2 June 2017 — National Security Archive
Ford Administration Nearly Triggered Constitutional Crisis Over Congressional
Access to Intelligence Community Records
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 596
Washington, D.C., June 2, 2017 – The Ford administration came close to igniting a constitutional showdown with Congress more than 40 years ago over demands by a House panel known as the Pike Committee for evidence of possible abuses by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). At the height of congressional pushback against the “imperial presidency” in the mid-1970s, Representative Otis G. Pike’s investigation, which paralleled Senator Frank Church’s simultaneous inquiry, raised fears at the CIA and the White House about secret activities coming to light but also about setting precedents for Congress’s right of access to Executive Branch information.
The Ford administration initially stopped supplying Pike with documentation, and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, among others, lobbied for a strong stand on unconditional secrecy, which would have escalated the confrontation dramatically. Pike eventually defused the crisis by establishing a procedure for congressional declassification of information – one that may have applications for future legislative probes of the Executive Branch.
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