure it out. i figured that was fair. >> and your pay was based on the bureau's assessment of the value of the information which you turned over? >> yes. >> how long were you involved in the effort informing against the veterans?
>> june of '73 through november '74, approximately a year and a half. >> did there come a time when you were dissatisfied with or raised questions about your activity as an informant? >> yes. >> when did this occur? >> this occurred very, very much so after july of 1974. i had come here to washington and been in the only large demonstration that i have ever been in. the bureau asked me not to go. it advised me not to go. i came and i saw people that i had met in the course of my activities with blood running down their heads. i came back from washington very upset and i started talking with the fbi about all of the contradictions that i was starting to see. i didn't understand what my involvement was anymore. so i started saying to them i don't see the reason for my continuing. it seems that you don't understand what i'm telling you.
these people don't need me functioning entheir midst. if you can't give me assurances that the information that i'm giving you which was context away from isn't going to be used against these people then i cannot continue. they tried to give me assurances. they brought someone from washington to talk to me. he talked in terms about why i should continue and how everything was all fine and good. but i was very dissatisfied with those conversations and i insisted on quitting. i gave them a month's notice and i quit. >> this person from washington who talked to you in philosophical terms, do you recall the substance of that conversation? in this effort to get you to remain as an informant what reasons were advanced? >> mostly they were trying to assure me that the fbi was part of -- our conversations were
really far ranging. we discussed all sorts of social issues from poverty to space program to ecology. they try today assure me that things were doing fine, the status quo was really fine. i was involved with a group of people who had really bad readjustment needs who didn't have social programs, that were sufficient for them. i was involved in welfare rights. i was constantly meeting people who lived with a degree of poverty that provoked them and irritated and frustrated them. and they turned to self help programs. i have a man telling me that things are fine and that my work for the bureau is part of making sure that dissidents -- they had no sympathy with poverty and the consequences of that poverty that i was viewing first hand and living with day to day. so that we were really very much miles apart in our discussions
about what was fine and what was not fine in america. and they could not give me the assurances that this information would not be used against the people. i no longer could trust that their interests in these people, that they were just not sensitive to what the real needs of these people were. >> it was shortly after this that your role as informant was terminated that you indicated you no longer desire to work in this capacity? >> yes. >> let me raise one final inquiry. in our previous discussion you indicated that there came a time when you had become involved in the project representing the vietnam veterans against the war and that as a part of such you had been involved in things like the jury survey effort. >> yes. >> my question is, did you communicate to the bureau any of
your efforts in this regard as it related to it? >> yes, i did. i was put in position. i was told not to bring to the fbi's attention any information that legally they shouldn't have. i'm not a lawyer and most average citizens cannot make decisions about what's legally significant and what is not legally significant. there are many instances where i passed information thinking that i could legitimately pass that information. i now understand that that information legally the fbi should not have had that information. and i feel badly about that. but i also know i was put in the kind of position where i was required to make professional decision and i could not make a professional decision. >> the information passed include correspondence between you and defendants? >> yes. >> mr. chairman, that concludes my examination.
>> from when to when? >> approximately 1959 to 1965. >> in 1965 did you surface in connection with the murder case? >> yes, i did. >> whose murder and what role did you play in that case? >> i was in the automobile the evening a woman was killed by a group of clans men. >> this was a situation in connection with the selma march where a woman from detroit was killed after riding in the car. you surfaced and testified in three trials which resulted in a conviction of the person whose had committed that murder, is that correct? >> that is correct. >> i want to go back to how you came to that point and what you did as an informant before performing that service. you served in the government
prior to being an informant in military forces? >> yes, sir. >> marine. how old were you? >> i joined at 14 1/2 years of age. >> and the fbi recruited you to infiltrate the klan? >> that is correct. >> what kind of information did you report back to the fbi? >> any and everything that i observed or heard pertaining to any clans men. >> did that include information relating to planned violence or actual violence? >> yes, sir. >> did it include information related to political manners? >> yes, sir. >> what is an example of that? >> an example of that was we had former fbi agent running for mayor of birmingham. i was instructed to attend meetings, observe who was there, whether people were republicans or democrats and give their names and if they were active
political voters. >> in addition to reporting back political information and information relating to violence, did you report back information relating to the social life of the members of the klan? >> i did. >> including most intimate details of their social life. >> that is what i was instructed to do. >> you were instructed to do that by the bureau and you did that. >> yes, sir. >> did you also go to meetings of civil rights organizations and report what was being said at those meetings? >> yes, i did. >> did you report the same information to the bureau and the klan? >> basically same information. >> you were a member of something called klan bureau investigation. you were informing on civil rights organizations to the bureau and the klan. >> that is correct. >> turning to the subject of violence, what instructions, if any, were you given at the outset of your employment by the
fbi with respect to participation in violent acco t activity. >> i was instructed under no conditions to participate in violence. >> did those instructions change? >> they did. >> describe the change. >> i was contacted by my contact agent and he stated to me i know there is a lot of crap going on that you are not reporting. i know it is happening and i don't understand why you aren't seeing it. i said it isn't happening in open meetings. i said there is absolutely nothing pertaining to violence discussed in these open meetings. i see a group that stay after the meetings over i see a certain group remain and they don't come out. the agent stated i should try to get closer to members of this group and try to get closer to them. >> did you do that? >> yes, i did. >> did you begin to participate in the violent act snz. >> i did.
>> did you tell the fbi that you were participating in violent a acts? >> before i participated. >> what were acts? did you participate in acts where you beat people with chains at a certain cafe? >> there was a county fair. the fbi i personally gave the fbi several days notice, a good week notice that this was going to occur. my instructions were to hang in. go and see what happens. >> and did the fbi ever tell you that when you went to these violent occasions you should stand back and not participate or did they say you are on your own and do whatever you think is necessary? >> he says we have to by law instruct you that you are not to participate in violence. however, we know you have to do
this. we know it is something you have to do and we understand. we need the information. the important thing is get the information. >> to get the information was it necessary in your judgment to participate in the violent acts yourself? >> some of the information, i think, yes. >> in connection with the freedom riders incident did you inform fbi about planned violence? >> sir, i gave fbi information approximately three weeks before it occurred. >> what did you tell them? >> i stated that i had been contacted by a birmingham city detective who wanted me to meet with high ranking officer. >> you mean the birmingham police men set up the meeting and you tell the fbi that. >> that's correct. >> and then were they beaten? >> they were beaten badly. >> did the birmingham police give you the time they promised?
>> we were promised 15 minutes with absolutely no intervention from a police officer whatsoever. the information was passed on to the bureau. we had our 15 minutes. approximately 15 minutes after the freedom riders were attacked a police officer ran over to me and stated get out of here. get them out of here. your 15 minutes are up. >> were any arrests made? >> absolutely not. as a matter of fact, i quit shortly after because of this incident. why wasn't something done, there were 1,000 police. right in front of city hall we had baseball bats, clubs, chains, pistols sticking in our belts. it was unbelievable. >> that is the problem with the birmingham police department.
what about the fbi? >> i was told who are we going to report it to. he said the police department was involved and police department helped set it up. he says we are an investigating agency and not enforcement agency. all we do is gather information. >> sometime after that were you told that the fbi had declared war on the klan? >> that is correct. >> and what were you told to do? >> i had been instructed to disrupt, discredit or disorganization the klan organization to the best of my ability. i was instructed to give information if i find out who was sleeping with who or i would pass the word around to different people so that it tries to break up homes. i was instructed to attend
church services and see if there was political activity going on. many klan meetings were held at churches. >> were you instructed personally yourself to attempt to break up marriages by sleeping with wives of members of the klan? >> yes, i was. my instructions were to try to sleep with as many wives as i could. that was probably the best information we could gather. >> mr. chairman, you did solve by providing information that led to the solution of that crime? >> yes, i did pass information on. >> committee will stand in recess for three minutes while we bring forth the other witnesses.
your question is -- >> what criteria do you use in selection of informants. >> they vary within needs in our cases relating to extremist matters. in order to get an informant who can meld into a group which is engaged in a criminal type activity you are going to have a different set of criteria. if you talking about our internal security matters i think we set rather high standards. we do require that a preliminary inquiry be conducted which consists of checks of our
headquarters, embassies, field office, checks with other informants who are operating in the same area and with various established sources such as local police departments. following this, if it would appear that the person is the type who has credibility and be dependent upon to be reliable we would interview the individual. in order to make a determination as to whether or not he would be willing to assist the fbi in discharging responsibilities in that field. following that, assuming that the answer was positive we would conduct a rather in depth investigation for the purpose of further attempting to establish credibility and reliability. >> how does the bureau distinguish the use of informants or law enforcement as opposed to intelligence
collection? is it the same? >> passed on to those who had the responsibility to do something about it. it was not always acted upon as indicated. >> none of these cases adequate evidence of conspiracy to give you jurisdiction to act. >> the departmental rules require departmental approval where you have a conspiracy under 241 it takes two or more persons acting together. you can have a mob scene and you can have blacks and whites belting each other but unless you can show that those that initiated the action acted in concert in a conspiracy you have no violation. congress recognized this and it wasn't until 1968 that they came along and added section 245 to the civil rights statute which added punitive measures against
an individual that didn't have to be a conspiracy. but this was a problem that the whole country was grappling with. president of the united states, attorney generals, we were at a situation where we had lawlessness taking place as you know from the memorandum that we sent to attorney general the accomplishments we were able to obtain in preventing violence and in neutralizing the klan. >> what was the bureau's purpose in continuing or urging continu continued informants of vietnam veterans against the war? was there legitimate law enforcement purpose or was the intent to alter political expression? >> we have information on the vietnam veterans against the war that indicated that there were groups involved going to north vietnam meeting with the
communist forces. they were going to paris, attending meetings paid for and sponsored by the communist party. we feel that we had a very violent basis to direct our attention to the vvaw. it started out, of course, with gus hall in 1967 who is head of the communist party with comments he made. what it finally boiled down to is a situation where it went off into the union and the hard line communist group and at that point factionalism developed in many chapters and we closed those chapters because there was no longer intent to follow the national organization. we had a valid basis for investment. we investigated chapters to determine if there was affiliation to the national
office. in the situation when violence was known. >> did address himself to that. if you have no objections i ask -- >> the problem we had at the time was the problem today where an investigative agency. we do not have police powers even like the united states marshals do. marshals since about 1975 or some period like that have authorities that almost border on what a sheriff has. we're the investigative agency of the department of justice. during these times the department of justice had us maintain the role of an investigative agency. we were to report on activities. we furnished the information to the local police who had an obligation to act. we furnished it to the department of justice. in those areas where the local police did not act it resulted
finally in the attorney general sending 500 united states marshals down to guarantee the safety of people who were trying to march in protest of their civil rights. this was an extraordinary measure because it came at a time of civil rights versus -- >> a lot of informers have preknowledge of violence on some kind of long range basis to prevent violence. >> we have them in boston in connection with a bussing incident. we are investigating the violations under the civil rights act. but the marshals are in boston. they are in louisville, i believe, at the same time. this approach the federal government recognized was the solution to the problem where you had to have added federal input glmpt is instead of waiting for it to get to a boston state which is advanced confrontation, shouldn't we have
somewhere a coordinated program that when you go up the ladder of command the fbi on immediate and fairly contemporary basis that kind of help can be sought instantly as opposed to waiting until it gets to a boston -- it seems we need a better remedy than we have. >> fortunately we are at a time where conditions have subsided in the country even from the '60s and '70s or '50s and '60s. we report to the department of justice on potential trouble spots around the country as we learn of them so that the department will be aware of them. the planning for boston took place a year in advance with state officials, city officials, the department of justice and the fbi. our approach, our only approach was through informants and through the use of informants we
solved these cases. the ones that were solved. there were some bombing cases we never solve there, extremely difficult. but these informants as we told the attorney general and as we told the president that we had moved informants up to the top leadership. he was the body guard to the head man. he was in a position where he could forewarn us of violence and help us on cases that had transpired. we knew and could see that this could continue forever unless we can create enough disruption that these members will realize that if i go out and murder three civil rights workers even though the sheriff and other law enforcement officers are in on it, if that were the case and some of them it was the case, that i will be caught and that's what we did. that's why violence stopped was
because the klan was insecure and 20% they thought 50% of their members ultimately were klan members and they didn't dare engage in these acts of violence because they knew they couldn't control conspiracy any longer. >> my time is expired. just one quick question. is it correct that in 1971 we were using around 6,500 informers for a black ghetto situation? >> i'm not sure if that is the year. we did have one year where we had a number like that which would have been around 6,000. that was the time when the cities were being burned. detroit, washington, areas like this, we were given a mandate to know what the situation is, where is violence going to break out next. they weren't informants like an individual penetrating an organization. they were listening posts in the
community that would help tell us that we have a group here that is getting ready to start another firefighter or something. >> thank you. >> there are three more senators remaining for questioning. if we can go -- if you can try to get everything in in the first round -- >> maybe the best professional organization of its kind in the world. when fbi acts in the field of political ideas it has bungled its job, interfered with civil liberties and finally in the last month or two through public disclosure heaped shame upon itself and really led toward an undermining of crucial public confidence in an essential law enforcement agency of this country. in the real sense history has repeated itself because it was precisely that problem that led
to the creation of the fbi in 1924. in world war i bureau of investigation strayed from its law enforcement functions. it seems to be the basis of this strategy that people can't protect themselves from dangerous ideas, that they somehow need to use tools of law enforcement to protect people from subversing for dangerous ideas which i find strange and quite profoundly at odds with the philosophy of american government. i started politics years ago and the first thing we had to -- we have to control this, restrain it, define it so that precisely what is expected of the fbi is known by you, by the public and that you can justify your actions when we ask you. >> i agree with that, senator. i would like to point out that
when the attorney general made his statement mr. hoover subscribed to it we followed that policy for about ten years until the president of the united states said we should investigate the nazi party. i for one feel that we should investigate the nazi party. i feel that our investigation of the nazi party resulted that in the fact that world war ii in contract to world war i there wasn't one single significant of foreign directed sabotage which took place in the united states. >> under criminal law you could have investigated these issues of sabotage. >> sabotage is a crime. >> couldn't you investigate it? >> after it happens. >> every time you get challenged on getting involved in political ideas you defend yourself on the basis of crimes you have been investigating. it is very interesting. my opinion you got to stand here if you are going to continue what you are now doing and as i understand you still insist you did the right thing with vietnam
veterans against the war and investigating council of churches. this could still go on under your interpretation of present powers which you try to justify on the grounds of your law enforcement activities in terms of criminal matters. >> the law does not say we have to wait until we have been murdered before we can -- >> absolutely. >> that's the field. there you go again. >> it's the field of law. >> when you have sabotage -- >> that's the law. >> how did you find out which of the 20,000 members might have been a sab tore? you don't have probable cause to investigate anyone but you direct intelligence type investigation against german american the same thing we did after congress said -- >> couldn't you get a warrant for that? why do you object to going to court and asking for authority? >> because you don't have probable cause to go against an individual. and the law doesn't provide for probable cause to investigate an
organization. there were activities which did take place like at one time an outlaw of the communist party. >> what i don't understand is why it wouldn't be better for the fbi for us to define authority that you could use -- >> i agree. >> where under court authority you could investigate where there is probable cause or reasonable cause to suspect sabotage and the rest wouldn't it make a lot more sense than just making these decisions on your own? >> we have expressed complete concurrence in that. we feel that we are going to get beat to death for the next 100 years damned if you do and damned if we don't if we don't have a delineation of our responsibility in this area. >> the hearings took place inside this room on december 2, 1975. this is the first time you have seen some of this film of these fbi informants testifying. what is your reaction?
>> first of all, there is a comedic quality to it, this gentleman comes in with his head partially covered, a former informant for the kkk and comes in with a white sort of sheet like thing over his head. it's hard to believe that it is not an "snl" skit. you also have -- what is interesting about these characters mary -- what was her last name? >> cook. >> mary joe cook. these informants are here testifying in part because they were deeply conflicted about the role that they played in these domestic intelligence operations. and i think that it suggests, too, something that was very important to this investigation is the role of informants. what i mean by that are sort of whistle blowers, people who participated in some of these programs in the cia, fbi and nsa and became internally conflicted
about some of the programs that these agencies were creating and perpetuating. and the information that they can provide to the church committee is vital to helping the church committee understand the sort of narrative arc. what are the types of abuses that were taking place? why did they happen? and how do we correct them? i think watching this particular piece is really fascinating because the senators become quite animated about the role that these individuals played and what that says about the fbi. in particular, senator of minnesota is involved in this particular piece of the investigation and these public hearings because he was at this point leading in an informal way the investigation of the fbi in particular. and many people responded or
remarked that while the cia activity was appalling or deplorable, the programs that the fbi had created and the ways in which it had violated civil liberties of american citizens was perhaps the worst example of the abuse of the intelligence community. so this particular hearing, this particular hearing and this exchange between members and these informants is really, really powerful, very emotional. >> the beginning of the hearing the fbi portion of the hearing senator church says this is the first time the senate has taken a close look at the fbi. bring us up to the present. how has that changed since then? >> well, senator church and the other senators make a point several times in the hearings to say this is the first time that we have done a comprehensive
investigation of what the broader intelligence community is doing. one of the ongoing jokes among committee staff was that they were looking into an agency known as nsa which they called no such agency. people literally didn't know it existed. of course, it is the national security agency. literally, members of the committee didn't know about this agency prior to the investigation. he is making the broad point that this is the first time we're investigating these issues and that's why so much needs to be brought to light publically. as a result of the church committee investigation, one of the long term legacies of the committee is that the senate created a permanent intelligence oversight committee. in 1976 shortly after the conclusion of the church committee investigation with the publication of final report and that committee has been focussed primarily on insuring consistent
oversight of the intelligence community. for the fbi that has always been a responsibility, a jurisdictional responsibility of the senate judishiary committee. there was a bit of a lively debate about the creation of permanent intelligence oversight committee because there were questions of jurisdiction. how will the new committee deal with the committees that have jurisdiction over some of these issues. finally they decided that the committee needed to maintain oversight of the fbi more broadly within the oversight of the department of justice. that is where we are today. >> how can you convey the importance of this room after you watched some of this? >> institutionally, this room has been the site of most of the senate's most significant
notable investigations, portions of the investigation into the titanic accident were conducted right here in this room. that takes us back to the early 20th century. senator joe mccarthy famously conducted hearings here in this room. water gate was famously conducted in this room, the vietnam hearings conducted by the senate foreign relations committee in 1966-1967 were done in this room. it's a beautiful space. it's a space that is impressive for a number of reasons. but also just historically and institutionally it has been the site of some of the most important investigations in the senate's past. and i think that the fact that they had the church committee hearings in this room suggests they knew there would be a l