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January 09, 2008

Philip Agee

Philip Agee, the turncoat CIA man has just died in Cuba. Agee left the CIA in 1969, stating that he was appalled at what he was being asked to do while working there. There's some doubt about whether he actually worked directly for the KGB after that or not, but not very much doubt as to where his sympathies lay:

Based on the Mitrokhin Archive, a collection of KGB documents taken from the KGB archives by Vasili Mitrokhin, several Soviet defectors have claimed that Agee was an active and willing participant in Soviet disinformation operations. Oleg Kalugin, former head of the KGB’s Counterintelligence Directorate, states that in 1973 Agee approached the KGB's resident in Mexico City and offered what Kalugin called a "treasure trove of information." But the KGB was too suspicious to accept his offer.[8] Kalugin states that: “ Agee then went to the Cubans, who welcomed him with open arms...The Cubans shared Agee's information with us. But as I sat in my office in Moscow reading reports about the growing revelations coming from Agee, I cursed our officers for turning away such a prize.[8] ” While Agee was writing Inside the Company: CIA Diary, the KGB kept in contact with him through Edgar Anatolvevich Cheporov, a London correspondent of the Novosti News Agency.

There's a decent analysis (although the site is usually rather slanted) of Philip Agee here:

Philip Agee was born in 1936. He joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1957 and worked as a  case officer in several Latin American countries. Agee later claimed: "My eyes began to open little by little down there as I began to realize more and more that all of the things that I, and my colleagues were doing in the CIA had one goal that was that we were supporting the traditional power structures in Latin America. These power structures had been in place for centuries. Where in a relative few families where able to control the wealth and income and power of the state and the economy. To the exclusion of the majority of the population in many countries. The only glue that kept this system together was political repression. I was involved in this. Eventually I decided I didn't want anything more to do with that." Agee resigned in 1969 and began work on a book about his experiences. Ted Shackley head of the CIA's Western Hemisphere Division, was given the task of trying to stop the book from being published. Agee moved to Cuba and his book Inside the Company: CIA Diary was published in 1975. The book was published worldwide in 27 languages. Agee, who was an outspoken critic of America's covert activities, came under attack from the media. George W. W. Bush described Agee as a traitor and after receiving death threats from CIA agents he went to live in London with his partner, Angela, a left-wing Brazilian who had been jailed and tortured in her own country. In 1978 Agee and a small group of supporters began publishing the Covert Action Information Bulletin in order to promote what was called "a worldwide campaign to destabilize the CIA through exposure of its operations and personnel." He also co-edited with Louis Wolf, Dirty Work: The CIA in Western Europe (1978). Agee later defended his actions by claiming: "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 Salvador - they 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."

This is a pretty good news story about Agee's death and the circumstances around it:

Former CIA agent Philip Agee, a critic of U.S. foreign policy who infuriated American intelligence officials by naming purported agency operatives in a 1975 book, has died, 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 and 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 after ulcer surgery in a 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 Havana apartment.

One point. Perforated ulcers? Hasn't the much vaunted Cuban health system realised yet that ulcers are caused by bacterial infect and cured with antibiotics? I mean, really, a Nobel Prize has been awarded for this discovery!

One other point. The law that Scooter Libby was prosecuted for breaking was passed precisely to stop someone doing what Philip Agee had done: reveal the names of CIA operatives.

January 9, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink


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Your last point is partly wrong.

Libby wasn't prosecuted for naming names but rather for two counts of perjury, one count of obstruction of justice in a grand jury investigation, and one of the two counts of making false statements to federal investigators.

Philip Agee appears to have committed traitorous acts in a transparent way against an institution that he considered to be unlawful an immoral. Ronald Reagan signed and amendment in 1982 that made what the CIA was doing during Agee's tenure ILLEGAL...which didn't stop the Reagan administration from continuing it. Agee was a traitor according to my understanding of the word, but I think his actions may have made the world a better place. It's scary to imagine a worse world.

Posted by: Martin | Jan 11, 2008 12:25:51 PM