The Church Committee : unveiling the past and unraveling the future
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The Central Intelligence Agency has long been shrouded in mystery and public speculation. The agency is often cast as the perpetrator of heinous conspiracies perhaps conceived from the public’s imagination or the creativity of Hollywood. The tales of the organization’s involvement in assassinations, wiretapping, and eerie experiments portray the organization as rogue and powerful, acting without restraint. One particularly intriguing story details an attempt to undermine Fidel Castro’s public image by painting his shoes with a shoe polish designed to cause his trademark beard to fall out.1 This may seem like a ridiculous conspiracy theory; however, during the course of the United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities (often referred to as the Church Committee) this story was found to be true. The validation of such a story created suspicions in Iran about what other CIA conspiracies, especially those surrounding the 1953 Coup against Mohammed Mossadegh, were also true.2The history of U.S.-Iranian relations was greatly altered by the covert actions of the CIA during the 1953 coup that overthrew Mohammed Mossadegh. However, the most severe damage to the two countries relations was inflicted by the confirmation of this involvement during the Church Committee’s investigation into the CIA. While many in Iran may have long suspected that the U.S. government was responsible for the 1953 Coup, the final report of the Church Committee confirmed the actions of the CIA and left the Iranians wondering what else the CIA was to do.3 The revelations of the Church Committee’s final report were equally important to the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, as the covert action itself led to anti-U.S. sentiment and paranoia that fueled the storming of the U.S. embassy in Tehran and the severing of diplomatic relations between the United States and Iran after the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
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