Philip Agee 
Let Us 
Now Praise an 
(In)famous Man 


Philip Agee, as he appeared when 
he was "on the run" from the CIA 

PHILIP AGEE, former agent of the CIA, died in Havana, Cuba, on 8 January 2008 at the age of 72. He was the first agent to leave "The Company" and reveal its dirty secrets, having become disillusioned with its appalling practices in Latin America.

I had the pleasure and privilege of meeting Philip on three occasions in Stockholm, and he once confided that he was a distant relation of author James Agee,whose best-known work is probably Let Us Now Praise Famous Men-- a book-length reportage on the desperately grim lives of dirt-poor farmers in the U.S. South during the 1930s' Great Depression. It is an apt reference, as it was Philip's eye-opening encounter with the desperate conditions of South America's impoverished masses-- and his growing insight into the central role played by U.S. foreign policy in perpetuating their misery-- which led to his resignation from the CIA and the disclosure of its criminal activities in the political and literary bombshell, Inside the Company: CIA Diary.

That process and the very high price it entailed, including the inevitable outraged cries of "traitor!" and the CIA snapping at his heels as he sought refuge in several European countries, are recounted in Philip's memoir, On the Run.

Inside the Company, though published in 1975, remains a basic reference on the methods and procedures by which the United States pursues and maintains its interests in the countries it seeks to control. In fact, I happened to be re-reading it a few years ago as Venezuela was being subjected to a classic destabilization campaign whose evident purpose was to soften up the country for a coup against President Hugo Chávez, which in due course took place a few months later.

The basic procedure was all laid out in Philip's book: One could read his detailed account of how he and his colleagues had organized the downfall of Ecuador's President Velasco in 1961, and in the daily news follow the same tactics and procedures as they were being applied in Venezuela forty years later. Then as now, the mainstream media played a central role in creating the necessary pre-coup atmosphere of diffuse anxiety, widespread malaise, and seething rebellion against a "dictator" who happened to be democratically elected.

Now as then-- despite the numerous subsequent revelations of Philip and others who have followed his example-- the same media have divulged little or nothing about the shadowy figures and agencies that orchestrate such processes. For the most part, the CIA and other instruments of U.S. domination continue to operate behind a media smokescreen of willful neglect and obfuscation.

These and related matters were the focus of a speech by Philip in Stockholm on 24 September 2001, just thirteen days after the revenge attacks against symbols of U.S. economic and military might. A soft-spoken and unfailingly courteous man, he was also a captivating speaker who held the rapt attention of a large audience as he outlined the history and methods of the CIA, its long involvement in international terrorism, and with characteristic foresight analysed the likely consequences of the terror attacks in New York and Washington.

Text of Phillip's Stockholm speech
(PDF: 1.5 MB)

                                                                                                             Al Burke
                                                                                                           10 January 2008