Today, Frederick (“Fritz”) A. O. Schwarz, Jr. was awarded the 2014 Ridenhour Courage Prize at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. The annual Ridenhour Prizes recognize acts of truth-telling that protect the public interest, promote social justice or illuminate a more just vision of society.
Schwarz, who is currently Chief Counsel of the Brennan Center, previously served as Chief Counsel to the Church Committee from 1975 – 1976 which uncovered serious abuses of power by the CIA, FBI and NSA. For example, the Church Committee revealed that the FBI tried to get Martin Luther King Jr. to commit suicide; the CIA enlisted the Mafia in its attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro; and the NSA and its predecessor, the Armed Forces Security Agency, obtained copies of most telegrams leaving America for a period of 30 years.
“Spanning more than four decades, Fritz Schwarz’s remarkable career exemplifies the true spirit of the prize,” the Ridenhour Awards Committee said. “In the mid-1970s as the Chief Counsel of the Church Committee, Fritz engaged in the most wide-ranging, effective and famous investigation of the intelligence community that our nation has ever seen. Those hearings were instrumental in placing checks upon the power of the intelligence community. In light of the challenges from today’s surveillance state, and in recognition of his life-long commitment to strengthening democracy and rule of law, we can think of no one more deserving of the 2014 Ridenhour Courage Award than Fritz Schwarz.”
In a recent piece appearing in The Nation, Schwarz called for a new Church Committee to examine our secret government closely again, particularly for its actions in the post-9/11 period. “[A new Church Committee] must be resolute in getting the facts, in pressing for government documents and witnesses,” Schwarz said. “Executive agencies and the White House—whichever party is in power—will always resist such efforts. They will stall, they will rely on secrecy, and—if Feinstein is right—they may even spy on Congress and illegally impede its lawful investigations. These obstructions must be overcome.”
Former award recipients include civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, veteran journalist Bill Moyers, activist Howard Zinn, and NASA scientist James Hansen among others. See a full list here.