Otis Pike: Congressman who used his wit and persistence to shine a light on covert overseas operations by the CIA

Pike was a critic of the 'outlandish spending' during the Vietnam War

Otis Pike was a New York congressman and persistent critic of Pentagon overspending who led one of the first congressional investigations of abuses by US intelligence agencies. Elected to the House of Representatives in 1960, he was regarded as a maverick during his 18 years in Congress.

A Democrat elected from a Republican-leaning district on Long Island, he was sceptical of Vietnam War escalation, a patrician lawyer with a wicked sense of humour, which he used to ridicule wasteful spending.

Criticising what he considered outlandish spending during the Vietnam War, he cited small metal rods with a retail cost of 50 cents. The Pentagon, which bought them for $25.55, described them as “precision shafting.” Pike declared in the House, “For once, the American taxpayer got precisely what he paid for.”

In 1973 he single-handedly grounded a $14m programme that awarded extra pay for flight duty to generals and admirals who had never piloted anything more aerodynamic than a desk at the Pentagon. But his most conspicuous moment came in 1975 after revelations of the CIA’s involvement in clandestine operations that may have included killings and coups overseas and spying on US citizens.

In July 1975 he became chairman of a committee that reviewed the activities of the CIA and other intelligence agencies. During the often testy hearings, Time called Pike “the model of a properly pugnacious public servant – sharp-tongued and not easily intimidated.” He challenged the CIA Director William Colby to accept greater oversight of the CIA’s budget. Pike was alarmed by CIA excesses, including involvement in efforts to overthrow leaders in Chile and other countries. After Secretary of State Henry Kissinger withheld documents and limited the number of State Department officials who could testify, the Pike Committee voted to hold him in contempt of Congress.

The Pike Committee called for congressional oversight over operations, a prohibition of CIA-sponsored killings and transparency in the intelligence budget. “It took this investigation”, Pike said, “to convince me I had always been told lies [and] to make me realise that I was tired of being told lies.” Eventually Pike’s investigation was overshadowed by the Senate’s Church Committee, some of whose recommendations were adopted.

Otis Grey Pike, politician: born Riverhead, New York 31 August 1921; twice married (three children); died Vero Beach, Florida 20 January 2014.

© The Washington Post

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence