Read as part of CBR15Bingo: politics. Frank Church was a Senator from Idaho and the famous committee that bears his name was a Senate committee investigating the dirty deeds of America’s surveillance state.
I’ll say this much for The Last Honest Man: the writers know why you’re here.
I didn’t pick this one up to learn about the classes Frank Church took in college or what his favorite restaurant was when he was dating his wife. I picked this up to learn about Frank Church and the Church Committee, the legendary group of Senators and lawyers who took on the FBI and CIA to figure out what was behind the curtain of America becoming a global power.
And it delivers big time because over 60% of the book is dedicated to the coalescing, forming, production, and closing of the committee. Along the way, we get the nuts-and-bolts examination of how Church and his group did their job to bring the FBI, NSA and CIA to…well if not justice necessarily, at least to some measure of accountability.
Church caught the perfect moment of post-Watergate anti-government sentiment. Americans wanted to know who were the faceless Mr. Smiths spying on them and murdering international leaders. Many were scared that this would continue. Church didn’t necessarily stop it; all three agencies are still thriving along with their untold subsidiaries. But he did put measurements in place to ensure that they would be somewhat curbed. We didn’t learn the lessons of the committee post-9/11. But some aspects of it still thrive today. Americans by-and-large hate and fear governmental surveillance, even if they don’t agree on what to do with it.
The book could have gone into a little more depth on the actual testimonies and been better organized in spots. It falls short of the potential for being a truly great narrative history. But it’s still effective in bringing attention to this highly important but sadly marginalized moment in American history.