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IPFS News Link • American History

How George H.W. Bush Rode a Fake National Security Scandal to the Top of the CIA

•, James Risen

It wasn't going to be a slam dunk.

The Democrats had a huge majority in the Senate, and many were still angry over Bush's role as a partisan apologist for former President Richard Nixon, who had resigned the year before as a result of the Watergate scandal. What's more, in the wake of disclosures in the press of pervasive domestic spying by the CIA, the Senate had launched its first aggressive investigation into alleged abuses by the U.S. intelligence community.

Beginning in January 1975, the Church Committee, named for its chair, Idaho Democratic Sen. Frank Church, unearthed one scandal after another at the CIA, the FBI, and the National Security Agency. Long-hidden covert programs, including a series of plots to kill foreign leaders like Cuba's Fidel Castro and the Congo's Patrice Lumumba, had been exposed, rocking the CIA. By late 1975, the agency's public standing was at a low ebb, and the CIA and White House officials in the administration of President Gerald Ford were increasingly worried about the political impact of the disclosures.