Philip Agee: US spy turned good

Issue 

Philip Agee passed away in Cuba on January 7 at the age of 72. He was a former agent for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) who broke ranks in 1968 to expose its role in intervening into foreign countries on behalf of US corporate profits. For this act of bravery, his passport was revoked and US pressure saw him expelled from a number of European countries. Marcel Hatch, education coordinator for Cuba Education Tours in Vancouver () pays tribute.

Born in 1935, Agee joined the CIA as a youth to help "save" the US from global "bad guys". Over time he came to the conclusion that the real bad guys were the CIA, Washington, and the NY Stock Exchange.

In fact, he decided they were the forces behind most of the real bad guys in Latin America and thus shamelessly outed CIA criminal activities. Having made this discovery as a CIA agent, Agee went on to become the most prominent anti-imperialist whistleblower of the last quarter of the 20th century.

His bravery and audacity set the stage for many debunkers and critics to come.

In the mid-1970s, my bevy of progressive aunts and uncles became enamored with Agee's exposes, especially Inside the Company: CIA Diary. They introduced me to this courageous man's writings.

At that point in my life, I didn't understand the vast scope of US financing and military backing for Latin American henchmen, dictators and killers put in power for the greater glory and profits of US corporations. But Agee and my aunts launched me on a lifelong search for answers. Thirty years later, Agee's books are still in my library.

Agee dedicated Inside the Company to "Angela Camargo Seixas and her comrades in Latin America struggling for social justice, national dignity and peace".

Angela was a feminist and a political leader who spoke out against the 1960s military dictatorship installed in Brazil by the US to ensure Washington's economic and political hegemony over her nation's great people, their labour and natural resources. She was ultimately imprisoned and killed by the dictatorship for daring to challenge the US-backed generals' right to rule.

Inside the Company remains essential background material for North American anti-imperialist activists. Don't expect to find a reprint any time soon given the US ruling class' penchant for hating those who cross the line to join the oppressed.

I don't know if Philip ultimately became convinced of the need for worldwide socialist revolution. I do know that he loved, admired and defended his adopted Cuban homeland unconditionally.

I know he supported himself while in Cuba by becoming a travel agent like me, and that he declined to burden his Cuban hosts monetarily. I know that he helped many thousands of US residents visit Cuba despite the US blockade resulting in many new friends for the island, thus bypassing the travel ban.

I also know that he was loved by the Cuban people and that he ceaselessly spoke out against the blockade.

Since 2001, I spoke with Philip many times over the telephone. I found him to be a supreme mensch. He remained unwaveringly principled and upright — a stalwart defender of Cuba and, perhaps more importantly, an "American freedom fighter" of the highest caliber.

How does one judge such a man as Philip Agee? It is easy: as the ultimate internationalist. He once told me: "A united hemisphere based on the principles of Marti and Bolivar, that is what is needed, a whole America, that ensures in our era a sharing of the fruits of labour and resources just like the Cubans do".

For these reasons, Philip Agee should be remembered as a hero of our Americas. He deserves a place in the pantheon of rebels who have made the world a better place by exposing the evil deeds and desires of its spymasters and corporate profiteers. May many more cops and spies follow his example, risking their lives for freedom from lies, repression, dictatorships and suffering!