The death of Philip Agee, international socialist, revolutionary, political activist and former CIA officer in the field saddened me greatly, as Agee has for many years been a great hero of mine not least because he epitomized two of my basic beliefs, that given the opportunity people can change no matter what their education and upbringing and those sons of the middle class who side with the dispossessed are often amongst the finest people who walk the earth.
Agee came from a well off middle class Florida family, whilst at the USA’s most prominent Roman Catholic University Notre Dame, he was head hunted by someone in the faculty who acted as a spotter for the US Central Intelligence agency. [CIA] Thus his future career path was well marked out, approximately two decades in the field and then back to Langley Virginia as a well paid, powerful spook bureaucrat. He turned his back on this world when in his own words he, “fell in love with a woman who thought Che Guevara was the most wonderful man in the world.” It was this mixture of commitment and romance, which often characterizes the best of revolutionaries, which led Agee to break from his class background and set him on the road that led to a lifetime of struggle against exploitation and oppression. Which just goes to show how the direction people take in their lives often depends on chance meetings.
After Philip left the CIA, by writing his book ‘Inside the Company’ he set the benchmark for all spooks who claim to have left the security services and crossed over to the side of the ‘wretched of the earth’. For in his book Agee names in chronological order every CIA agent, imformer and assets of influence he had ever come across in South and Central America, at CIA headquarters in Langley and across the wider world. He was adamant that the best weapon the left had against organizations like the CIA was to have trust in the masses and act openly at all times. He lived up to this by refusing to pass the information he held to intelligence services who were sympathetic to his plight and instead insisted on placing this information within the public domain for all to read.
Ever since Agree broke with the CIA and acted in this manner there have been a number of Western intelligence service employees who have claimed to have done likewise. However the overwhelming majority have refused to act in the same principled manner as Agee and make public the names of their former colleagues and the assets they ran. Which cannot but throw doubt about there legitimacy, for Philip had set the gold standard when it comes to spooks going over the wall.
For this act he paid a considerable price, not since Leon Trotsky was forced by Stalin into exile has an individual been hounded across the planet in the same manner as Philip Agee was. He could have found sanctuary within the Soviet Block but he was determined not to, as he understood clearly that this was the CIAs greatest wish, as it would have allowed it to portray him as a traitor in the pay of the Russians.
Agee eventually came to England in the hope that with a Labour government in power he might find a safe haven. He was mistaken as the Callaghan Labour Government hounded and in the end deported him, although not before his case became a cause-celeb which enabled Agee and his supporters to place the CIA firmly in the dock of public opinion, both in the UK and the USA.
I remember to this day where I was when I first read the news that Philip Agee had been deported, I was on a London tube train traveling back home from a morning on the Grunwick picket line. I found it a bitter pill to swallow, although without knowing it, it was to be the first of many as right wing Labourism was replaced by Thatcherism. Agee after being deported from the UK made a number of attempts to find sanctuary in Western Europe, he eventually married Giselle Roberge which gave him the right to remain in Germany. He spent the last years of his life between Hamburg and Cuba from where he continue to rage against the Great Satan’s foreign policy and never once doubted he had made the correct decision when he broke from the CIA and exposed its evil doings. Philip Agee, a real working class hero.
A full biography of Philip Agee can be found here,