- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 9, 2008

HAVANA (AP) — Renegade former CIA agent Philip Agee, whose naming of agency operatives helped prompt a U.S. law against exposing government spies, has died in Cuba, his wife said Wednesday. He was 72.

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 misdeeds against leftists in the region and included a 22-page list of purported agency operatives.

The list created an uproar around the world and helped prompt Congress to pass a law against naming clandestine U.S. agents abroad. It also led the State Department to strip Agee of his U.S. passport.

Vince Cannistraro, a former CIA counterterrorism chief, said Agee’s book “was considered a very serious blow to CIA’s clandestine operations.”

“It had a major impact, some people had to be pulled out,” he said.

Former CIA colleagues and some U.S. officials called Agee a traitor and alleged he was linked to Cuban and Soviet intelligence agencies. Agee denied the allegations and said he thought of himself as part of the American tradition of dissent and as “a critic of hypocrisy, a critic of crime in high places.”

His wife, Giselle Roberge Agee, said Agee was hospitalized in Havana on Dec. 16 and underwent surgery for perforated ulcers. He died Monday because of a related infection and his remains were cremated. He is survived by her and two grown sons from a previous marriage.

Agee said she and her husband lived in Hamburg, Germany, but kept an apartment in Havana’s Vedado district and frequently traveled to Cuba as part of Agee’s business, a Web site specializing in bringing Americans to the island despite Washington’s decades-old embargo.

“He was a friend of the Cuban revolution,” she said.

Granma, Cuba’s Communist Party newspaper, published a small story Wednesday, describing Agee as “a loyal friend of Cuba and fervent defender of the peoples’ fight for a better world.”

Brian Latell, a former top Cuba analyst at the CIA, said he never met Agee, but “of course I know him by his reputation, by his betrayal of his former colleagues and of the CIA and of his country.”

Soviet and Cuban defectors alleged Agee had received money or aid from communist intelligence services, and critics noted he spent several months in Cuba after retiring from the CIA.

In denying Agee a new passport in 1987, Secretary of State George Shultz cited CIA reports that said he was a paid adviser to Cuban intelligence, had trained Nicaraguan security officials and had instructed security officials in Grenada before a U.S. invasion toppled a communist government there.

Agee attorney Melvin Wulf called those charges “a tissue of lies.”

Agee was never prosecuted in the United States. Cannistraro said that was because officials feared a trial would expose Soviet defectors living in America under new identities.

In 1989, Vice President George H.W. Bush — a former CIA director — said he had “nothing but disdain” for Agee: “Those who go around publicizing the names of CIA people abroad are despicable.”

Agee sued Bush’s wife, Barbara, over an allegation in her autobiography that Agee had exposed the CIA’s Greece station chief, Richard S. Welch, who was later killed by leftist terrorists.

She settled the issue by dropping the reference to Agee, who had not mentioned Welch in his book. Instead, she blamed a magazine Agee worked for that also named alleged CIA agents. Agee’s defenders said that Welch’s identity was already known.

While Agee’s actions inspired the law against exposing covert U.S. operatives, he drew a distinction between what he did and the naming of CIA officer Valerie Plame, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, who had raised questions about the basis of President Bush’s Iraq policy.

“This is entirely different than what I was doing in the 1970s,” Agee said at the time. “This is purely dirty politics in my opinion.”

Agee said that he disclosed the identities of his former 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.

After years of living in Spain and Germany — occasionally underground, fearing CIA retribution — Agee began spending more time in Havana, where he opened the travel site with European and Cuban government investors in 2000. It offers package tours and other help getting to an island that is largely off-limits to Americans because of the embargo.

One of Agee’s last essays was published in Granma International newspaper in 2003 shortly after the Cuban government arrested 75 leading dissidents and political activists.

“To think that the dissidents were creating an independent, free civil society is absurd,” he wrote, “for they were funded and controlled by a hostile foreign power and to that degree, which was total, they were not free or independent in the least.”

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