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Preventing The Tragedies Of Our Past – Congressional Responsibility and Oversight

– DIG DEEPER by David Johnson


Learning From Our Mistakes

Our film ‘The Man Nobody Knew‘ chronicles the rise of William E. Colby from World War II soldier to CIA director, and his fall following the demise of the Phoenix Program – which he constructed and oversaw – and his revealing of the CIA’s “Family Jewels” before the Church Committee in 1975.  While some believed Colby’s testimony caused irreparable damage to the Agency, others believed he was made a scapegoat for the CIA and the White House – it was not until after the atrocities of the Phoenix Program became public that Congress was willing to condemn the CIA and demand accountability.  More importantly, however, was the precedent Colby’s testimony set in the areas of congressional oversight and transparency of the intelligence community.


“One of the reasons we wanted to produce this film is that it delves into a topic that is as prevalent today as it was during the Vietnam War: the nature of covert action and the changing tides of how we perceive it morally and legally.”

– David Johnson


Our hope is that the film inspires an open and ongoing dialogue over the proper role of the CIA in American political life.  If we are to maintain our democratic ideals and avoid atrocities, like the Phoenix Program, we need to start asking tough questions regarding the CIA’s intelligence gathering techniques and the secret wars that are being fought around the world. The same tough questions that Congress chose to avoid during Vietnam and the Phoenix Program.

History Repeated?

With the advent of unmanned aerial drones, covert action has become the weapon of choice for the Obama Administration’s war on terror. Since taking office, President Obama has ordered five times as many drone strikes as President George W. Bush. And while we like to think of ourselves as an informed public thanks to cable news shows and the internet, secret missions are taking place this very moment in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and perhaps elsewhere that we may never know about.  Perhaps just as troubling is the fact that drones are not only being used overseas, but in our own backyards.  Authorities claim these “domestic drones” are used only to help fight crime… But who knows for sure? Who authorizes them? What crimes are they used for? And what information are they picking up along the way?


The issue of the legality and morality of covert action does not begin and end with congressional responsibility.  It is up to us, the public, to stay informed and active.


  1. By demanding real-time transparency from the President and the CIA
  2. Working with senators, lobbyists and legislators to improve congressional oversight of intelligence activities

What we, and by extension Congress, need to do is make a clear determination as to the types of secrets we want kept secret and more importantly, the types of covert action, if any, to not just allow… but to expect.



  1. Check out the film: THE MAN NOBODY KNEW
  2. Further Reading & Relevant News:


DIG DEEPER Contributions from David Johnson, Composed by Alan Trezza, Edited and Formatted by Adam Paul Smith, Select Images courtesy THE MAN NOBODY KNEW Compiled by Adam Paul Smith
All content herein © 2013 Act 4 Entertainment, LLC
For comments & questions, please use comment feature at the bottom of this page

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