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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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: Business Analyst

£400 - £500 per day: Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Logistics/WMS - Immedia...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Ashdown Group: HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000

£34000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Bus...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager - eCommerce - OTE £100k

£50000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award-winning digital age...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable