Legendary CIA whistleblower and Defending Rights & Dissent ally David C. MacMichael passed away on May 16, 2022. He was 93. David was working at the CIA when he realized the Reagan Administration was deliberately misrepresenting intelligence about the Nicaraguan Sandinista government’s role in the El Salvadoran Civil War. Realizing these lies were being used as pretext for US backed regime change in Nicaragua and fearing the Reagan administration was plotting a major military intervention MacMichael left the CIA and went public with his evidence. MacMichael would be a key witness in the US v. Nicaragua, where the International Court of Justice found the US had violated international law by trying to overthrow the Nicaraguan government.
The National Committee Against Repressive Legislation (NCARL) and the First Amendment Foundation were predecessor organizations to Defending Rights & Dissent. In the 1980s and 1990s NCARL led a campaign against CIA covert actions. This included publishing the report At War With Peace: US Covert Operations, serving as a clearing house for the CIA Off Campus campaign, and participating in the Covert Action Working Group.
David was one of NCARL’s advisors on intelligence agencies, a consultant for our CIA report, and an active participant in the Covert Action Working Group. Kit Gage, Former Director, National Committee Against Repressive Legislation and the First Amendment Foundation had this remembrance:
David was possibly pre-eminent in the group of activists and vets who opposed the way the US was using covert operations around the world. Excepting possibly Daniel Ellsberg. David was a wounded war veteran, and a long time CIA analyst particularly in Latin America. When he decided the US was making some terrible policy mistakes and lying to justify them, he quit and went public, eventually exposing this information through national media. I knew him when he joined the odd bedfellows Covert Action Working Group in DC to share strategies to further publicize covert operations, the damage (including wars) they facilitated, and then consider how to change policies to stop those behaviors. David was the most well known, the most articulate and probably convincing of us. Yet he listened to us all, helped formulate our plans and was part of the team. He continued these efforts for years, undaunted by the difficulty of the tasks and likely failure. He was a mensch and a kind man.