CIA whistleblower Phillip Agee dies
modified from the story by
Fred Attewill and agencies
Wednesday January 9, 2008
Philip Agee, a former CIA agent who became a critic of Washington’s Cuba policy, has died aged 72, Cuban state media reported today.
Bernie Dwyer, a Radio Havana journalist, said Agee had been in hospital since last month, where he died following several operations for perforated ulcers. Dwyer said friends planned a remembrance ceremony for Agee on Sunday at his Havana apartment.
Granma, Cuba’s communist party newspaper, said Agee died on Monday night and described him as “a loyal friend of Cuba and fervent defender of the peoples’ fight for a better world”.
A Brief Biography of Phillip Agee:
Agee quit the CIA in 1969 after 12 years in which he mainly worked in Latin America.
His famous 1975 book, Inside the Company: CIA Diary, cited CIA violations against leftist people in the region and included a 22-page list of agency operatives.
In Britain, Agee worked with journalists to list the names of the agents, leading to many spies being sent back to Washington (at least temporarily) with their cover blown.
In comments published last year, Agee explained his decision to expose the CIA: “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.”
His intent to destabilise the organisation’s own disruptive operations by revealing the identities of CIA agents infuriated the right wing US intelligence community.
Agee wanted to settle in Cambridge, England with his partner, Angela, a Brasilian who had been jailed and tortured by the right wing in her own country, and his two young sons by his former wife. He intended to continue exposing the CIA, but he was deported from England in 1978 as a “threat to the security of the state”. Agee thinks that the British prime minister Jim Callaghan acted under the instruction of the US secretary of state, Henry Kissinger. Kissinger’s vengeance was meted out because he believed that Agee’s exposure of CIA activities in Jamaica influenced the Jamaican elections in favour of progressive Michael Manley and against the US’s own preferred right wing politicians.
Agee settled in Germany with his new partner, the ballet dancer Giselle Roberge, and later split his time between Hamburg and Havana. In 1979, his US passport was finally revoked and was never returned.
Though he was punished, Agee had no regrets about his decision to blow the whistle on the CIA. He said: “There was a price to pay. It disrupted the education of my children [Phil and Chris, then teenagers] and I don’t think it was a happy period for them. It also cost me all my money. Everything I made from the book, I had to spend.
“But it made me a stronger person in many ways and it ensured I would never lose interest or go back in the other direction politically. The more they did these dirty things, the more they made me realise what I was doing was important.”
Under the US Freedom of Information Act, Agee was able to discover the CIA had accumulated 18,000 pages of information on him.
Agee was denounced as a traitor by George Bush Sr and was threatened with death by his former colleagues in the CIA.
The US right wing repeatedly blamed Agee for the death of Richard Welch, the CIA station chief in Athens who was assassinated in 1975. Explained Agee, “George Bush’s father [George Bush Sr] came in as CIA director in the month after the assassination and he intensified the campaign, spreading the lie that I was the cause of the assassination. His wife, Barbara, published her memoirs and she repeated the same lie, and this time I sued and won, in the sense that she was required to send me a letter in which she apologised and recognised what she wrote about me was false. They’ve tried to make this story stick for years. I never know what government hand or neocon hand is behind the allegations, and I don’t pay too much attention, but I know I haven’t been forgotten.” While the Bush family tried to hang the Athens CIA chief’s death on Agee’s work to counter state terrorism, George Bush Jr. outed CIA agent Valerie Plame when the politics suited the right wing’s interests.
Agee was a great supporter of Cuba’s progressive policies providing universal healthcare and education, and he regarded the current US president, George W. Bush, as the “antithesis” of those achievements.
Writing in the Guardian last year, he said: “All Cuba’s achievements have been in defiance of US efforts to isolate Cuba. Every dirty method has been used, including infiltration, sabotage, terrorism, assassination, economic and biological warfare and incessant lies in the media of many countries.”
Agee denied claims from a former Cuban intelligence officer he had received $1m from Cuban intelligence.
Despite the long-running bitterness between him and the US authorities, Agee was allowed to return to the US many times without being arrested and was allowed back into Britain under John Major’s government.
In the 1990s, Agee set up a company to bring visitors to Cuba. Many travellers came from the US, even though Americans are forbidden by law from visiting the country.
Until his death, Agee remained committed to exposing the repressive operations of the CIA. Last year, he was working on a book about the CIA’s activities in Venezuela.