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The Head of CIA Counterintelligence Was "Certifiably Insane": Covert Operations (1991)

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Published on 07 Apr 2022 / In News and Politics

David MacMichael is a former contract employee of the CIA who served two years as an analyst. A ten-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, he was a counter-insurgency expert in South-East Asia for four years. He also served as an analyst for the National Intelligence Council from 1981-1983. MacMichael graduated with an MA and Ph.D. in History from the University of Oregon.

MacMichael reportedly resigned from the CIA in July 1983 because he felt the Agency was misrepresenting intelligence for political reasons. His public resignation from the Agency gave credence and notability to his vocal indictment of the Reagan Administration's policy toward Central America. He was considered the "key witness" in Nicaragua v. United States. The case was heard in 1986 before the International Court of Justice, which ruled that the United States had violated international law by supporting the Contras in their war against the Nicaraguan government and by mining Nicaragua's harbors. MacMichael also testified in front of Congress on this matter.

A former investigator for the Christic Institute, he was an outspoken critic of the Institute's reliance on conspiracy theory, arguing that the Institute "was eager, perhaps overeager, to demonstrate that this enterprise was responsible for everything since Cain slaying Abel." In July 2005, he testified at a special joint hearing of Congressional and Senate Democrats about the consequences of the Plame affair.

MacMichael is a founding member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), as well as its predecessor Association of National Security Alumni and the Association for Responsible Dissent, and an outspoken critic of the Iraq War and the Bush Administration. He has participated in six documentary films from 1988-2003. Journalist John Pilger has described him as a "CIA renegade."

In August 2014 he was among the signatories of an open letter by the group Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity to German chancellor Angela Merkel in which they urged the Chancellor to be suspicious of U.S. intelligence regarding the alleged invasion of Russia in Eastern Ukraine.

In September 2015 MacMichael and 27 other members of VIPS steering group wrote a letter to the President challenging a recently published book, that claimed to rebut the report of the United States Senate Intelligence Committee on the Central Intelligence Agency's use of torture.

In 1954 Allen Dulles, who had recently become Director of Central Intelligence, named Angleton chief of the Counterintelligence Staff, a position that Angleton retained for the rest of his CIA career.

Under the heading of foreign intelligence, there was the Israeli desk, the "Lovestone Empire" and a variety of smaller operations. The Israeli connection was at first of interest to Angleton, for the information that could be obtained about the Soviet Union and aligned countries, from émigrés to Israel from those countries and for the utility of the Israeli foreign intelligence units, for proxy operations in third countries. Angleton's connections with the Israeli secret intelligence services were useful, for example, in obtaining from the Israeli Shin Bet a transcript of Nikita Khrushchev's 1956 speech to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Congress denouncing Joseph Stalin. The Lovestone Empire is a term for the network run for the CIA by Jay Lovestone, once head of the Communist Party of the United States, later a trade union leader, who worked with foreign unions, using covert funds to construct a worldwide system of anti-communist unions. Finally, there were individual agents, especially in Italy, who reported to Angleton. It is quite possible that there were other foreign intelligence activities for which Angleton was responsible, for example, in Southeast Asia and in the Caribbean.

Angleton's primary responsibilities as chief of the counterintelligence staff of the CIA have given rise to a considerable literature focused on his efforts to identify any Soviet or Eastern Bloc agents, working in American secret intelligence agencies. As such agents have come to be called "moles", operations intended to find them have come to be called "Molehunts".

Three books dealing with Angleton take these matters as their central theme: Tom Mangold's Cold Warrior: James Jesus Angleton: The CIA's Master Spy Hunter, David C. Martin's Wilderness of Mirrors: Intrigue, Deception, and the Secrets that Destroyed Two of the Cold War's Most Important Agents and David Wise's Molehunt: The Secret Search for Traitors that Shattered the CIA. Tim Weiner's Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA paints Angleton as an incompetent alcoholic. These views have been challenged by Mark Riebling in Wedge: The Secret War between the FBI and CIA.

Image: Matankic, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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