We both had our say on Ervin’s proposed legislation, with Col. Downie bringing to bear his wealth of practical experience. I had more lawyerly suggestions for amending Ervin’s bill to try to correct some problems I foresaw if it became law. William J. Bowe Testimony before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Military Surveillance Sen. Ervin was having none of my advice on how to rewrite his bill, and made sure that he created a record in the hearings that dealt with my points in the event a court ever had to interpret the statute. During the course of Sen. Ervin’s work on the military surveillance hearings, I had the chance to privately chat informally with him in his Senate office. At the time, I don’t think I’d ever been so struck by a person. I came away feeling I had not only met a friendly, serious and fair-minded man of purpose, but one with an outsized intellect and an even greater quotient of common sense.
Later in 1974, the Senate Watergate hearings Ervin had chaired the year before finally bore fruit. While Sen. Evin proposed bill regulating surveillance by the military never became law, his adroit conduct of the Watergate hearings ultimately gave him and the country a great victory. Fatally damaged by facts revealed in the Watergate hearings, and facing imminent impeachment and conviction by the Congress, Richard Nixon resigned as President on August 9, 1974.
Also in 1974, Lawrence Baskir, who served as Chief Counsel and Staff Director for the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights, published an article detailing the way in which the Senate hearings on military surveillance had unfolded. Baskir, Lawrence M. (1974) “Reflections on the Senate Investigation of Army Surveillance,” Indiana Law Journal: Vol. 49 : Iss. 4 , Article 3. This comprehensive account of the hearings provides a sophisticated look at the work in the Senate. It also provides another reason beyond his performance in the Watergate Affair to admire the decency, legislative skills, and political acumen of Sen. Sam Ervin.