CIA

Phillip Agee Dead

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CIA whistleblower and communist agent Philip Agee has died at his residence in Cuba. The New York Times fills in some of the details of his life:

Mr. Agee, whose disillusionment with his work at the agency led him to embrace leftist views, had spent nearly four decades as an avowed enemy of American foreign policy and particularly of the covert intelligence work that supported it. Deprived of his American passport and expelled from several countries at the request of the United States, he had lived for the most part in Germany and Cuba, where he operated a travel Web site, cubalinda.com.

His 1975 book, "Inside the Company: CIA Diary," infuriated American officials by identifying about 250 officers, front companies and foreign agents working for the United States. His example inspired several more books and magazines, including Covert Action Information Bulletin, written by close associates and sometimes with Mr. Agee's help, which published the names and often the addresses of hundreds more agency officers working under cover around the world.

As documented by former KGB archivist Vasily Mitrokhin, Covert Action Information Bulletin also published forgeries and misinformation provided to the magazine by Soviet intelligence (Mitrokhin makes clear that Agee did so deliberately). As the Times acknowledges, Agee's "troubled conscience," which he detailed in his autobiography On the Run, worked in only one direction. Having been initially rebuffed by the Soviets, who presumed he was a double agent, Agee, who later carried Grenadian (issued by Maurice Bishop), Cuban and Nicaraguan passports, went on to work for sundry totalitarian regimes:

Oleg D. Kalugin, a former K.G.B. general who now lives outside Washington, said Mr. Agee approached Soviet intelligence in Mexico in the early 1970s but was rejected by an officer who thought he was a plant. He then approached Cuban intelligence, supplying details of C.I.A. operations in Latin America that were passed on to the K.G.B.

"He was a valuable source," Mr. Kalugin said.

According to this 2000 account in the New York Times, Agee began doing spadework for Cuban intelligence way back in 1973:

Mr. Riera said he had worked with Mr. Agee for years. He said the work began in 1973, when he was a liaison between Mr. Agee and the Cuban Politburo, when Mr. Agee was writing a book exposing C.I.A. secrets. Mr. Riera said that he conveyed suggestions from the government about what information Mr. Agee should disclose in his book. He said telephone numbers for C.I.A. officials in the United States Embassy in Mexico City provided by Mr.Agee proved useful to Cuba years later, when Mr. Riera was posted here, helping him identify which embassy personnel were C.I.A. officers.

Check out Jesse Walker's terrific recapitulation of the Agee story and the absurdity of the law he inspired, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, here.

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  1. Phillip Agee Dead

    I think I’ll pour the good whisky for that.

  2. I question this guy’s patriotism.

  3. Epi –

    cactus to the taint. ’twasn’t pretty.

  4. Isn’t he the guy who precipitated the laws that made the Plame debacle an issue?

  5. This is the first notice of his death I’ve seen outside Far Right World that didn’t call him a brave foreign policy dissenter.

    How uncosmopolitan.

  6. oooh!

    *prints picture out and heads to Stevo’s bunk*

  7. Wow, so this guy’s “troubled conscience” led him to expose and help kill his fellow countrymen.
    See you in hell, Agee.
    Why so glowing about this dick, Moynihan? I thought one of the libertarian principles is that “small” wars can be fought with the CIA and like agencies.

  8. Hoop Dreams?

  9. Call me shrill, but I don’t think very man CIA agents are “defending our freedom” or anything remotely close to that. I mean, Reason readers are aware of the CIA’s role in backing death squads throughout Latin America, right?

  10. charlie,
    Reason readers are also aware of the actions of the Cuban gov’t. What’s your point?

  11. And, oh yeah, yer shrill!

  12. I’m all for the CIA if it takes out thugs and terrorists. But as it exists now, one of its functions is to prop up and support our disastrous foreign policy. That I don’t support.
    However, that doesn’t mean I have to applaud a fucking traitor like Agee. It’d be like showering praise on an Army defector who gives away troop positions in Iraq, even though you disagree with the Iraq war.
    Like I said, fuck you Agee, and I’ll see you in hell.

  13. Since when is someone who betrays his fellow agents to foreign intelligence a “whistleblower”?

    Is there a body count for this guy? Has anybody tracked the fates of the people he ratted out?

  14. BTW, It was this stuff, over ice, and delicious..

  15. I can dislike the CIA’s involvement in the various “dirty wars” in Latin America and elsewhere without becoming a tool of the KGB or Cuban Intelligence.

    If he wanted to be a whistleblower, there were plenty of outlets in the US and Western Europe that would happily have published whatever he fed them.

    I hope his medical treatment in Cuba was what the average Cuban got, not what the party elites got.

  16. oh mah gawd. charlie. yooo’re like soooo schrilllll, there, man.

    J sub D: ooh. good stuff. (how’d you get my med pics, Brandy?)

    jah jah.

    *fights off urge to hump the ottoman*

  17. What baffles me about guys like Agee is that he bailed on the Company because of the horrible things it did. But then he goes and works with the Soviets and the Cubans, who by any objective accounting have done even more horrible and loathsome things. That makes it seem a lot less like principle and a lot more like pique.

  18. BTW, It was this stuff, over ice, and delicious..

    When you open the bottle does it say, “M A R S… Mars, bitches?”

  19. Jamie Kelly | January 10, 2008, 5:42pm | #

    Wow, so this guy’s “troubled conscience” led him to expose and help kill his fellow countrymen.
    See you in hell, Agee.Why so glowing about this dick, Moynihan? I thought one of the libertarian principles is that “small” wars can be fought with the CIA and like agencies.

    I didn’t really find Moynihan’s account ‘glowing;’ if anything, it was merely brief, except for this, which agrees with you: “As the Times acknowledges, Agee’s “troubled conscience,” which he detailed in his autobiography On the Run, worked in only one direction.”

    In any case, I’m sure most of us agree with you; Agee was a traitor and deserved to be shot. After a trial and guilty verdict, of course.

  20. Spy business is pretty nasty stuff. I applaud the guy for reminding us of that fact that the cloak and dagger business has to be some of the most vile and often amoral work on the planet, and filled with characters perfectly suited to the task.

  21. Is there a body count for this guy? Has anybody tracked the fates of the people he ratted out?

    That’s what I’d like to know. I thought that there wasn’t any evidence that his actions led to the deaths of any agents, otherwise he would have been charged with something. He always said the reason he quit, the reason he exposed agents was because at the time those agents were helping governments round up and/or murder dissidents and labor organizers.

    I think people forget that, during the Cold War, the CIA regularly supported terrorism and mass-murdering dictatorships, making it, in my book, a perfectly fine group of people to “betray.”

    That said, I think he was pathetically misguided (there’s never a good reason to join Team Fidel) and went well overboard in his worthless efforts to sabotage U.S. foreign policy (which, arguably, deserved to be sabotaged).

  22. What baffles me about guys like Agee is that he bailed on the Company because of the horrible things it did. But then he goes and works with the Soviets and the Cubans, who by any objective accounting have done even more horrible and loathsome things. That makes it seem a lot less like principle and a lot more like pique.

    I agree with this, and that the Soviets killed more people, but I don’t think the Cubans ever had enough resources to murder as many people as the U.S. did during the Cold War. Though I think they would have if they could have.

  23. which published the names and often the addresses of hundreds more agency officers working under cover around the world.

    Never piss off the person who serves your food, never alienate the person who holds all of your secrets.

  24. This just in:

    Edmund Hillary dies, senselessly, at the age of 88.

  25. and don’t spit into the wind…

    yah yah. 🙂

    Ryan Reynolds expresses it best!

  26. If our CIA was worth a shit Agee wouldn’t have lived so long or died in his bed.

  27. I think people forget that, during the Cold War, the CIA regularly supported terrorism and mass-murdering dictatorships, making it, in my book, a perfectly fine group of people to “betray.”

    During the cold war? They’ve stopped since then?

  28. Jamie Kelly | January 10, 2008, 5:42pm | #
    Why so glowing about this dick, Moynihan? I thought one of the libertarian principles is that “small” wars can be fought with the CIA and like agencies.

    Uhh, Jamie Kelly learn to read this blog before you make more of an ass of yourself.

    See that grey line on the left hand side of the text? Yeah, that indicates that it’s a “block quote”. In Moynihan’s case it’s a quote from the fucking New York Times. In other words, he wasn’t “glowing” or “showering praise”, he was excerpting from an article printed elsewhere.

  29. Suck my dick, Kwix.

  30. *hands Kwix the magnifying glass*

    that oughta do it. But I need it back later – for batin, you know.

  31. (for a self-described or a self sympathizing christian, that’s not very charitable of you – or is that just another of your obvious Larry Craig fronts?)

  32. …it’s a quote from the fucking New York Times.

    Suck my dick, Kwix.

    I can see that my forswearing obscenies this year will not constitute a significant statistical reduction at H&R. 😉

  33. j sub d: just be happy you’re not in St Chuck, MO.

    Is JK’s theme song “knock three times”, too?

  34. Is the f*****g New York Times one of those special editions?

  35. Yes – it’s what happens at the end of “A very Special Blossom”.

  36. Edmund Hillary dies, senselessly, at the age of 88.

    KingHarvest –

    He died of too many years of old age, Dingle said today.

    I don’t get the “senselessly”.

  37. I think people forget that, during the Cold War, the CIA regularly supported terrorism and mass-murdering dictatorships, making it, in my book, a perfectly fine group of people to “betray.”

    What baffles me about guys like Agee is that he bailed on the Company because of the horrible things it did. But then he goes and works with the Soviets and the Cubans, who by any objective accounting have done even more horrible and loathsome things.

    Ah, the self-answering thread.

    It’s strange that we often hear how awfully the U.S. behaved during the Cold War, yet the decision to support Stalin during WW II (without which support Russia might have never have expanded into Eastern Europe and started the Cold War in the first place) is rarely questioned.

  38. What baffles me about guys like Agee is that he bailed on the Company because of the horrible things it did. But then he goes and works with the Soviets and the Cubans, who by any objective accounting have done even more horrible and loathsome things. That makes it seem a lot less like principle and a lot more like pique

    Some people can’t see past the end of their nose. Agee starts out as an idealistic patriot who wanted to serve his country and the CIA people he met during the “rush” process seemed like terrific heroes. Then he’s shocked – shocked! – to discover that, ZOMG, the CIA does terrible things.

    So then he’s an idealistic dissenter who wanted to rid the world of CIA evil, and his handlers show him lots of inspiring bullshit about happy red peasants and whatnot, and they seem like really terrific fellas. So he works with them, and they keep feeding him stories, some true some not, about CIA atrocities.

    I can see how someone who never really makes an effort to see the big picture could end up this way.

  39. Jamie Kelly | January 10, 2008, 7:05pm | #
    Suck my dick, Kwix.

    Even if I could find it, I sure as hell ain’t driving to Montana to do it.

    You get a might bit testy when someone calls you out on your bullshit don’t you?

    Look man, there are plenty of things in the world to complain about. You don’t have to try to “read between the lines” in Moynihan’s articles to fabricate them.

  40. What Shecky and TallDave and Joe said.

    This situation where everyone selectively locates their patriotism while conveniently forgetting the thuggish role the CIA have played in South America is pretty disappointing. Unless you slept through 1965-85, you knew how much of a purely corrosive force the CIA was. But then maybe I’m just a bit too hung up on the notion that people should be allowed to elect their own governments without fear of some cloak and dagger prick lurking in the shadows.

  41. J sub D | January 10, 2008, 7:15pm | #
    I can see that my forswearing obscenies this year will not constitute a significant statistical reduction at H&R. 😉

    Did you make that New Year’s resolution? ‘Cause I know I didn’t. 😀

    And yes, the “Fucking New York Times” cums out every weekend baby!!

  42. pinko,

    I agree with you, and yet, I wouldn’t have pissed on Phillip Agee if he was on fire.

  43. Did you make that New Year’s resolution? ‘Cause I know I didn’t. 😀

    Yep, only 355 days to go. I expect I’ll blow it commenting on a Radley Balko post, but so far I’m OK.

  44. It’s strange that we often hear how awfully the U.S. behaved during the Cold War, yet the decision to support Stalin during WW II (without which support Russia might have never have expanded into Eastern Europe and started the Cold War in the first place) is rarely questioned.

    I think the difference is we didn’t help the Soviets jail, torture, and murder dissidents. We didn’t provide weapons to them knowing they’d use them on unarmed men, women, and children. And I believe we stopped giving them military aid once the war was over.

  45. I read in the paper this morning that he died of a related infection after having surgery for uclers in Cuba. I would be more than a good bit of karmic justice if the filth in a state run hospital in a communist system he loved so dearly was in fact what killed him. I am sure he is getting a nice education on the evils of communism in hell right now. Hopefully his cell is next to Che’s.

  46. J Sub D: Bah… I’ll pour my good stuff, and toast with you…

    I still need to get a bottle of this… To put with the rest…

    Oh… and allow me to say… Jury duty is hell… Where I live it’s like being stuck in corporate meetings all day…

    Nephilium

  47. It’s strange that we often hear how awfully the U.S. behaved during the Cold War, yet the decision to support Stalin during WW II (without which support Russia might have never have expanded into Eastern Europe and started the Cold War in the first place) is rarely questioned.

    Well, there was that German guy, you know. Making a mess of things, creating strange bedfellows, cats and dogs living together, the whole mass hysteria thing. Its sort of like what Churchill said about Hitler invading Hell. Something along the lines of “I’d put in a good word or two about Lucifer in the Commons.”

  48. I not not one single instance of “RIP” or “R.I.P.” on this page. Good.

  49. Goddammit, I note not one single instance. The hubris of the non-previewer…

  50. Jammer | January 10, 2008, 10:25pm

    Keep in mind that the western allies who were so upset about Hitler’s invasion of the western half of Poland in September of ’39 completely forgot to declare war on his ally (remember that old Ribentrop-Molotov treaty thingy) who invaded the eastern half only a few days later.

    Oh, and which country was it that was the only one that gained territory as a result of WWII again?

  51. Les, if U.S. supplies weren’t used directly in things like moving the entire Chechen and Ingushs peoples into camps in 1944, it’s still true that out Lend-Lease trucks helped relieve logistics problems elsewhere to make it easier. The Soviet Army regularly engaged in atrocities against unarmed men, women, and children. And I’m pretty sure we stopped giving Latin American dictatorships aid once the Cold War was over, too.

  52. *hands Kwix the magnifying glass*

    So, you gonna pass me the paper towels so as to clean off the wine I shot outta my nose all over the monitor?

  53. A brave man is dead. Down with American imperialism.

  54. A brave man is dead.

    You’re talking about Sir Edmund, right?

  55. “It’d be like showering praise on an army defector who gives away Army positions in Iraq…”

    This would certainly be politically incorrect, as giving away Army positions would be treasonous. However, given that the U.S. military is brutally occupying a country which it invaded on no provocation….is giving away Army positions actually unethical?

    And if the CIA was doing all the horrible things which of course it was doing, then what is so evil about betraying it?

    This is not to say that Agee is worthy of admiration. His active support of totalitarian regimes is reprehensible. Still, the things which some posters think he ought to be shot for, such as naming names of operatives and exposing CIA operations, seem to me to be quite creditable.

  56. Tensing Norgay was the hero. Hillary was a tourist.

  57. Hillary He died of too many years of old age, Dingle said today.

    Yet another assasination by nature.

  58. I think the difference is we didn’t help the Soviets jail, torture, and murder dissidents. We didn’t provide weapons to them knowing they’d use them on unarmed men, women, and children. And I believe we stopped giving them military aid once the war was over.

    Les, I have bad news for you.

    Remember those box cars used to ship Jews to death camps? Well, American and British soldiers, after the war, loaded tens of thousands of Cossacks into them and sent they carried the COssacks to death camps in the Soviet Union.

    It was called Operation Keelhaul.

  59. tarran,

    Thanks for the fascinating (and depressing) link. I’m sorry if I implied that the U.S. didn’t do horrible things during WW2 with the Russians. But it seems to me that an atrocity like Operation Keelhaul was a small part of the plan to join with the Soviets to defeat the Axis, whereas the material and strategic support of terrorism and mass murder/torture in order to prevent foreign populations from electing leftist governments was a crucial and ongoing strategic element of U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War.

    That doesn’t mean, of course, that what we did in Operation Keelhaul was less terrible in any way. I just think the fact that we happened to help the Soviets commit atrocities during WW2 is irrelevant to the fact that it was standard U.S. foreign policy to help a variety of dictatorships and terrorist organizations commit atrocities for forty five years after that.

  60. I know the reason people bring up our support of the Soviets is because they’re trying to say something like, “Just like we needed to do terrible things to win WW2, we needed to do terrible things to win the Cold War.”

    Well, obviously, terrible things have to be done in any war, but we certainly didn’t need to help out with Operation Keelhaul in order to win WW2 any more than we needed to support terrorism and mass murder/torture in order to win the Cold War.

    I think it’s hard for people to accept that the U.S. acted like the bad guys for so long, so they have to try to construct a rationalization for it.

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