Philip Agee, 72, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operative, has died in Cuba. Agee exposed the crimes committed by the government unit in his classic diary published during the 1970s.
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Philip Agee, 72, Is Dead; Exposed Other C.I.A. Officers
By SCOTT SHANE
New York Times
Philip Agee, the former Central Intelligence Agency officer who turned against the agency and spent years exposing undercover American spies overseas, died Monday in Havana. He was 72.
The cause was peritonitis, said Louis Wolf, a friend.
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.
The exposés of Mr. Agee and others led Congress to pass the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, which made it a crime to intentionally reveal the identity of a covert intelligence officer. An investigation of the possible violation of that law in 2003 after Valerie Wilson was named as a C.I.A. officer led to the perjury conviction last year of I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff.
“Phil Agee was really the first person to do whistle-blowing on the C.I.A. on the grand scale,” said William H. Schaap, a New York lawyer and old friend who worked with him on anti-C.I.A. projects. “He blew the whistle on hundreds and hundreds of undercover operations.”
What Mr. Agee and his political allies saw as a moral imperative, his former colleagues at the intelligence agency saw as reckless and venal betrayal. He was accused of working with the Soviet K.G.B. and Cuban intelligence against the agency, though as a fellow traveler rather than as a formal agent.
“You can package it any way you want — the simple reality is he defected to the enemy during the cold war,” said Frank R. Anderson, 65, who worked as a clandestine officer for the C.I.A. abroad from 1968 to 1995. “He did everything he could to endanger his colleagues and fellow American citizens.”
Mr. Agee’s efforts and those of his associates, Mr. Anderson said, placed in danger not only Americans doing covert work but also all the foreign citizens who had associated with them, whether as spies or in daily life. Even when it did not result in physical threats, the exposure of spies disguised as diplomats or businesspeople forced the agency to withdraw them and caused costly disruptions of intelligence efforts, Mr. Anderson said.
At a ceremony in 1997 to mark the 50th anniversary of the C.I.A., George Bush, the former president and C.I.A. director, invoked Mr. Agee as a symbol of treachery.
“Remember Philip Agee, who I consider a traitor to our country?” Mr. Bush asked.
Mr. Agee was sometimes accused — wrongly, according to him and his friends — of bearing some responsibility for the death of Richard Welch, the agency’s Athens station chief, who was assassinated in 1975 by the Greek terrorist group November 17.
Barbara Bush, the former first lady, included such an accusation in her autobiography. Mr. Agee sued, and Mrs. Bush omitted the reference to him from later printings.
“He really, truly did not want to see anyone hurt,” said Mr. Wolf, the friend and co-author who carried on Mr. Agee’s work of exposing agents. “He wanted to neutralize what they were doing — the whole gamut, from fixing elections and hiring local journalists to plant stories all the way up to creating foreign intelligence services that became agencies of oppression.”
Philip Burnett Franklin Agee was born July 19, 1935, into a prosperous family in Tacoma Park, Fla., and had “a privileged upbringing in a big white house bordering an exclusive golf club,” as he later described in his 1987 memoir “On the Run.” An altar boy, he attended a Jesuit high school and graduated from Notre Dame in 1956, joining the C.I.A. the next year after briefly attending law school.
After three years of military training at the direction of the agency, Mr. Agee worked under cover for eight years in Ecuador, Uruguay and Mexico. His change of heart was influenced by Angela Camargo Seixas, a Brazilian leftist, who Mr. Agee wrote, had been arrested and tortured by Brazilian security forces; she later became Mr. Agee’s lover.
“When I joined the C.I.A. I believed in the need for its existence,” he wrote in “CIA Diary.” “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 C.I.A. and the institutions it supports.”
The book chronicles his growing disillusionment. An entry for Dec. 12, 1965, describes a meeting with top police officials in Montevideo, Uruguay, during which he heard moans from an adjacent room.
“The moaning grew in intensity, turning to screams,” Mr. Agee wrote. “By then I knew we were listening to someone being tortured.”
Because he feared that the torture victims were people whose names he had given to the Uruguayan authorities, Mr. Agee was racked with guilt. “I’m going to be hearing that voice for a long time,” he wrote.
Mr. Agee is survived by his wife, Giselle Roberge Agee, a former ballet dancer from Germany, and two sons from his first marriage, Philip and Christopher, both of New York. His first marriage, to Janet Agee, ended in divorce.
Despite its political viewpoint, “CIA Diary” is considered by some agency veterans to offer an accurate account of the work of a case officer. In a talk at Harvard last year, Michael Sulick, now head of the C.I.A.’s clandestine service, recommended Mr. Agee’s book as “an excellent reflection of the day-to-day life of an officer, until he starts going bad, and then of course it’s totally untrue.”
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.