Ex-CIA Agent Philip Agee Dead in Cuba
By WILL WEISSERT
HAVANA (AP) Philip Agee, a former CIA agent who became an outspoken
critic of Washington's Cuba policy, has died in a Havana hospital
following ulcer surgery, state media reported Wednesday. He was 72.
Agee quit the CIA in 1969 after 12 years working mostly in Latin
America at a time when leftist movements were gaining prominence and
sympathizers. His 1975 book "Inside the Company: CIA Diary," cited
alleged CIA misdeeds against leftists in the region that included a
22-page list of purported agency operatives.
Granma, Cuba's Communist Party newspaper, said Agee died Monday night
and described him as "a loyal friend of Cuba and fervent defender of
the peoples' fight for a better world."
Bernie Dwyer, a journalist with state-run Radio Havana, said in a
Tuesday message posted to a Cuba e-mail group that Agee's wife called
him to say he had died in the hospital, where he has he been since Dec. 15.
"He had several operations for perforated ulcers and didn't survive
all the surgery," Dwyer wrote, adding that Agee was cremated Tuesday
and that friends planned a memorial ceremony for him Sunday at his
In 2000, with European investors and a state-run travel agent as his
partners, Agee opened a travel Web site designed to bring U.S.
tourists to Cuba. The site, cubalinda.com, offers package tours and
other help with Cuban tourism that is largely off limits to Americans.
There was no word of Agee's death on the site Wednesday.
The author of several other books besides "Inside the Company," one
of Agee's last essays was published in Granma International newspaper
in 2003 and came shortly after a Cuban government crackdown led to
the arrest of 75 leading dissidents and political activists.
"To think that the dissidents were creating an independent, free
civil society is absurd, for they were funded and controlled by a
hostile foreign power and to that degree, which was total, they were
not free or independent in the least," he wrote.
Agee has also been accused of receiving up to $1 million in payments
from the Cuban intelligence service. He denied the accusations, which
were first made by a high-ranking Cuban intelligence officer and
defector in a 1992 report.
Barbara Bush, the wife of former President George H.W. Bush himself
a one-time CIA chief in her autobiography accused Agee's book of
exposing a CIA station chief, Richard S. Welch, who was later killed
by leftist terrorists in Athens in 1975. Agee, who denied any
involvement in the killing, sued her for $4 million for defamation,
and she revised the book to settle the case.
Agee's U.S. passport was revoked in 1979. U.S. officials said he had
threatened national security. After years of living in Hamburg,
Germany occasionally underground, fearing CIA retribution Agee
moved to Havana to open the travel site.
Philip Agee, former agent who exposed CIA crimes, dies in Cuba
By Patrick Martin
14 January 2008
Philip Agee, the former CIA operative who broke with the agency and
devoted his life to exposing its role in political subversion,
assassination, torture and support for military dictatorships, died
January 7 in Cuba. Cuban sources said that he died of peritonitis
after ulcer surgery. He was 72.
Agee joined the CIA in 1957, at the age of 22, soon after graduating
from the University of Notre Dame. He worked for the agency for 12
years, with three tours of duty in Latin America, in Ecuador, Uruguay
and Mexico. He resigned in 1969, after witnessing the US-backed
bloodbath against student protesters on the eve of the 1968 Olympics
in Mexico City.
After a six-year effort to write an exposé, find a publisher and
evade CIA efforts to suppress his revelations, Agee saw his book
Inside the Company: CIA Diary published by Penguin Books in London.
It gave a meticulous account of CIA activities in the three Latin
American countries, including the recruitment of officials in each
country as CIA informants, the sponsoring of right-wing media and
political parties, and close collaboration with local repressive
forces, both police and military, in the arrest, torture and murder
of leftist students, workers and political activists.
The book was filled with details of CIA tradecraft, including the
codenames and descriptions of numerous operations, and concluding
with a list of nearly 250 CIA operatives, local agents and
informants, whom Agee identified under their real names as well as
Inside the Company was a political bombshell, coming amid widespread
revelations of CIA assassination plots, involvement in military coups
such as the 1973 bloodbath in Chile, and illegal surveillance against
the American people, particularly those opposed to the Vietnam War.
The book became a bestseller despite efforts by the US government to
block its publication and distribution, and it sparked additional
efforts by left-wing political activists to expose CIA operations.
Agee participated in these efforts, co-sponsoring Covert Action
Information Bulletin, a magazine devoted to blowing the cover on CIA
activities, and co-authoring several books that named thousands of
CIA agents in Africa and Western Europe. He drew on his knowledge of
CIA practices and combed lists of US diplomatic and military
personnel stationed abroad to identify those likely to be undercover
Agee was at pains to declare his political motivation in turning
against the agency. He was not a mercenary defecting to the Stalinist
side in the Cold War, he maintained, and he publicly refused
collaboration with the Soviet KGB and the Cuban DGI. His goal was to
help save the lives of those targeted for mass murder by US
imperialism, and to contribute to the victory of popular
revolutionary movements. He told the New York Times in 1974, on the
eve of the publication of Inside the Company, "I wrote it for
revolutionary organizations in the United States, in Latin America
and everywhere else. I wrote it as a contribution to the socialist revolution."
Even before publication of Inside the Company, Agee faced death
threats originating in the US intelligence apparatus. After the
book's release, he was a marked man, targeted by the CIA and the US
government as a whole. Country after country expelled him or refused
admission, under pressure from Washington.
In 1978, the British Labour government of Prime Minister James
Callaghan deported him in response to his efforts to expose CIA
backing of a right-wing, pro-US political party in Jamaica.
In 1979, the Carter administration revoked his passport, citing
national security reasons. In 1982, the Democratic-controlled
Congress passed the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, making it
illegal to deliberately expose the identities of CIA officers, even
if the information was gathered from publicly available sources.
In 1987, Agee published a memoir, On the Run, which gave more details
of his break with the agency and the CIA's efforts to retaliate. He
had formed a relationship with a leftist Brazilian woman who had been
tortured under the military junta that seized power in that country
in 1964. Even after leaving the agency, he struggled with the
decision to expose its operations.
He wrote: "It was a time in the '70s when the worst imaginable
horrors were going on in Latin America. Argentina, Brazil, Chile,
Uruguay, Paraguay, Guatemala, El Salvadorthey were military
dictatorships with death squads, all with the backing of the CIA and
the US government. That was what motivated me to name all the names
and work with journalists who were interested in knowing just who the
CIA were in their countries."
In his review of On the Run, published in the New York Times, Thomas
Powers wrote: "Did Mr. Agee's activity hurt the agency? You bet it
hurt. The best evidence of how much can be found in his careful
account of CIA efforts to convince him he had been neither forgiven
nor forgottenfollowing him on his travels, spreading rumors about
his alleged connection with the KGB and DGI, surrounding him with
agents, tapping his telephone and even providing him with an
elaborately wired typewriter in order to monitor what he was putting
down on paper. Most difficult of all was a two-year period in the
mid-1970s, when the agency, with high-level help, managed to bar him
from residence in Britain, France, Italy and the Netherlands,
apparently hoping to hound him until he was forced to take up
residence in the Soviet bloc, where his true allegiance (from the
agency's point of view) would no longer be in doubt"
Agee survived this campaign, and eventually settled in Hamburg,
Germany, where he lived with his second wife, American ballerina
Giselle Roberge Agee. He also maintained an apartment in Havana, and
operated a small business promoting American travel to Cuba.
He remained a continual target of harassment and smear tactics by the
US government. One of the more notorious slanders was that Agee's
revelations had led to the assassination of Richard Welch, the CIA
station chief in Athens, who was shot to death by a Greek terrorist
organization in 1975. Welch was not named in Inside the Company,
which focused on Latin America, and it is now known that his identity
was uncovered by local journalists in Athens.
This did not stop President George H. W. Bush, who was CIA director
in 1976-1977, from accusing Agee of responsibility for Welch's death
in a 1989 speech at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia (in the
building now named after himself). The slander was repeated by
Barbara Bush, the former first lady, in her 1994 autobiography. Agee
sued her for libel, forcing a legal settlement in which Mrs. Bush
agreed to remove the charge from subsequent editions of her book.
Agee remained committed to exposing the CIA, and at the time of his
death was reportedly working on a book about CIA subversive
activities in Venezuela. His trajectory was a singular one: he is the
only CIA covert operative known to have broken with the agency out of
revulsion against its crimes, and possessed of the moral courage to
make that break public, thus risking repression or assassination.
Despite his avowal of socialismwhich he wrongly identified with the
Cuban stateAgee's was the voice of outraged moral conscience rather
than politically educated understanding. As he wrote in Inside the
Company, "When I joined the CIA I believed in the need for its
existence.... After 12 years with the agency I finally understood how
much suffering it was causing, that millions of people all over the
world had been killed or had their lives destroyed by the CIA and the
institutions it supports."
Agee wrote of one interrogation session in Uruguay that he overheard
from an adjoining room: "The moaning grew in intensity, turning to
screams. By then I knew we were listening to someone being
tortured.... I'm going to be hearing that voice for a long time."
The crimes exposed by Agee and others have the utmost relevance
today, when the role of the CIA in torture, secret prisons and
illegal detentions is once more the focus of public attention.