Chruch-Committee

Congress in the Archives will feature monthly staff posts on our blog. Today’s post comes from archivist Adam Berenbak.

Frederick A.O. Schwarz, also known as F.A.O. Schwarz Jr., may have owed his name to his great-grandfather who opened one of the first and most famous toy stores in America, but he owed his reputation to his knowledge of the law. As Chief Counsel for the Senate Select Committee to Study Government Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, or more commonly known as the Church Committee, Schwarz was involved in issues of national security and intelligence. However, he was not immune from the toy bug that had made his name so famous. Before becoming Chief Counsel for the committee, he worked various jobs within FAO Schwarz from salesmen to warehouse employee to bookkeeper. He later recalled that the family did not receive a discount at the toy store unless they worked there. Even with the discount, none of the jobs stuck with Schwarz, so he left the toy business and became an attorney.

Schwarz’s work with the Church Committee was a bit more memorable than his work for FAO Schwarz, as he took on the US Intelligence Community and the Watergate burglars. The document above is a letter to the CIA from Schwarz requesting information on E. Howard Hunt, a former CIA operative and famous for his role in the Watergate burglary that eventually led to a major investigation and the resignation of President Richard Nixon. In it Schwarz requests clarification of remarks made by Hunt regarding Fidel Castro and the Bay of Pigs invasion.

The resulting outcome of the investigations by the Church Committee still reverberate through our national security environment today, as evidenced by references to the committee in discussions of the pre- and post- 9/11 intelligence community debates and elsewhere. So much so that Schwarz and Aziz Z. Huq released a book in which they discuss the post-Watergate intelligence community reforms as they relate to the post-9/11 executive branch powers. Though his family roots are in toys, Frederick A.O. Schwarz’s mind has always been on more serious matters.

Letter from Fredrick A. O. Schwarz, Jr., 1/14/1976, Records of the U.S. Senate