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Mr. BADILLO. Mr. Chairman, I want to point out, too, I think it is a very dangerous precedent for the Justice Department to look over the transcripts of our hearings, and in effect evaluate them for us. I don't think we should, as members of the Judiciary Committee, want to give that right to the Justice Department, or any other agency. I think that is a decision we have to make.
And I would be very apprehensive having an executive session transcript being made available to an official in the executive branch of the Government.
Mr. WIGGINS. You would rather make it available to the public. Mr. BADILLO. I think you have to make a decision, I'm prepared to make the decision. But I think we should make the decision, the members of the committee, not based upon an editing job by the Justice Department.
Mr. DANIELSON. Will the gentleman yield?
I trust that my brother Badillo knows that I don't feel there is going to be any editing.
Mr. BADILLO. I look at this as an executive review.
Mr. DANIELSON. I don't even look at it as a review. I look at this as giving him an opportunity to show cause.
Mr. KASTENMEIER. Yes.
Mr. DANIELSON. That often is done in court, you show cause, or it will be released.
Mr. KASTEN MEIER. He will not make any decision. In other words, it will be presented to him, that we propose to release this, does he have any cause to the contrary, so he can make a comment available to us.
Mr. DRINAN. Mr. Chairman, there is one thing that he will not want to drop from this manuscript, where Mr. Cotter said, "Postmaster Day thought this was a fine program." Maybe he'll want to bring this up. But there are other statements here that I am certain he will say are embarrassing to national security; and once again, he is not the judge.
Mr. KASTENMEIER. Well, in the final analysis this subcommittee will judge this as a majority; and I am not personally too well disposed to Mr. Silberman's judgment. As I pointed out to him yesterday, we have had no cooperation at all from the Justice Department.
But in any event, I hope that the subcommittee will go along on the basis that he will censor nothing, but he will have a chance to comment in a very limited period of time. We are in any event going to be restricted in time through the availability of the transcript to us, to the public. I think our Full Committee Chairman, Mr. Rodino, is also aware of this, and is entitled to comment.
But the final judgment resides with us collectively, and I trust we will be able to exercise it.
Mr. DRINAN. Mr. Chairman, I don't want to press it too much, and the press is out there, and what do we say? I would just like to walk away, but somebody is going to have to say something, and they are going to ask you. I mean, we are waiting?
Mr. KASTENMEIER. I am not going to comment on the substance of this because it is a closed session, other than to say that once the transcript has been reviewed I hope to have it released forthwith.
Mr. RAILSBACK. Mr. Chairman, we will make the decision, and that is as it should be. But I think we are extending a courtesy, and for the Lord's sake, maybe it will help them be a little bit more cooperative with us. I expect us to make the decision, and I am not going to be influenced by him.
Mr. PATTISON. I think as a committee we can decide now to open it up, unless there is some adverse comment from Justice, in which case then we will decide. In other words, there is no point in us coming back to make a decision, we can make the decision right now.
Mr. WIGGINS. I don't have any objection to that.
Mr. PATTISON. If they make a comment that is adverse, then I think we ought to come back.
Mr. KASTENMEIER. That procedure will be followed. And, incidentally, we have other hearings scheduled, which may or may not be sensitive. At this point we have no present intention of holding them in closed session. I say this because we will be in sensitive areas for some time, we have to be somewhat more resistive of opportunities to make this unavailable to the public.
Mr. PATTISON. I think we should have a showing from Justice the next time we do this with a little more meat and substance showing as to why it should be closed.
Mr. KASTENMEIER. If there are no other questions or comments, gentlemen, we will proceed in that fashion.
I want to first extend to Mr. Cotter the committee's great gratitude for your appearance this morning, and for your openness, your cooperativeness, your information given to this committee, it was very helpful to this committee, and we appreciate, Mr. Cotter, your being here.
Mr. COTTER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. KASTENMEIER. The subcommittee is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 12:40 p.m. the subcommittee adjourned, subject to the call of the Chair.]
FRIDAY, MARCH 21, 1975
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
SUBCOMMITTEE ON COURTS, CIVIL LIBERTIES,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:16 a.m., in room 2237, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Robert W. Kastenmeier [chairman of the subcommittee], presiding.
Present: Representatives Kastenmeier, Danielson, Drinan, Badillo, Pattison, Railsback, and Wiggins.
Also present: Bruce A. Lehman, counsel; Timothy A. Boggs, professional staff member; and Thomas E. Mooney, associate counsel.
Mr. KASTENMEIER. The subcommittee will come to order. As chairman, on behalf of the Subcommittee on Courts, Civil Liberties, and the Administration of Justice, I am releasing today the transcript of the executive session hearing which the subcommittee conducted last Tuesday with Mr. William J. Cotter, Chief Postal Inspector of the U.S. Postal Service. The transcript covers the portion of Mr. Cotter's testimony which deals with the mail opening program of the Central Intelligence Agency.
The subcommittee agreed to hear this testimony in executive session at the request of Deputy Attorney General Laurence Silberman. Mr. Silberman urged that in this instance the subcommittee refrain from its usual practice of conducting all hearings in open public session and that this particular matter be raised in executive session.
He indicated to me that the CIA mail opening operation raised a number of questions including the issue of national security. The subcommittee, however, has determined subsequent to that closed session, that the public interest is best served by an open and honest presentation of the testimony taken from Mr. Cotter. This is consistent with the subcommittee's declamation not to withhold information from the public that is rightfully of public concern.
We have not heard from the Justice Department any further reason why this transcript should not be released this morning; accordingly, it is being released.
The substance of Mr. Cotter's sworn testimony is a presentation of the 20-year practice of the CIA, in direct violation of the letter and spirit of the law, to intercept, open, and duplicate the mail of American citizens.
I personally find this program to be a reprehensible manifestation of the view that so-called national security concerns outweigh the rights of citizens to privacy of their associations, papers, and commu
nications. The public has the right to expect that their mail, even their mail to foreign friends, is not subject to the insidious snooping by zealous agents of the Federal Government.
Both Mr. Cotter and Mr. Colby, Director of the CIA claim that no such program is currently in existence. However, I believe that the American public has a right to the personal assurances of the President that the privacy of their mail is beyond the reach of even the CIA.
On my own I have written to the President today urging that he personally review the situation and give the public such assurances. In the meantime the subcommittee will continue to explore legislation which will respond to the issues raised by Mr. Cotter.
Today the subcommittee will further review the CIA mail opening program and will receive in public session, testimony from a witness who is singularly capable of explaining the purpose, value, and intention of the program. Dr. Melvin Crain was an employee of the Covert Operations Office of the Central Intelligency Agency.
He held a management position for 8 years. During that period of time he obtained first hand knowledge of the Agency's program to read the mail of American citizens who were corresponding with individuals residing in Communist countries. Dr. Crain is presently a professor of political science at San Diego State University, San Diego, Calif.
I will invite Dr. Crain to come forward as a witness. I will administer the oath to Dr. Crain as is the custom in this set of hearings.
[The witness was duly sworn by the chairman.]
Mr. KASTENMEIER. I believe you have a brief statement, Dr. Crain. We will be pleased if you will present it to us.
TESTIMONY OF DR. MEL CRAIN, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, SAN DIEGO STATE UNIVERSITY
Dr. CRAIN. Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, I welcome the opportunity to furnish whatever assistance I can toward developing any information and recommendations concerning any unconstitutional, illegal and/or improper use of intelligence collection methods, including the U.S. mails, that are in violation of civil rights. and civil liberties.
I am Mel Crain, and I reside at 8835 Harbison Canyon Road, El Cajon, Calif. I am a professor of political science at San Diego State University where I have taught since 1959. I received my master's and doctorate degrees in political science at the University of Southern California. I am a Navy veteran of World War II.
From December 1950 to August 1951 I was a civilian intelligence officer with the Air Force Office of Intelligence (AFOIN), Department of the Air Force. In addition to my basic responsibilities of intelligence research and analysis toward formulating the annual contingency war plan, I conducted liaison with other agencies within the intelligence community.
In August 1951 I was recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency to serve within the Clandestine Services. Specifically, I was employed in a research supervision capacity in the Operational Intelligence Research Branch which, along with the area divisions, including the
Domestic Operations Division, comprised then of the Office of Plans, often referred to as simply D/DP or Deputy Director of Plans.
When I resigned from the Agency, effective in August 1959, I was Deputy Chief of the Operational Intelligence Research Branch. Richard Bissell had become Deputy Director of Plans (D/DP) in January 1959, while Richard Helms long had been Assistant Deputy Director of Plans and, as I recall, served as Acting D/DP pending Bissell's assignment to the post.
Ours was a support function, that is, to provide planning and information for foreign intelligence operations, principally against the U.S.S.R. To the best of my knowledge, no one in our branch perceived that our responsibilities included counterintelligence or counterespionage operations within the United States or against any of its residents, whether citizens or not. It was my understanding, at least, that such functions were outside the Agency's charter and, if they belonged anywhere, they were attached to the FBI.
It was with no little surprise, therefore, that one day late in 1958 I found myself extensively involved in mailtapping of American citizens. I had, it seems, been given a new clearance under the otherwise unidentified Staff D. At a small briefing, which I was directed to attend, I was assigned on a "need to know" basis to the exploitation of surreptitious mail surveillance.
That is, selected members of my staff, many of whom long had been cleared participants, were to receive and analyze copies of first-class letter correspondence written by Americans and posted to addressees within the U.S.S.R. and other Iron Curtain countries. Our purpose in so doing was to develop operational leads.
At this briefing session the briefing officer asserted that this mailopening activity was the result of a joint operation among the CIA and the Post Office. The latter, I was told, had arranged special cleared areas in two major post offices in New York and New Orleans, with special cleared personnel using sophisticated technology. The letters were opened, reproduced, resealed, and sent on their way without interrupting mail flow or their opening in any way being detected.
We did, in fact, receive copies of such correspondence as I personally witnessed and handled. Indeed, I retained at least one copy which I will be glad to furnish to the committee as undeniable proof of letter surveillance within the United States. I estimate that we received on the average at least six letters per day. Most of them were of a personal nature to relatives or friends, though some were addressed to agencies or organizations within the denied areas. I accepted this explanation of the mail surveillance procedures, although I did not personally observe them or even know anyone who had.
Deviating from my statement for a minute, picture yourself in a relatively small room with a few other people and the briefing officer casually describing that America's first-class mail was being opened on a routine basis, reproduced and resealed, and that in no way physically or chemically could it be detected at any end of the mail chain whether or not it had been opened.
If you can picture that, then the briefing officer says,
This is unconstitutional and illegal but it is necessary to perform our mission, it is in the national interest. We are in a cold war, you know, and we have to do things like that.