Given the current criticisms of the FBI, it seems appropriate to discuss the prior investigation of the agency (it included investigation of the CIA and NSA as well) that gave birth to the FISA court intended to protect US citizens.
The Church Committee (formally the United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities ) was a U.S. Senate select committee in 1975 that investigated abuses by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), National Security Agency (NSA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Chaired by Idaho Senator Frank Church (D-ID), the committee was part of a series of investigations into intelligence abuses in 1975, dubbed the “Year of Intelligence”, including its House counterpart, the Pike Committee, and the presidential Rockefeller Commission. The committee’s efforts led to the establishment of the permanent U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
A byproduct of the investigation revealed the extent to which the government had perfected surveillance and how easily the US could become tyrannical.
THIS IS ONE OF SENATOR CHURCH’s CONCLUSIONS AS HE TESTIFIED BEFORE CONGRESS.
In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air. (…) Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left: such is the capability to monitor everything—telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.
If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology. (…)
And this was over 40 years ago, so one might only imagine what those capabilities are today.