•  HOME 
  •  BOOKS 
  •  WWP 
  •  DONATE 
  • Loading

Follow workers.org on
Twitter Facebook iGoogle

Philip Agee: He made a clean break

Published Jan 24, 2008 10:53 PM

The struggle of the masses of people for social justice can win over even individuals highly trained, flattered and paid well to think and act in the interests of the super-rich ruling class. It happens rarely, but Philip Agee was proof that it can happen.

Agee, who died in Havana on Jan. 7 at the age of 72, took the conscious decision in 1969 to not only leave his job as a CIA officer but to do everything he could to expose the crimes of that agency, especially in relation to Latin America.

The Cold War was in full force. Latin America was seething after decades of Yankee invasions, dictatorships and exploitation.

The Cuban Revolution was 10 years old but had already survived a bloody campaign of sabotage and an economic blockade. It had routed an invasion by thousands of mercenaries at the Bay of Pigs. These efforts to bring down its popular revolution were all planned and coordinated by the CIA and other U.S. agencies.

In Asia, the CIA had facilitated the 1963 murder of the Diem brothers in South Vietnam; they were hated dictators, but the intent was to replace them with another U.S. puppet who Washington hoped would more effectively carry out the war against the Vietnamese revolutionary patriots. The CIA had also been behind the military coup in Indonesia in 1965 that led to the horrendous massacre of up to 1 million communists and nationalists.

Perhaps some in the agency flippantly looked at all this as a giant chess game. But Agee, aided by deep friendships with Latin Americans, overcame this egotistical view so inculcated by imperialist culture and came to recognize that his work was responsible for terrible suffering and injustice.

In his best-known book, “Inside the Company: CIA Diary,” published in 1975, Agee recalled how his belief in what he was doing plunged like a stone. In 1965, during a meeting with top police officials in Uruguay, he had heard the moans and screams of someone being tortured. He realized that his work for the CIA—which involved sending agents into labor unions, student groups and other mass organizations and compiling lists of suspected leftists—had provided the police with the names of who to arrest, torture and perhaps even kill.

Agee formally left the agency in 1969 after 12 years as an officer. He took with him information that would eventually lead to his “naming of names” of CIA agents all over the world. It was because of Agee that Congress in 1982 passed an act making it a crime to intentionally reveal the identity of a covert intelligence officer.

This writer, together with Key Martin, chair of Youth Against War and Fascism, first had a meeting with Agee in Canada in the mid 1970s. He was prevented from coming to the United States, but was speaking to large audiences in its northern neighbor.

We found him to be a warm individual, very focused, precise and creative. While not coming from any kind of left background—he was from a well-to-do Florida family and had gone to a Jesuit high school and then Notre Dame before being recruited by the CIA—he realized that the system of capitalism was responsible for the immense suffering of what was called the Third World, and had told Newsweek magazine that he wanted to join a revolutionary socialist party.

In “CIA Diary,” he very meticulously documented how the much-touted Alliance for Progress, devised by the Kennedy administration to counter the effect of the Cuban Revolution on Latin America, had funneled $5 billion in investment to Latin America. The money went mainly to the rich there and also made it possible for U.S. corporations to take out some $20 billion in profits over the next 10 years.

After Agee went public with his attack on the CIA, other agency employees also defected. However, Agee went further than any of them in not only damaging the murderous workings of the agency but also in explaining what class it served.

In one diary entry, written before he resigned, he wrote: “I wonder what the reaction would be if I wrote out a resignation telling them what I really think,” and proceeded to outline a whimsical letter to CIA Director Richard Helms, in which he would say, “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.”

Agee made a clean break with the forces of imperialist oppression and sided with the revolutionary movements in Grenada, Cuba, Nicaragua and elsewhere. He was loved by the people and hated by the bosses for what he had done.

Does the CIA today fear that its horrible crimes against the peoples of the world, especially in countries now occupied by U.S. troops, will jolt others in its employ to understand the true face of imperialism, find their humanity and become new Philip Agees?

E-mail: [email protected]