Remembering Philip Agee
I stayed up quite late last night rereading a book by former CIA agent Philip Agee. I had the great fortune to meet Agee twice - the first time organizing a speaking event for him in Orlando in the 1990's that drew folks from across Florida. The second time I visited his home in Hamburg, Germany in 1995 while on a speaking tour against NASA's Cassini plutonium launch.
Agee is one of my heroes - he was a man of true conscience who left the CIA after serving for about a dozen years in Latin America. He was determined to publish a book exposing the wicked work of the CIA and after a difficult four-year period he was able in 1974 to release his book entitled Inside the Company.
From that day on, Agee was marked by the CIA as its enemy. He was hunted, arrested, threatened, expelled from country after country (often illegally) and sometimes prosecuted. He tells this riveting story in the 1987 book entitled On the Run. This is the book Agee gave me when I visited him in 1995 and began rereading last night.
Agee was from Tampa, Florida and had a sister in the Orlando area. He put me in touch with her and she began coming to our office at the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice in the 1990's to help put out bulk mailings. She was the one who arranged for her brother to speak in Orlando at the statewide event that I organized that filled a huge downtown Methodist Church. Then when I went to Germany on my speaking tour in 1995 Agee's sister made it possible for me to stay with her brother.
When I visited Agee in Hamburg he took me on a walking tour of parts of the city. That evening he took me to a wonderful Italian restaurant that had a spaghetti sauce that I'll always remember. We had fascinating discussions about his life-long efforts to expose the crimes of the CIA. He was a very humble and ordinary guy and I really grew to admire him tremendously.
In his later years Agee moved to Cuba and started a travel business to help people make the trip to that 'forbidden nation'. He died there in 2008.
Agee was truly in the mold of Ellsberg, Snowden, Manning and other such remarkable whistle blowers.
In On the Run Agee wrote:
I would try to show how our [CIA] operations help sustain favorable operating conditions for US-based multi-national corporations. These conditions, together with political hegemony, were our real goals. So-called liberal democracy and pluralism were only means to those ends. "Free elections" really meant freedom for us to intervene with secret funds for our candidates. "Free trade unions" meant freedom for us to establish our unions. "Freedom of the press" meant freedom for us to pay journalists to publish our material as if it were the journalists' own. When an elected government threatened US economic and political interests, it had to go. Social and economic justice were fine concepts for public relations, but only for that.