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The civil rights movement, protests against the Vietnam War, Watergate—rumors and revelations stemming from these and other events provoked in the 1970s a rising clamor against the scope and conduct of American intelligence operations. Finally, in 1975, Congress launched investigations of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other federal agencies in the intelligence community. This is the story of one of those investigations—that by the Senate committee chaired by Frank Church of Idaho.

The hearings of the Church committee, together with investigations by the House of Representatives and a presidential commission, rocked the intelligence bureaucracy like nothing before; even the CIA’s involvement in Kennedy’s Bay of Pigs debacle paled in comparison. A deep schism developed within the Senate committee, and the House of Representatives was torn by acrimony and recrimination.

From his special vantage point as an investigator and aide to Senator Church, Loch Johnson incisively portrays the human element—jealousy, friendship, pique, ambition, fatigue—in these deliberations and traces the tangled lines of conflict and cooperation that stretch between Congress and the White House. Season of Inquiry affords a unique look at the workings of the United States Senate, not in its ordinary day-to-day business but in the heat and glare of publicity during the conduct of a major inquiry.

Loch K. Johnson is associate professor of political science at the University of Georgia and author of The Making of International Agreements: Congress Confronts the Executive. He served both as an investigator for the Church committee and as personal aide for its chairman and subsequently as staff director of the Subcommittee on Oversight, Committee on Intelligence, of the House of Representatives.

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






United States Senate, Church Committee, Legislative oversight


American Politics

A Season of Inquiry: The Senate Intelligence Investigation
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