I was in training at a secret CIA base in Virginia when, in March 1960, Eisenhower signed off on the project that would become the Bay of Pigs invasion. We were learning the tricks of the spy trade including telephone tapping, bugging, weapons handling, martial arts, explosives, and sabotage. That same month the CIA, in its efforts to deny arms to Cuba prior to the coming exile invasion, blew up a French freighter, Le Coubre, as it was unloading a shipment of weapons from Belgium at a Havana wharf. More than 100 died in the blast and in fighting the fire afterwards. I see the rudder and other scrap from Le Coubre, now a monument to those who died, every time I drive along the port avenue passing Havana's main railway station
In April the following year, two days before the Bay of Pigs invasion started, a CIA sabotage operation burned down El Encanto, Havana's largest department store where I had shopped on my first here visit in 1957. It was never rebuilt. Now each time I drive up Galiano in Centro Habana on my way for a meal in Chinatown, I pass Fe del Valle Park, the block where El Encanto stood, named for a woman killed in the blaze.
Some who signed statements condemning Cuba for the dissidents' trials and the executions of the hijackers know perfectly well the history of US aggression against Cuba since 1959: the murder, terrorism, sabotage and destruction that has cost nearly 3500 lives and left more than 2000 disabled. Those who don't know can find it in Jane Franklin's classic historical chronology The Cuban Revolution and the United States.
One of the best sum-ups of the US terrorist war against Cuba in the 1960's came from Richard Helms, the former CIA Director, when testifying in 1975 before the Senate Committee investigating the CIA's attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro. In admitting to "invasions of Cuba which we were constantly running under government aegis," he added:
We had task forces that that were striking at Cuba constantly. We were attempting to blow up power plants. We were attempting to ruin sugar mills. We were attempting to do all kinds of things in this period. This was a matter of American government policy...
Most recently, in declaring an unending war against terrorism following the September 2001 attacks by Al Qaeda and prior to the war against Iraq, President Bush declared that no weapons in US possession are banned from use, presumably including terrorism. But rather than starting his anti-terrorist war in Miami, where his theft of the White House was assured and his election to a second term may depend, he started the series of preemptive wars we have watched on television, first Afghanistan and then Iraq, and now he threatens Syria, Iran and others on his list of nations that supposedly promote terrorism. Cuba, of course, is wrongfully on that list, but people here take this seriously as a preliminary pretext for US military action against this country.
Going back to the Reagan administration of the early 1980's, the decision was taken that more than terrorist operations was needed to impose regime change in Cuba. Terrorism hadn't worked, nor had the Bay of Pigs invasion, nor had Cuba's diplomatic isolation which gradually ended, nor had the economic embargo. Now Cuba would be included in a new world wide program to finance and develop non-governmental and voluntary organizations, what was to become known as civil society, within the context of U.S. global neo-liberal policies. The CIA and the Agency for International Development (AID) would have key roles in this program as well as a new organization christened in 1983 The National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
Actually the new program was not really new. Since its founding in 1947, the CIA had been deeply involved in secretly funding and manipulating foreign non-governmental voluntary organizations. These vast operations circled the globe and were targeted at political parties, trade unions and businessmen's associations, youth and student organizations, women's groups, civic organizations, religious communities, professional, intellectual and cultural societies, and the public information media. The network functioned at local, national, regional and global levels. Media operations, for example, were underway continuously in practically every country, wherein the CIA would pay journalists to publish its materials as if they were the journalists' own. In the Directorate of Operations at the CIA's headquarters, these operations were coordinated with the regional operations divisions by the International Organizations Division (IOD), since many of the operations were regional or continental in nature, encompassing many countries, with some even worldwide in scope.
Over the years the CIA exerted phenomenal influence behind the scenes in country after country, using these powerful elements of civil society to penetrate, divide, weaken and destroy corresponding enemy organizations on the left, and indeed to impose regime change by toppling unwanted governments. Such was the case, among many others, in Guyana where in 1964, culminating 10 years of efforts, the Cheddi Jagan government was overthrown through strikes, terrorism, violence and arson perpetrated by CIA international trade union agents. About the same time, while I was assigned in Ecuador, our agents in civil society, through mass demonstrations and civil unrest, provoked two military coups in three years against elected, civilian governments. And in Brazil in the early 1960's, the same CIA trade union operations were brought together with other operations in civil society in opposition to the government, and these mass actions over time provoked the 1964 military coup against President Joao Goulart, ushering in 20 years of unspeakably brutal political repression.
But on February 26th, 1967, the sky crashed on IOD and its global civil society networks. At the time I was on a visit to Headquarters in Langley, Virginia near Washington, between assignments in Ecuador and Uruguay. That day the Washington Post published an extensive report revealing a grand stable of foundations, some bogus, some real, that the CIA was using to fund its global non-governmental networks. These financial arrangements were known as "funding conduits." Along with the foundations scores of recipient organizations were identified, including well-known intellectual journals, trade unions, and political think tanks. Soon journalists around the world completed the picture with reports on the names and operations of organizations in their countries affiliated with the network. They were the CIA's darkest days since the Bay of Pigs fiasco.
President Johnson ordered an investigation and said such CIA operations would end, but in fact they never did. The proof is in the CIA's successful operations in Chile to provoke the 1973 Pinochet coup against the elected government of Salvador Allende. Here they combined the forces of opposition political parties, trade unions, businessmen's groups, civic organizations, housewife's associations and the information media to create chaos and disorder, knowing that sooner or later the Chilean military, faithful to traditional fascist military doctrine in Latin America, would use such unrest to justify usurping governmental power to restore order and to stamp out the left. The operations were almost a carbon copy of the Brazilian destabilization and coup program ten years earlier. We all remember the horror that followed for years afterwards in Chile.
Fast forward to now. Anyone who has watched the civil society opposition to the Hugo Chavez government in Venezuela develop can be certain that U.S. government agencies, the CIA included, along with the Agency for International Development (AID) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), are coordinating the destabilization and were behind the failed coup in April 2002 as well as the failed "civic strike" of last December-January. The International Republican Institute (IRI) of the Republican Party even opened an office in Caracas. See below for more on NED, AID and IRI in civil society operations.
(10) Duncan Campbell, The Guardian (10th January, 2007)
Looking back over the 30 years since he made his decision to step out into the cold, Agee says: "There was a price to pay. It disrupted the education of my children [Phil and Chris, teenagers then], and I don't think it was a happy period for them. It also cost me all my money. Everything I made from the book, I had to spend. But it made me a stronger person in many ways, and it ensured I would never lose interest or go back in the other direction politically. The more they did these dirty things, the more they made me realise what I was doing was important."
Under the US Freedom of Information Act, Agee has been able to see the scope of the operation mounted against him by an unforgiving CIA. "They admitted to having 18,000 pages on me. I figured out there were 120 pages a day for seven or eight years. That can only be things like telephone transcripts and letter intercepts. Some person from the Pentagon was talking about me and saying they had two or three people working on me full time. I thought it was so foolish, such a waste of money, because I don't do anything that's not public. I don't pay much attention to them any more, but now and then something will come up."
What comes up most often is the name of Richard Welch, the CIA station chief in Athens who was assassinated in 1975. Although Welch was named not by Agee but in other publications, Agee has often been blamed for his death. "George Bush's father came in as CIA director in the month after the assassination and he intensified the campaign, spreading the lie that I was the cause of the assassination. His wife, Barbara, published her memoirs and she repeated the same lie, and this time I sued and won, in the sense that she was required to send me a letter in which she apologised and recognised what she wrote about me was false. They've tried to make this story stick for years. I never know what government hand or neocon hand is behind the allegations, and I don't pay too much attention, but I know I haven't been forgotten."
Agee may not be on the run any more - he has been back to the US many times without being arrested and was allowed back into Britain under the Major government - but life is lived at least at a trot. He has just arrived from Spain, where he has addressed a rally in support of the Miami Five, the Cubans jailed for up to 25 years on espionage charges for infiltrating anti-Castro groups in Florida. Soon he will return from Hamburg to his other home, Havana, and his travel business. Initially, his customers came from the US, but Americans are forbidden by law from visiting Cuba and can be fined heavily if caught, so his clients now come mainly from Europe.
Would it be possible for someone in the CIA today to do what Agee did? "I think it would be much harder," he says. "I can think of plenty of people in the CIA who would be horrified by what the CIA has been doing in terms of the torture of suspected terrorists, but a person who tried to do what I did would face kidnapping and possibly being put on ice in a secret prison for many years to come."
(11) Will Weissert, Ex-CIA Agent Philip Agee Dead in Cuba (10th January, 2008)
Former CIA agent Philip Agee, a critic of U.S. foreign policy who infuriated American intelligence officials by naming purported agency operatives in a 1975 book, has died, state media reported 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 CIA misdeeds against leftists in the region and included a 22-page list of purported agency operatives.
Granma, Cuba's Communist Party newspaper, said Agee died Monday night and described him as "a loyal friend of Cuba and fervent defender of the peoples' fight for a better world."
Bernie Dwyer, a journalist with state-run Radio Havana, said in a Tuesday message posted to a Cuba e-mail group that Agee's wife called him to say he had died after ulcer surgery in a hospital where he has he been since Dec. 15.
"He had several operations for perforated ulcers and didn't survive all the surgery," Dwyer wrote, adding that Agee was cremated Tuesday and that friends planned a memorial ceremony for him Sunday at his Havana apartment.
Agee's U.S. passport was revoked in 1979. U.S. officials said he had threatened national security. After years of living in Hamburg, Germany — occasionally underground, fearing CIA retribution — Agee moved to Havana to open a travel Web site.
Barbara Bush, the wife of former President George H.W. Bush — himself a one-time CIA chief — in her autobiography accused Agee's book of exposing a CIA station chief, Richard S. Welch, who was later killed by leftist terrorists in Athens in 1975. Agee, who denied any involvement in the killing, sued her for $4 million for defamation, and she revised the book to settle the case.
Agee's actions in the 1970s inspired a law criminalizing the exposure of covert U.S. operatives.
But in 2003, he drew a distinction between what he did and the exposure of CIA officer Valerie Plame, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, a prominent critic of President Bush's Iraq policy.
"This is entirely different than what I was doing in the 1970s," Agee said. "This is purely dirty politics in my opinion."
Agee said that in his case, he disclosed the identities of his former CIA 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.
(12) Duncan Campbell, The Guardian (10th January, 2008)
Agee had left the CIA in 1969 after 12 years working mainly in Latin America, where he gradually became disgusted by the agency's collusion with military dictators in the region and decided to blow the whistle on their activities. The Mexico City massacre of student protesters in 1968 also stiffened his resolve. His 1975 book Inside the Company: CIA Diary spilled the beans on his former employers and enraged the US government, not least because it named CIA operatives.
"It was a time in the 70s when the worst imaginable horrors were going on in Latin America," he told the Guardian in an interview published a year ago today. "Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Guatemala, El Salvador - they were military dictatorships with death squads, all with the backing of the CIA and the US government. That was what motivated me to name all the names and work with journalists who were interested in knowing just who the CIA were in their countries."
To carry out his work, Agee moved to London in the early 1970s with his then partner, Angela, a leftwing Brazilian who had been jailed and tortured in her own country, and his two young sons by his estranged American wife. He worked with the magazine Time Out and other publications to expose the CIA's work internationally. His activities had already alerted the then US secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, who urged the prime minister, James Callaghan, to deport him. After an arcane legal process, Agee was deported in 1977, along with a young American journalist, Mark Hosenball (now a senior investigative writer with Newsweek), who had worked at Time Out. The then home secretary, Merlyn Rees, who issued the deportation order, claimed - falsely and maliciously, according to Agee - that he was behind the deaths of two British agents. Their case became a liberal cause celebre.
Banished from Britain, Agee found the door closed to him in France and the Netherlands, and he faced prosecution and jail if he returned to the US, where his passport was revoked in 1979. His relationship with Angela ended under the pressure and he met and fell in love with a well-known ballet dancer, Giselle Roberge. At her suggestion, they married, which gave him the right to stay in Germany. Until the time of his death, he lived between their home in Hamburg and an apartment in Havana, Cuba. He continued his exposés of the CIA in the Covert Action Information Bulletin.