Webster’s Dictionary defines the term déjà vu as “a feeling that one has seen or heard something before.” These past few weeks I have experienced that feeling, in a most unpleasant way.

In 1975, I was a young naval officer. The nation had endured a gut-wrenching war that tore the county apart. At the time, I supported what I thought was a just war. Later I became disillusioned, having learned that President Johnson had fabricated the Tonkin Gulf incident as a pretense for our entry into Vietnam – a war that took more than 50,000 American lives.

After Vietnam, many Americans began to distrust our government and question authority. As a result of our self-loathing and distrust of the government and its agencies, America underwent a long period of self-examination and groveling atonement in an attempt to right its previous wrongs.

One of these efforts was the “U.S. Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities.” Officially, this select Senate committee was formed in 1975 and investigated abuses by the CIA, National Security Agency, FBI and IRS. It was informally known as the “Church Commission” after Sen. Frank Church, the lead Democrat representing Idaho.

As a naval intelligence officer, I followed the hearings closely when I could on my black-and-white TV and through the pages of Time magazine. Those were the days when we taught civics in school and our young followed current events. How could we know that these Senate proceedings would ultimately shape the scope and direction of the intelligence community to this very day?

The Church Committee was formed to examine a number of genuinely troubling allegations, such as CIA espionage against the political activities of American citizens and attempts to assassinate foreign leaders such as Fidel Castro. (Many of the events that were investigated are detailed in Tim Weiner’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Legacy of Ashes – The History of the CIA). The committee’ six-volume report was published in 1976 but many of its findings remain classified. Many believe that the excessive zeal of the Church Committee in curtailing our ability to gather and process “actionable” foreign intelligence led not only to 9/11, but to the current sorry, politicized state of the CIA.

Sen. Church warned “The United States must not adopt the tactics of the enemy. Means are important, as are ends. Crisis makes it tempting to ignore the wise restraints that make men free. But each time we do so, each time the means we use are wrong, our inner strength, the strength which makes us free, is lessened.”

So why am I feeling déjà vu for an event that occurred almost 50 years ago? It is because of the revelations of the ongoing Senate Judiciary Committee hearings and the continuous attempts orchestrated by the Democratic Party to remove President Trump by any means.

We can now compare the sworn testimony of the disgraced Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan, among others, against what they explicitly stated in numerous televised interviews. Not even their hand-picked special prosecutor found any trace of “collusion,” nor the slightest indication that President Trump was a “Russian agent.”

That Barack Obama and Joe Biden perverted our own intelligence and law enforcement agencies to spy on American citizens for political gain is shameful – every American regardless of political party should be appalled. Their relentless prosecution and subsequent “unmasking” of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn – who joined the Army to “fight Russia” and dedicated 33 years of his life to a stellar career of military service, should alarm every American citizen. His charges were finally dropped by a Federal Appeals Court on June 24 after three years of dogged and misguided political persecution.

The U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, created after 9/11 to combat external Islamic terrorism, was routinely abused by the FBI, which knowingly broadcast the false information contained in the almost completely fictional “Steele Dossier” provided to them by the Clinton campaign. The ongoing investigation by U.S. Attorney John Durham will likely uncover more abuses of power by the Obama administration.

Yes, the Church Committee took place in another era, but the words of its chairman as quoted above still echo what we as Americans have experienced for the last three years. Once again, those in power we trust to keep us free have instead abused that power and ignored the restraints of the Constitution for their own political gain.

James R. Poplar III, of Quicksburg, proudly served with the U.S. government for over 40 years. He specialized in national security affairs at both Vanderbilt and the National Defense University.