CounterSpy: Rogue CIA Officer Philip Agee Dies

The AP reports that former CIA offcer turned rogue agent Philip Agee has died in Cuba. He was 72. From the AP obit:

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.

I encountered the Agee story up close when I was working last year on a biographical afterword about outted former CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson. Plame had served her first foreign tour in Greece, several years after the killing of the Athens CIA station chief Richad Welch by a Greek terrorist group, N17. While it turned out that contrary to initial belief, it was not Agee’s writings but local Greek press revelations of Welch’s identity and address that exposed him to his assassins, Welch’s murder and Agee’s acts prompted Congress to pass the law, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, that was mulled again after the outting of Plame, as my colleague David Corn first reported.

But Agee argued that the outting of Plame by her government was nothing like what he had done.

According to the AP obituary,

Agee’s actions in the 1970s inspired a law criminalizing the exposure of covert U.S. operatives. But in 2003, [Agee] 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. …

[Indeed, Agee actually sued President Bush’s mother Barbara Bush for alleging in her memoir that his actions had led to Welch’s death– so lawyers for the publisher (which had published Agee’s book, Bush’s book, and now Plame’s book) took great pains to get the language just right.]

Former intelligence sources have mentioned that back in the 1990s, an official now prominent in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence once – recklessly, in their view – improperly confronted Agee in a Mexico City hotel room, after Agee, in disguise, had tried to lure and harass an inexperienced CIA officer in the station. The now senior ODNI officer supposedly confronted Agee in the hotel, instead of reporting it up the chain of command, and Agee fled before he could be captured.

The Mexico City episode is more fully recounted by James Risen in his 1997 Los Angeles Times report, “Once Again, Ex-Agent Philip Agee Eludes CIA’s Grasp,” if you scroll down here.

(Above photo from this site).

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