CIA renegade Agee’s files surface at NYU
The private papers of Philip Agee, the disaffected CIA operative whose unauthorized publication of agency secrets 35 years ago was arguably far more damaging than anything WikiLeaks has produced, have been obtained by New York University, which plans to make them public next spring.
Agee, who worked undercover in Latin America from 1960 to 1968 and died in Cuba two years ago, once said he resigned because the values of his Catholic upbringing clashed with his CIA assignments to destroy movements to overthrow U.S.-backed military regimes. CIA defenders said he was on the verge of being fired.
Agee’s first book, "Inside the Company: CIA Diary," published in 1975, included a 22-page appendix with the real names of some 250 undercover agency operatives and accused a handful of Latin American heads of state of being CIA assets.
The CIA’s classified in-house journal, Studies in Intelligence, called it “a severe body blow" to the agency.
"As complete an account of spy work as is likely to be published anywhere," wrote Miles Copeland, a former CIA station chief, "an authentic account of how an ordinary American or British 'case officer' operates... All of it presented with deadly accuracy."
Two subsequent books by Agee and his co-author Louis Wolf revealed the names of about 2,000 more alleged CIA operatives in Western Europe and Africa.
Wolf, co-editor with Agee of Covert Action Information Bulletin, said he was principally responsible for digging up the names, not Agee.
"I did all the research for that book, from public sources," Wolf said in a brief telephone interview, "not from classified government information. I had no such access to that information."
President George H.W. Bush, a former CIA director, blamed Agee for contributing to the murder of a CIA station chief in Athens, Richard Welch, and Congress soon passed legislation making it a crime to publish intentionally the names of undercover CIA personnel. But when Bush’s wife Barbara repeated his claim about Agee in a 1994 memoir, his libel suit forced her to delete the accusation from the paperback version of the book.
In contrast to Agee, WikiLeaks withheld the names of hundreds of informants from the nearly 400,000 Iraq war documents it released over the weekend, according to news reports. And its previous surfacing of Afghan war documents, which an Army specialist is suspected of leaking, did not reveal “any sensitive intelligence sources and methods,” according to a letter from Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.
Agee may have started out as an independent whistleblower, but according to retired KGB Maj. Gen. Oleg Kalugin, the ex-operative offered CIA documents to the Soviet embassy in Mexico City in 1973. Suspecting a ruse, the KGB turned him down, Kalugin said. Agee denied he ever worked for the Russians, but he openly enlisted Cuba's help in his campaign to neutralize CIA operations against leftists and trade unions in Latin America.
NYU’s Tamiment Library, which acquired Agee’s papers from his widow, makes no mention of the renegade agent’s KGB and Cuban intelligence connections in its Monday press release.
But it did maintain that “[f]or the rest of his life Agee was a target of CIA assassination threats.”
In response to a query, Michael Nash, the library’s associate curator, said, “this information came from the Agee book, ‘On the Run,’ and it is supported by some CIA documents that Agee received as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request.”
Nash added, “I would not say we have a smoking gun, you rarely get that, but there are reports that came from the FOIA requests and some Agee correspondence that led me to this conclusion.”
A CIA spokesperson, speaking on condition of anonymity, dismissed the allegation as "not only wrong, but ludicrous.”
NYU said the Agee collection, which "spans some 20 linear feet, and is currently being catalogued," will be celebrated in a Nov. 9 reception, but not available until April.
The papers include “legal records, correspondence with left-wing activists, mainly in Latin America, and others opposed to CIA practices and covert operations; papers relating to his life as an exile living and working in Cuba, Western and Eastern Europe; lecture notes, photographs, and posters,” the library said.
“Mrs. Agee donated the collection to Tamiment because we have an international reputation as a repository documenting the history of left politics and the movement for progressive social change,” the library said.
| October 25, 2010; 5:30 PM ET
Categories: Intelligence, Lawandcourts, Media
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