Mitch Perry Report 3.20.14: Rand Paul calls for investigation of intelligence abuses

Rand Paul spoke at the University of California at Berkeley last night, which undoubtedly will be a story for days and weeks to come amongst cable news pundits whose single job seems to be to talk about who might be running for president in 2016.

That is a significant story — I've covered events at Berkeley that didn't turn out well for Republicans or those with conservative views. But let's set that aside and concentrate on some of his remarks.

Paul said he wants to convene a special committee on Capitol Hill to investigate domestic spying by government agencies, following Senator Diane Feinstein's complaint that the CIA had spied on her congressional staff.

"No one should be allowed to invade your privacy,” Paul said. “That’s why I’m announcing today that when I return to Washington, I will push for a select committee styled after the Church Committee that investigated the abuses of power of the intelligence committee in the ’70s. It should be bipartisan. It should be independent, and wide-reaching. It should have full power to investigate and reform those who spy on us in the name of protecting us."

The Church Committee was chaired by Idaho Democratic Senator Frank Church, and it blew some Americans’ minds when it began its hearings in 1976. It discovered that agencies like the CIA and the FBI had illegally violated Americans’ rights to privacy and other civil liberties, all in an attempt to uncover communist conspiracies and sympathizers. The Church Committee also found that the intelligence community engaged in plots to assassinate foreign leaders who were sympathetic to the communist cause — democratically elected or not (such as a plan to offer Fidel Castro a wetsuit lined with spores and bacteria that would give him a skin disease).

This was important stuff that was revealed for the first time — and recently former Church committee members wrote a letter saying now was the time to revive such a committee in the wake of the Snowden revelations. No doubt Rand Paul is a politician trying to create attention for himself — but who can say that his cause is unjust?

We were in St.Petersburg yesterday, where we learned that Rick Kriseman loves his job. The mayor adroitly fielded questions at a Tiger Bay Event.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has entered the city into a national competition where it's all about saving water and energy.....and Arielle Stevenson reports on a symposium held this week in Tampa that shows how worksite wellness can decrease employer healthcare costs.

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