Philip Agee was born on 19th July 1935. Agee, who came from a wealthy family in Florida, studied philosophy and law at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.
Agee joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1957 and worked as a case officer in several Latin American countries. He 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."
In 1978 the US secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, urged James Callaghan, the British prime minister, to deport Agee. The reason given at the time was that Agee, by exposing CIA activities, he had helped a socialist, Michael Manley, to be elected as prime minister in Jamaica. As Callaghan actually led a so-called socialist government, the home secretary, Merlyn Rees, informed Labour Party colleagues that Agee was being deported because he was behind the deaths of two British agents.
Agee was falsely accused of being responsible for the death of Richard Welch, the CIA station chief in Athens. In fact, Welch had not been named by Agee. The main person behind this smear campaign was George W. W. Bush. His wife, Barbara Bush, repeated this lie in her memoirs and Agee successfully sued her for libel.
Agee moved to France but the government refused to allow him to stay. The Netherlands, which had initially granted him admission, changed its mind. In 1980 Maurice Bishop granted him citizenship of Grenada. He stayed on the island until the overthrow of Bishop's government in 1983. He then went to live in Nicaragua under the Sandinista government. Later he moved to Cuba. His autobiography, On The Run, was published in 1987.
In 1990 Agee married the German ballet dancer Giselle Roberge. Since then he has held a German passport. Philip Agee is currently the Director of Cubalinda, the only independent U.S. owned travel agency based in Havana.
Philip Agee died after ulcer surgery in a hospital in Havana on 9th January, 2008.
Warren Hinkle and William Turner, in The Fish is Red, easily the best book on the CIA's war against Cuba during the first 20 years of the revolution, tell the story of the CIA's efforts to save the life of one of their Batista Cubans. It was March 1959, less than three months after the revolutionary movement triumphed. The Deputy Chief of the CIA's main Batista secret police force had been captured, tried and condemned to a firing squad. The Agency had set up the unit in 1956 and called it the Bureau for the Repression of Communist Activities or BRAC for its initials in Spanish. With CIA training, equipment and money it became arguably the worst of Batista's torture and murder organizations, spreading its terror across the whole of the political opposition, not just the communists.
The Deputy Chief of BRAC, one José Castaño Quevedo, had been trained in the United States and was the BRAC liaison man with the CIA Station in the U.S. Embassy. On learning of his sentence, the Agency Chief of Station sent a journalist collaborator named Andrew St. George to Che Guevara, then in charge of the revolutionary tribunals, to plead for Castaño's life. After hearing out St. George for much of a day, Che told him to tell the CIA chief that Castaño was going to die, if not because he was an executioner of Batista, then because he was an agent of the CIA. St. George headed from Che's headquarters in the Cabaña fortress to the seaside U.S. Embassy on the Malecón to deliver the message. On hearing Che's words the CIA Chief responded solemnly, "This is a declaration of war." Indeed, the CIA lost many more of its Cuban agents during those early days and in the unconventional war years that followed.
Today when I drive on 31st Avenue on the way to the airport, just before turning left at the Marianao military hospital, I pass on the left a large, multi-story white police station that occupies an entire city block. The style looks like 1920's fake castle, resulting in a kind of giant White Castle hamburger joint. High walls surround the building on the side streets, and on top of the walls at the corners are guard posts, now unoccupied, like those overlooking workout yards in prisons. Next door, separated from the castle by 110th street, is a fairly large two-story green house with barred windows and other security protection. I don't know its use today, but before it was the dreaded BRAC Headquarters, one of the CIA's more infamous legacies in Cuba. The same month as the BRAC Deputy was executed, on March 10, 1959, President Eisenhower presided over a meeting of his National Security Council at which they discussed how to replace the government in Cuba. It was the beginning of a continuous policy of regime change that every administration since Eisenhower has continued.
As I read of the arrests of the 75 dissidents, 44 years to the month after the BRAC Deputy's execution, and saw the U.S. government's outrage over their trials and sentences, one phrase from Washington came to mind that united American reactions in 1959 with events in 2003: "Hey! Those are OUR GUYS the bastards are screwing!"
A year later I was in training at a secret CIA base in Virginia when, in March 1960, Eisenhower signed off on the project that would become the Bay of Pigs invasion. We were learning the tricks of the spy trade including telephone tapping, bugging, weapons handling, martial arts, explosives, and sabotage. That same month the CIA, in its efforts to deny arms to Cuba prior to the coming exile invasion, blew up a French freighter, Le Coubre, as it was unloading a shipment of weapons from Belgium at a Havana wharf. More than 100 died in the blast and in fighting the fire afterwards. I see the rudder and other scrap from Le Coubre, now a monument to those who died, every time I drive along the port avenue passing Havana's main railway station.
In April the following year, two days before the Bay of Pigs invasion started, a CIA sabotage operation burned down El Encanto, Havana's largest department store where I had shopped on my first visit here in 1957. It was never rebuilt. Now each time I drive up Galiano in Central Havana on my way for a meal in Chinatown, I pass Fe del Valle Park, the block where El Encanto stood, named for a woman killed in the blaze.
Some who signed statements condemning Cuba for the dissidents' trials and the executions of the hijackers know perfectly well the history of U.S. aggression against Cuba since 1959: the murder, terrorism, sabotage and destruction that has cost nearly 3,500 lives and left more than 2,000 disabled. Those who don't know can find it in Jane Franklin's classic historical chronology The Cuban Revolution and the United States.
One of the best sum-ups of the U.S. terrorist war against Cuba in the 1960's came from Richard Helms, the former CIA Director, when testifying in 1975 before the Senate Committee investigating the CIA's attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro. In admitting to "invasions of Cuba which we were constantly running under government aegis," he added: "We had task forces that that were striking at Cuba constantly. We were attempting to blow up power plants. We were attempting to ruin sugar mills. We were attempting to do all kinds of things in this period. This was a matter of American government policy."
During the same hearing Senator Christopher Dodd commented to Helms: "It is likely that at the very moment that President Kennedy was shot, a CIA officer was meeting with a Cuban agent in Paris and giving him an assassination device to use against Castro."
Helms responded: "I believe it was a hypodermic syringe they had given him. It was something called Blackleaf Number 40 and this was in response to AMLASH's request that he be provided with some sort of a device providing he could kill Castro. I'm sorry that he didn't give him a pistol. It would have made the whole thing a whole lot simpler and less exotic."
Review the history and you will find that no U.S. administration since Eisenhower has renounced the use of state terrorism against Cuba, and terrorism against Cuba has never stopped. True, Kennedy undertook to Khrushchev that the U.S. would not invade Cuba, which ended the 1962 missile crisis, and his commitment was ratified by succeeding administrations. But the Soviet Union disappeared in 1991 and the commitment with it.
Cuban exile terrorist groups, mostly based in Miami and owing their skills to the CIA, have continued attacks through the years. Whether or not they have been operating on their own or under CIA direction, U.S. authorities have tolerated them.
As recently as April 2003 the Sun-Sentinel of Ft. Lauderdale reported, with accompanying photographs, exile guerrilla training outside Miami by the F-4 Commandos, one of several terrorist groups currently based there, along with remarks by the FBI spokeswoman that Cuban exile activities in Miami are not an FBI priority. Abundant details on exile terrorist activities can be found with a web search including their connections with the paramilitary arm of the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF).
Back in the 1970s, when he was director of the CIA, Bush tried to get a criminal indictment against me for revelations I was making about CIA operations and personnel. But he couldn't get it, I discovered later in documents I received under the Freedom of Information Act. The reason was that in the early 1970s the CIA had committed crimes against me while I was in Europe writing my first book. If they indicted and persecuted me, I would learn the details of those crimes, whatever they were: conspiracy to assassination, kidnapping, a drug plant. So they couldn't indict because the CIA under Bush, and before him under William Colby, said the details had to stay secret. So what did Bush do? He prevailed on President Ford to send Henry Kissinger, then Secretary of State, to Britain where I was living, to get them to take action. A few weeks after Kissinger's secret trip a Cambridge policeman arrived at my door with a deportation notice. After living in Britain nearly five years, I had suddenly become a threat to security of the realm. During the next two years I was not only expelled from Britain, but also from France, Holland, West Germany, and Italy all under U.S. pressure. For two years I didn't know where I was living, and my two sons, then teenagers, attended four different schools in four different countries...
There have been several times when ClA autonomy was threatened. The Hoover Commission Task Force on Intelligence Activities headed by General Mark Clark recommended in 1955 that a Congressional Watchdog Committee be established to oversee the CIA much as the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy watches over the AEC. The Clark Committee, in fact, did not believe the sub-committees of the Armed Services and Appropriations Committees were able to exercise effectively the Congressional monitoring function. However, the problem was corrected, according to the Agency position, when President Eisenhower, early in 1956, established his own appointative committee to oversee the Agency. This is the President's Board of Consultants on Foreign Intelligence Activities, whose chairman is James R. Killian, President of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It can provide the kind of 'private citizen' monitoring of the Agency that Congress didn't want. Moreover ... the more Congress gets into the act the greater the danger of accidental revelation of secrets by indiscreet politicians. Established relationships with intelligence services of other countries, like Great Britain, might be complicated. The Congress was quite right at the beginning in giving up control - so much for them, their job is to appropriate the money.
At the close of World War II, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union began a major propaganda and agitation programme through the formation of the International Union of Students (IUS) and the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY), both of which brought together national affiliates within their respective fields in as many countries as possible. These organizations promoted CPSU objectives and policy under the guise of unified campaigns (anti-colonialism, anti-nuclear weapons, propeace groups, etc.), in which they enlisted the support of their local affiliates in capitalist countries as well as within the communist bloc. During the late 1940s the US government, using the Agency for its purpose, began to brand these fronts as stooges of the CPSU with the object of discouraging non-communist participation. In addition to this the Agency engaged in operations in many places designed to stop local groups affiliating with the international bodies. By recruiting leaders of the local groups and by infiltrating agents, the Agency tried to gain control of as many of them as possible, so that even if such a group had already affiliated itself to either the IUS or the WFDY, it could be persuaded or compelled to withdraw.
The Agency also began to form alternative youth and student organizations at local and international level. The two international bodies constructed to rival those sponsored by the Soviet Union were the Coordinating Secretariat of National Unions of Students (COSEC) with headquarters in Leyden, and the World Assembly of Youth (WAY) situated in Brussels. Headquarters' planning, guidance and operational functions in the CTA youth and student operations are centralized in the International Organizations Division of the DDP.
Both COSEC and WAY, like the TUS and WFDY, promote travel, cultural activities and welfare, but both also work as propaganda agencies for the CTA - particularly in underdeveloped countries. They also have consultative status as non-governmental institutions with United Nations agencies such as UNESCO and they participate in the UN special agencies' programmes.
One very important function of the CTA youth and student operations is the spotting, assessing and recruiting of student and youth leaders as long-term agents, both in the PI and PP fields. The organizations sponsored or affected by the Agency are obvious recruiting grounds for these and, indeed, for other CTA operations. It is particularly the case in the underdeveloped world that both COSEC and WAY programmes lead to the recruitment of young agents who can be relied on to continue CTA policies and remain under CTA control long after they have moved up their political or professional ladders.
I joined the Agency because I thought I would be protecting the security of my country by fighting against communism and Soviet expansion while at the same time helping other countries to preserve their freedom. Six years in Latin America have taught me that the injustices forced by small ruling minorities on the mass of the people cannot be eased sufficiently by reform movements such as the Alliance for Progress. The ruling class will never willingly give up its special privileges and comforts. This is class warfare and is the reason why communism appeals to the masses in the first place. We call this the 'free world'; but the only freedom under these circumstances is the rich people's freedom to exploit the poor.
Economic growth in Latin America might broaden the benefits in some countries but in most places the structural contradictions and population growth preclude meaningful increased income for most of the people. Worse still, the value of private investment and loans and everything else sent by the US into Latin America is far exceeded year after year by what is taken out - profits, interest, royalties, loan repayments - all sent back to the US. The income left over in Latin America is sucked up by the ruling minority who are determined to live by our standards of wealth.
Agency operations cannot be separated from these conditions. Our training and support for police and military forces, particularly the intelligence services, combined with other US support through military assistance missions and Public Safety programmes, give the ruling minorities ever stronger tools to keep themselves in power and to retain their disproportionate share of the national income. Our operations to penetrate and suppress the extreme left also serve to strengthen the ruling minorities by eliminating the main danger to their power.
American business and government are bound up with the ruling minorities in Latin America - with the rural and industrial property holders. Our interests and their interests - stability, return on investment - are the same. Meanwhile the masses of the people keep on suffering because they lack even minimal educational facilities, healthcare, housing, and diet. They could have these benefits of national income were not so unevenly distributed.
To me what is important is to see that what little there is to go around goes around fairly. A communist hospital can cure just like a capitalist hospital and of communism is the likely alternative to what I've seen in Latin America, then it's up to the Latin Americans to decide. Our only alternatives are to continue supporting injustice or to withdraw and let the cards fall by themselves.
And the Soviets? Does KGB terror come packaged of necessity with socialism and communism? Perhaps so, perhaps not, but for most of the people in Latin America the situation couldn't be much worse - they've got more pressing matters than the opportunity to read dissident writers. For them it's a question of day-by-day survival.
No, I can't answer the dilemma of Soviet expansion, their pledge to 'bury' us, and socialism in Latin America. Uruguay, however, is proof enough that conventional reform does not work, and to me it is clear that the only real solutions are those advocated by the communists and others of the extreme left. The trouble is that they're on the Soviet side, or the Chinese side or the Cuban side - all our enemies.
Assuming the US was not indifferent to an invasion, one has to ask whether Bush administration policy was in effect to encourage Hussein to create a world crisis. After all, Iraq had chemical weapons and had already used them against Iran and against Kurds inside Iraq. He was known to be within two to five years of possessing nuclear weapons. He had completely upset the power balance in the Middle East by creating an army one million strong. He aspired to leadership of the Arab world against Israel, and he threatened all the so-called moderate, i.e., feudal regimes, not just Kuwait. And with Kuwait's oil he would control 20% of the world's reserves, a concentration in radical nationalist hands that would be equal, perhaps to the Soviet Union, Iraq's main arms supplier. Saddam Hussein, then, was the perfect subject to allow enough rein to create a crisis, and he was even more perfect for post-invasion media demonization, a la Qaddafi, Ortega, and Noriega.
Why would Bush seek a world crisis? The first suggestion came, for me at least, when he uttered those words about "our way of life" being at stake. They brought to mind Harry Truman's speech in 1950 that broke Congressional resistance to Cold War militarism and began 40 years of Pentagon dominance of the US economy. It's worth recalling Truman's speech because Bush is trying to use the Gulf crisis, as Truman used the Korean War, to justify what some call military Keynesianism as a solution for US economic problems. This is, using enormous military expenditures to prevent or rectify economic slumps and depressions, while reducing as much as possible spending on civilian and social programs. Exactly what Reagan and Bush did, for example, in the early and mid-1980s.
In 1950 the Truman administration adopted a program to vastly expand the US and West European military services under a National Security Council document called NSC-68. This document was Top Secret for 25 years and, by error, it was released in 1975 and published. The purpose of military expansion under NSC-68 was to reverse the economic slide that began with the end of World War II wherein during five years the US GNP had declined 209S and unemployment had risen from 700,000 to 4.7 million. US exports, despite the subsidy program known as the Marshall Plan, were inadequate to sustain the economy, and remilitarization of Western Europe would allow transfer of dollars, under so-called defense support grants, that would in turn generate European imports from the US As NSC-68 put the situation in early 1950: "the United States and other free nations will within a period of a few years at most experience a decline in economic activity of serious proportions unless more positive governmental programs are developed ..."
The solution adopted was expansion of the military. But support in Congress and the public at large was lacking for a variety of reasons, not least the increased taxes the programs would require. So Truman's State Department, under Dean Acheson, set out to sell the so-called Communist Threat as justification, through a fear campaign in the media that would create a permanent war atmosphere. But a domestic media campaign was not enough. A real crisis was needed, and it came in Korea. Joyce and Gabriel Kolko, in their history of the 1945-55 period, The Limits of Power, show that the Truman administration manipulated this crisis to overcome resistance to military build-up and a review of those events shows striking parallels to the Persian Gulf crisis of 1990. Korea at the end of World War II had been divided north-south along the 38th parallel by the US and the Soviets. But years of on-again, off-again conflict continued: first between revolutionary forces in the south and US occupation forces, then between the respective states established first by the US in the south and then by the Soviets in the north. Both states threatened to reunify the country by force, and border incursions with heavy fighting by military forces were common. In June 1950, communist North Korean military forces moved across the border toward Seoul, the South Korean capital At the time, the North Korean move was called "naked aggression," but I.F. Stone made a convincing case, in his Hidden History of the Korean War, that the invasion was provoked by South Korea and Taiwan, another US client regime.
For a month South Korean forces retreated practically without fighting, in effect inviting the North Koreans to follow them south. Meanwhile Truman rushed in US military forces under a United Nations command, and he made a dramatic appeal to Congress for an additional $10 billion beyond requirements for Korea, for US and European military expansion. Congress refused. Truman then made a fateful decision. In September 1950, about three months after the conflict began, US, South Korean, and token forces from other countries, under the United Nations banner, began to push back the North Koreans. Within three weeks the North Koreans had been pushed north to the border, the 38th parallel, in defeat. That would have been the end of the matter, at least the military action, if the US had accepted a Soviet UN resolution for a cease-fire and UN-supervised country-wide elections.
Truman, however, needed to prolong the crisis in order to overcome congressional and public resistance to his plans for US and European rearmament. Although the UN resolution under which US forces were fighting called only for "repelling" aggression from the north, Truman had another plan. In early October US and South Korean forces crossed the 38th parallel heading north, and rapidly advanced toward the Yalu River, North Korea's border with China where only the year before the communists had defeated the U.S.-backed Kuomintang regime. The Chinese communist government threatened to intervene, but Truman had decided to overthrow the communist government in North Korea and unite the country under the anti-Communist South Korean dictatorship. As predicted, the Chinese entered the war in November and forced the US and its allies to retreat once again southward. The following month, with the media full of stories and pictures of American soldiers retreating through snow and ice before hordes of advancing Chinese troops, Truman went on national radio, declared a state of national emergency, and said what Bush's remarks about "our way of life" at state recalled. Truman mustered all the hype and emotion he could, and said: "Our homes, our nation, all the things that we believe in, are in great danger. This danger has been created by the rulers of the Soviet Union." He also called again for massive increases in military spending for US and European forces, apart from needs in Korea.
Of course, there was no threat of war with the Soviet Union at all. Truman attributed the Korean situation to the Russians in order to create emotional hysteria, a false threat, and to get the leverage over Congress needed for approval of the huge amounts of money that Congress had refused. As we know, Truman's deceit worked. Congress went along in its so-called bi-partisan spirit, like the sheep in the same offices today. The US military budget more than tripled from $13 billion in 1950 to $44 billion in 1952, while US military forces doubled to 3.6 million. The Korean War continued for three more years, after it could have ended, with the final casualty count in the millions, including 34,000 US dead and more than 100,000 wounded. But in the United States, Korea made the permanent war economy a reality, and we have lived with it for 40 years.
The CIA, as you probably know, was founded in the years following World War II - supposedly, to prevent another Pearl Harbor, the Japanese surprise attack which brought the United States into that war. In that sense, the events of September 11th represent a terrible failure on the part of the CIA and the rest of the US intelligence establishment.
There are at least twelve or thirteen different intelligence agencies in the United States, and they are spending on the order of thirty billion dollars per year - the CIA being simply the foremost among them. Of course, the CIA was not only established to collect information and to anticipate attacks.
From the beginning of the CIA's existence, it was also used to intervene secretly in the internal affairs of other countries. Virtually no country on earth was exempt.
This secret intervention - as opposed to the collection of information - was called covert action, and it was used in a variety of ways to influence the institutions of other countries. Interventions in elections were very frequent. Every CIA station, that is the undercover CIA office inside a US embassy, included agents who were involved in covert action. In addition to intervention to ensure the election of favoured candidates and the defeat of disfavoured candidates, the CIA also infiltrated the institutions of power in countries all over the world. I am sure that Sweden is no exception, and was not an exception during all the years of the Cold War.
There was electoral intervention, propaganda via the media, and also the penetration and manipulation of women's organizations, religious organizations, youth and student organizations, the trade-union movement-- very important-- but also the military and security services and, of course, political parties. All of these institutions were free game for penetration and manipulation by the CIA.
In short, the CIA influenced the civic life of countries all around the world. It did this due to a lack of faith in democracy in other countries.
There was a desire for control. The secret US policy was to not leave things to "chance", that is to the will of the people in whatever country it might be. They had to be tutored, they had to be "guided" in such a way that they would be safe for US control. Control was the key word. None of this was done for altruistic or idealistic reasons.
Sanjay S. Rajput: The CIA knew that you intended to expose their operations in South America when you left the agency. Is their a reason they didn't kill you prior to publishing your book?
Philip Agee: There is no black and white answer to that question. My belief is that they had a plan to lure me to Spain through 2 young Americans who befriended me in Paris in the early 1970's and who did in fact do everything they could to lure me to Spain. They offered financial inducements and other things. But I knew that the CIA was thick as thieves with the Franco fascist security services. This was still the Franco time in Spain. I have documentation, which I received under the Freedom of Information Act, these are not CIA documents they are criminal division documents from the Justice Department which show there was a criminal conspiracy. I currently have a $7 million lawsuit against the government under the federal court claims act for this conspiracy for damages and we will see whether the lawsuit prospers and whether I do get access to the documentation which we know exists. In fact this documentation was judged by the justice department to be described as illegal actions be taken against me in the 1970's. Because of these documents, which I would have had access to had the government prosecuted me at any particular point through criminal discovery procedure, the CIA could not prosecute me. They tried in 1975 when my first book came out and during the 1970's, from 1975 to 1980. All together they tried 5 times to get a criminal indictment against me and each time they had to back down because they could not let me have these documents which showed the criminal activity which they conspiring to carry out against me. They effectively, by their own actions, precluded prosecution. Not to atypical for them.
Sanjay S. Rajput: Looking back at all of the harassment you faced when you exposed the covert operations, do you think you would do it all over again?
Philip Agee: I wouldn't think twice about doing it over again. Of course I would. The most important thing is to be honest with yourself. I went into the CIA right out of college as a product of the 1950's. Which means the McCarthy period and the anti-communist hysteria of that time. It also meant that I had no political education. I simple accepted the traditional assumptions that the Soviet Union was out to conquer the world and I was going to play a patriotic role in stopping that. By age 25 I was down in South America doing the work. 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. I left the CIA to start a new life in 1969 I went back to the university. I enrolled in the National University of Mexico in Mexico City, where I remained living after resigning from the CIA. As I carried out the studies, doing the reading and the research and writing papers and such, I began to realize more and more that what I and my colleagues had been doing in the 60's and 50's was nothing more than a continuation of early 500 years of genocide of the worst imaginable political repression that anyone can come up with. The figures are mind blowing in terms of the numbers of Native Americans who were killed or put to work in South America in what is now Bolivia and Brazil. Where their life expectancy was measured in weeks and months once they went to work in these places. Or in North America as well. So I then began to think at that time about something that was unthinkable: a book about how it all worked. No one had ever written such a book and I had a pretty wide experience in CIA operations in Latin America and I knew many operations that existed around the world as well. So I decided to write a book about it.. I had to make a decision whether to continue these studies or to write this book and I couldn't find the research material for this book in Mexico City. I wanted to reconstruct events to show our hand in the events. So I had to choose between the 2 and I chose to write the book. Not knowing whether it would ever get written or where it would take me.
As to whether I would do it over again. I wouldn't change a thing. I might be a little more discreet and careful here and there. Not quite so flamboyant in some places. I would certainly not change anything. I would encourage people also to look at their own lives and determine what role they or going to play. Whether they are going to go with the flow. Whether they are going to adopt the proposition that you have to go along to get along. Or whether they want to stand back and take a look and join this long and honorable tradition of dissidence in the United States. This goes back to the early opposition to the Constitution, the abolitionist movement of the 1840's and 50's. Which goes back to the opposition of wars: the Spanish-American War in 1898, to world war 1 and 2, to the Vietnam war and the Korean war. There is a long and respectable tradition in the United States of seeking change and social justice. I can assure anyone that reads this interview that they will never be disappointed if they try to help in this respect. If they decide to, besides profession and family, that they will work politically for change. That they will have great self esteem and satisfaction from knowing that they are doing the right thing and that they are not selling out.
I was in training at a secret CIA base in Virginia when, in March 1960, Eisenhower signed off on the project that would become the Bay of Pigs invasion. We were learning the tricks of the spy trade including telephone tapping, bugging, weapons handling, martial arts, explosives, and sabotage. That same month the CIA, in its efforts to deny arms to Cuba prior to the coming exile invasion, blew up a French freighter, Le Coubre, as it was unloading a shipment of weapons from Belgium at a Havana wharf. More than 100 died in the blast and in fighting the fire afterwards. I see the rudder and other scrap from Le Coubre, now a monument to those who died, every time I drive along the port avenue passing Havana's main railway station
In April the following year, two days before the Bay of Pigs invasion started, a CIA sabotage operation burned down El Encanto, Havana's largest department store where I had shopped on my first here visit in 1957. It was never rebuilt. Now each time I drive up Galiano in Centro Habana on my way for a meal in Chinatown, I pass Fe del Valle Park, the block where El Encanto stood, named for a woman killed in the blaze.
Some who signed statements condemning Cuba for the dissidents' trials and the executions of the hijackers know perfectly well the history of US aggression against Cuba since 1959: the murder, terrorism, sabotage and destruction that has cost nearly 3500 lives and left more than 2000 disabled. Those who don't know can find it in Jane Franklin's classic historical chronology The Cuban Revolution and the United States.
One of the best sum-ups of the US terrorist war against Cuba in the 1960's came from Richard Helms, the former CIA Director, when testifying in 1975 before the Senate Committee investigating the CIA's attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro. In admitting to "invasions of Cuba which we were constantly running under government aegis," he added:
We had task forces that that were striking at Cuba constantly. We were attempting to blow up power plants. We were attempting to ruin sugar mills. We were attempting to do all kinds of things in this period. This was a matter of American government policy...
Most recently, in declaring an unending war against terrorism following the September 2001 attacks by Al Qaeda and prior to the war against Iraq, President Bush declared that no weapons in US possession are banned from use, presumably including terrorism. But rather than starting his anti-terrorist war in Miami, where his theft of the White House was assured and his election to a second term may depend, he started the series of preemptive wars we have watched on television, first Afghanistan and then Iraq, and now he threatens Syria, Iran and others on his list of nations that supposedly promote terrorism. Cuba, of course, is wrongfully on that list, but people here take this seriously as a preliminary pretext for US military action against this country.
Going back to the Reagan administration of the early 1980's, the decision was taken that more than terrorist operations was needed to impose regime change in Cuba. Terrorism hadn't worked, nor had the Bay of Pigs invasion, nor had Cuba's diplomatic isolation which gradually ended, nor had the economic embargo. Now Cuba would be included in a new world wide program to finance and develop non-governmental and voluntary organizations, what was to become known as civil society, within the context of U.S. global neo-liberal policies. The CIA and the Agency for International Development (AID) would have key roles in this program as well as a new organization christened in 1983 The National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
Actually the new program was not really new. Since its founding in 1947, the CIA had been deeply involved in secretly funding and manipulating foreign non-governmental voluntary organizations. These vast operations circled the globe and were targeted at political parties, trade unions and businessmen's associations, youth and student organizations, women's groups, civic organizations, religious communities, professional, intellectual and cultural societies, and the public information media. The network functioned at local, national, regional and global levels. Media operations, for example, were underway continuously in practically every country, wherein the CIA would pay journalists to publish its materials as if they were the journalists' own. In the Directorate of Operations at the CIA's headquarters, these operations were coordinated with the regional operations divisions by the International Organizations Division (IOD), since many of the operations were regional or continental in nature, encompassing many countries, with some even worldwide in scope.
Over the years the CIA exerted phenomenal influence behind the scenes in country after country, using these powerful elements of civil society to penetrate, divide, weaken and destroy corresponding enemy organizations on the left, and indeed to impose regime change by toppling unwanted governments. Such was the case, among many others, in Guyana where in 1964, culminating 10 years of efforts, the Cheddi Jagan government was overthrown through strikes, terrorism, violence and arson perpetrated by CIA international trade union agents. About the same time, while I was assigned in Ecuador, our agents in civil society, through mass demonstrations and civil unrest, provoked two military coups in three years against elected, civilian governments. And in Brazil in the early 1960's, the same CIA trade union operations were brought together with other operations in civil society in opposition to the government, and these mass actions over time provoked the 1964 military coup against President Joao Goulart, ushering in 20 years of unspeakably brutal political repression.
But on February 26th, 1967, the sky crashed on IOD and its global civil society networks. At the time I was on a visit to Headquarters in Langley, Virginia near Washington, between assignments in Ecuador and Uruguay. That day the Washington Post published an extensive report revealing a grand stable of foundations, some bogus, some real, that the CIA was using to fund its global non-governmental networks. These financial arrangements were known as "funding conduits." Along with the foundations scores of recipient organizations were identified, including well-known intellectual journals, trade unions, and political think tanks. Soon journalists around the world completed the picture with reports on the names and operations of organizations in their countries affiliated with the network. They were the CIA's darkest days since the Bay of Pigs fiasco.
President Johnson ordered an investigation and said such CIA operations would end, but in fact they never did. The proof is in the CIA's successful operations in Chile to provoke the 1973 Pinochet coup against the elected government of Salvador Allende. Here they combined the forces of opposition political parties, trade unions, businessmen's groups, civic organizations, housewife's associations and the information media to create chaos and disorder, knowing that sooner or later the Chilean military, faithful to traditional fascist military doctrine in Latin America, would use such unrest to justify usurping governmental power to restore order and to stamp out the left. The operations were almost a carbon copy of the Brazilian destabilization and coup program ten years earlier. We all remember the horror that followed for years afterwards in Chile.
Fast forward to now. Anyone who has watched the civil society opposition to the Hugo Chavez government in Venezuela develop can be certain that U.S. government agencies, the CIA included, along with the Agency for International Development (AID) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), are coordinating the destabilization and were behind the failed coup in April 2002 as well as the failed "civic strike" of last December-January. The International Republican Institute (IRI) of the Republican Party even opened an office in Caracas. See below for more on NED, AID and IRI in civil society operations.
(10) Duncan Campbell, The Guardian (10th January, 2007)
Looking back over the 30 years since he made his decision to step out into the cold, Agee says: "There was a price to pay. It disrupted the education of my children [Phil and Chris, teenagers then], 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 has been able to see the scope of the operation mounted against him by an unforgiving CIA. "They admitted to having 18,000 pages on me. I figured out there were 120 pages a day for seven or eight years. That can only be things like telephone transcripts and letter intercepts. Some person from the Pentagon was talking about me and saying they had two or three people working on me full time. I thought it was so foolish, such a waste of money, because I don't do anything that's not public. I don't pay much attention to them any more, but now and then something will come up."
What comes up most often is the name of Richard Welch, the CIA station chief in Athens who was assassinated in 1975. Although Welch was named not by Agee but in other publications, Agee has often been blamed for his death. "George Bush's father 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."
Agee may not be on the run any more - he has been back to the US many times without being arrested and was allowed back into Britain under the Major government - but life is lived at least at a trot. He has just arrived from Spain, where he has addressed a rally in support of the Miami Five, the Cubans jailed for up to 25 years on espionage charges for infiltrating anti-Castro groups in Florida. Soon he will return from Hamburg to his other home, Havana, and his travel business. Initially, his customers came from the US, but Americans are forbidden by law from visiting Cuba and can be fined heavily if caught, so his clients now come mainly from Europe.
Would it be possible for someone in the CIA today to do what Agee did? "I think it would be much harder," he says. "I can think of plenty of people in the CIA who would be horrified by what the CIA has been doing in terms of the torture of suspected terrorists, but a person who tried to do what I did would face kidnapping and possibly being put on ice in a secret prison for many years to come."
(11) Will Weissert, Ex-CIA Agent Philip Agee Dead in Cuba (10th January, 2008)
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.
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 a travel Web site.
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 actions in the 1970s inspired a law criminalizing the exposure of covert U.S. operatives.
But in 2003, he drew a distinction between what he did and the exposure of CIA officer Valerie Plame, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, a prominent critic of President Bush's Iraq policy.
"This is entirely different than what I was doing in the 1970s," Agee said. "This is purely dirty politics in my opinion."
Agee said that in his case, he disclosed the identities of his former CIA colleagues to "weaken the instrument for carrying out the policy of supporting military dictatorships" in Greece, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.
Those regimes "were supported by the CIA and the human cost was immense: torture, executions, death squads," he said.
(12) Duncan Campbell, The Guardian (10th January, 2008)
Agee had left the CIA in 1969 after 12 years working mainly in Latin America, where he gradually became disgusted by the agency's collusion with military dictators in the region and decided to blow the whistle on their activities. The Mexico City massacre of student protesters in 1968 also stiffened his resolve. His 1975 book Inside the Company: CIA Diary spilled the beans on his former employers and enraged the US government, not least because it named CIA operatives.
"It was a time in the 70s when the worst imaginable horrors were going on in Latin America," he told the Guardian in an interview published a year ago today. "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."
To carry out his work, Agee moved to London in the early 1970s with his then partner, Angela, a leftwing Brazilian who had been jailed and tortured in her own country, and his two young sons by his estranged American wife. He worked with the magazine Time Out and other publications to expose the CIA's work internationally. His activities had already alerted the then US secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, who urged the prime minister, James Callaghan, to deport him. After an arcane legal process, Agee was deported in 1977, along with a young American journalist, Mark Hosenball (now a senior investigative writer with Newsweek), who had worked at Time Out. The then home secretary, Merlyn Rees, who issued the deportation order, claimed - falsely and maliciously, according to Agee - that he was behind the deaths of two British agents. Their case became a liberal cause celebre.
Banished from Britain, Agee found the door closed to him in France and the Netherlands, and he faced prosecution and jail if he returned to the US, where his passport was revoked in 1979. His relationship with Angela ended under the pressure and he met and fell in love with a well-known ballet dancer, Giselle Roberge. At her suggestion, they married, which gave him the right to stay in Germany. Until the time of his death, he lived between their home in Hamburg and an apartment in Havana, Cuba. He continued his exposés of the CIA in the Covert Action Information Bulletin.