APRIL 26 (legislative day, April 14), 1976


The resolution creating this Committee placed greatest emphasis on whether intelligence activities threaten the "rights of American citizens." 1

The critical question before the Committee was to determine how the fundamental liberties of the people can be maintained in the course of the Government’s effort to protect their security. The delicate balance between these basic goals of our system of government is often difficult to strike, but it can, and must, be achieved. We reject the view that the traditional American principles of justice and fair play have no place in our struggle against the enemies of freedom. Moreover, our investigation has established that the targets of intelligence activity have ranged far beyond persons who could properly be characterized as enemies of freedom and have extended to a wide array of citizens engaging in lawful activity.

Americans have rightfully been concerned since before World War II about the dangers of hostile foreign agents likely to commit acts of espionage. Similarly, the violent acts of political terrorists can seriously endanger the rights of Americans. Carefully focused intelligence investigations can help prevent such acts. But too often intelligence has lost this focus and domestic intelligence activities have invaded individual privacy and violated the rights of lawful assembly and political expression. Unless new and tighter controls are established by legislation, domestic intelligence activities threaten to undermine our democratic society and fundamentally alter its nature.

We have examined three types of "intelligence" activities affecting the rights of American citizens. The first is intelligence collection — such as infiltrating groups with informants, wiretapping, or opening letters. The second is dissemination of material which has been collected. The third is covert action designed to disrupt and discredit the activities of groups and individuals deemed a threat to the social order. These three types of "intelligence" activity are closely related in the practical world. Information which is disseminated by the intelligence community 2 or used in disruptive programs has usually been obtained through surveillance. Nevertheless, a division between collection, dissemination and covert action is analytically useful both in understanding why excesses have occurred in the past and in devising remedies to prevent those excesses from recurring.

A. Intelligence Activity: A New Form of Governmental Power to Impair Citizens’ Rights

A tension between order and liberty is inevitable in any society. A Government must protect its citizens from those bent on engaging in violence and criminal behavior, or in espionage and other hostile foreign intelligence activity. Many of the intelligence programs reviewed in this report were established for those purposes. Intelligence work has, at times, successfully prevented dangerous and abhorrent acts, such as bombings and foreign spying, and aided in the prosecution of those responsible for such acts.

But, intelligence activity in the past decades has, all too often, exceeded the restraints on the exercise of governmental power which are imposed by our country’s Constitution, laws, and traditions.

Excesses in the name of protecting security are not a recent development in our nation’s history. In 1798, for example, shortly after the Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution, the Allen and Sedition Acts were passed. These Acts, passed in response to fear of proFrench "subversion", made it a crime to criticize the Government. 3 During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus. Hundreds of American citizens were prosecuted for anti-war statements during World War I, and thousands of "radical" aliens were seized for deportation during the 1920 Palmer Raids. During the Second World War, over the opposition of J. Edgar Hoover and military intelligence, 4 120,000 Japanese-Americans were apprehended and incarcerated in detention camps.

Those actions, however, were fundamentally different from the intelligence activities examined by this Committee. They were generally executed overtly under the authority of a statute or a public executive order. The victims knew what was being done to them and could challenge the Government in the courts and other forums. Intelligence activity, on the other hand, is generally covert. It is concealed from its victims 5 and is seldom described in statutes or explicit executive orders. The victim may never suspect that his misfortunes are the intended result of activities undertaken by his government, and accordingly may have no opportunity to challenge the actions taken against him.

It is, of course, proper in many circumstances — such as developing a criminal prosecution — for the Government to gather information about a citizen and use it to achieve legitimate ends, some of which might be detrimental to the citizen. But in criminal prosecutions, the courts have struck a balance between protecting the rights of the accused citizen and protecting the society which suffers the consequences of crime. Essential to the balancing process are the rules of criminal law which circumscribe the techniques for gathering evidence 6 the kinds of evidence that may be collected, and the uses to which that evidence may be put. In addition, the criminal defendant is given an opportunity to discover and then challenge the legality of how the Government collected information about him and the use which the Government intends to make of that information.

This Committee has examined a realm of governmental information collection which has not been governed by restraints comparable to those in criminal proceedings. We have examined the collection of intelligence about the political advocacy and actions and the private lives of American citizens. That information has been used covertly to discredit the ideas advocated and to "neutralize" the actions of their proponents. As Attorney General Harlan Fiske Stone warned in 1924, when he sought to keep federal agencies from investigating "political or other opinions" as opposed to "conduct . . . forbidden by the laws":

When a police system passes beyond these limits, it is dangerous to the proper administration of justice and to human liberty, which it should be our first concern to cherish.

. . . There is always a possibility that a secret police may become a menace to free government and free institutions because it carries with it the possibility of abuses of power which are not always quickly apprehended or understood. 7

Our investigation has confirmed that warning. We have seen segments of our Government, in their attitudes and action, adopt tactics unworthy of a democracy, and occasionally reminiscent of the tactics of totalitarian regimes. We have seen a consistent pattern in which programs initiated with limited goals, such as preventing criminal violence or identifying foreign spies, were expanded to what witnesses characterized as "vacuum cleaners"," sweeping in information about lawful activities of American citizens.

The tendency of intelligence activities to expand beyond their initial scope is a theme which runs through every aspect of our investigative findings. Intelligence collection programs naturally generate ever-increasing demands for new data. And once intelligence has been collected, there are strong pressures to use it against the target.

The pattern of intelligence agencies expanding the scope of their activities was well described by one witness, who in 1970 had coordinated an effort by most of the intelligence community to obtain authority to undertake more illegal domestic activity:

The risk was that you would get people who would be susceptible to political considerations as opposed to national security considerations, or would construe political considerations to be national security considerations, to move from the, kid with a bomb to the kid with a picket sign, and from the kid with the picket sign to the kid with the bumper sticker of the opposing candidate. And you just keep going down the line. 9

In 1940, Attorney General Robert Jackson saw the same risk. He recognized that using broad labels like "national security" or "subversion" to invoke the vast power of the government is dangerous because there are "no definite standards to determine what constitutes a ‘subversive activity, such as we have for murder or larceny." Jackson added:

Activities which seem benevolent or helpful to wage earners, persons on relief, or those who are disadvantaged in the struggle for existence may be regarded as ‘subversive’ by those whose property interests might be burdened thereby. Those who are in office are apt to regard as ‘subversive’ the activities of any of those who would bring about a change of administration. Some of our soundest constitutional doctrines were once punished as subversive. We must not forget that it was not so long ago that both the term ‘Republican’ and the term ‘Democrat’ were epithets with sinister meaning to denote persons of radical tendencies that were ‘subversive’ of the order of things then dominant. 10

This wise warning was not heeded in the conduct of intelligence activity, where the "eternal vigilance" which is the "price of liberty" has been forgotten.

B. The Questions

We have directed our investigation toward answering the, following questions:

Which governmental agencies have engaged in domestic spying?

How many citizens have been targets of Governmental intelligence activity?

What standards have governed the opening of intelligence investigations and when have intelligence investigations been terminated?

Where have the targets fit on the spectrum between those who commit violent criminal acts and those who seek only to dissent peacefully from Government policy?

To what extent has the information collected included intimate details of the targets’ personal lives or their political views, and has such information been disseminated and used to injure individuals?

What actions beyond surveillance have intelligence agencies taken, such as attempting to disrupt, discredit, or destroy persons or groups who have been the targets of surveillance?

Have intelligence agencies been used to serve the political aims of Presidents, other high officials, or the agencies themselves?

How have the agencies responded either to proper orders or to excessive pressures from their superiors? To what extent have intelligence agencies disclosed, or concealed them from, outside bodies charged with overseeing them?

Have intelligence agencies acted outside the law? What has been the attitude of the intelligence community toward the rule of law?

To what extent has the Executive branch and the Congress controlled intelligence agencies and held them accountable?

Generally, how well has the Federal system of checks and balances between the branches worked to control intelligence activity?

C. Summary of the Main Problems

The answer to each of these questions is disturbing. Too many people have been spied upon by too many Government agencies and to much information has been collected. The Government has often undertaken the secret surveillance of citizens on the basis of their political beliefs, even when those beliefs posed no threat of violence or illegal acts on behalf of a hostile foreign power. The Government, operating primarily through secret informants, but also using other intrusive techniques such as wiretaps, microphone "bugs" surreptitious mail opening, and break-ins, has swept in vast amounts of information about the personal lives, views, and associations of American citizens. Investigations of groups deemed potentially dangerous — and even of groups suspected of associating with potentially dangerous organizations — have continued for decades, despite the fact that those groups did not engage in unlawful activity. Groups and individuals have been harassed and disrupted because of their political views and their lifestyles. Investigations have been based upon vague standards whose breadth made excessive collection inevitable. Unsavory and vicious tactics have been employed — including anonymous attempts to break up marriages, disrupt meetings, ostracize persons from their professions, and provoke target groups into rivalries that might result in deaths. Intelligence agencies have served the political and personal objectives of presidents and other high officials. While the agencies often committed excesses in response to pressure from high officials in the Executive branch and Congress, they also occasionally initiated improper activities and then concealed them from officials whom they had a duty to inform.

Governmental officials — including those whose principal duty is to enforce the law –have violated or ignored the law over long periods of time and have advocated and defended their right to break the law.

The Constitutional system of checks and balances has not adequately controlled intelligence activities. Until recently the Executive branch has neither delineated the scope of permissible activities nor established procedures for supervising intelligence agencies. Congress has failed to exercise sufficient oversight, seldom questioning the use to which its apropriations were being put. Most domestic intelligence issues have not reached the courts, and in those cases when they have reached the courts, the judiciary has been reluctant to grapple with them.

Each of these points is briefly illustrated below, and covered in substantially greater detail in the following sections of the report.

1. The Number of People Affected by Domestic Intelligence Activity

United States intelligence agencies have investigated a vast number of American citizens and domestic organizations. FBI headquarters alone has developed over 500,000 domestic intelligence files, 11 and these have been augmented by additional files at FBI Field Offices. The FBI opened 65,000 of these domestic intelligence files in 1972 alone. 12 In fact, substantially more individuals and groups are subject to intelligence scrutiny than the number of files would appear to indicate, since typically, each domestic intelligence file contains information on more than one individual or group, and this information is readily retrievable through the FBI General Name Index.

The number of Americans and domestic groups caught in the domestic intelligence net is further illustrated by the following statistics:

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