NYU library acquires the papers of Philip Agee, renegade spy
Tuesday, October 26, 2010; 8:40 PM
The private papers of Philip Agee, the disaffected CIA operative whose unauthorized publication of agency secrets 35 years ago was arguably more damaging than anything WikiLeaks has produced, have been obtained by New York University, which plans to make them public next spring.
Agee, who worked undercover in Latin America from 1960 to 1968 and died in Cuba nearly three years ago, once said he resigned because the values of his Catholic upbringing clashed with his CIA assignments to destroy movements that aimed to overthrow U.S.-backed military regimes. CIA defenders said he was on the verge of being fired.
Agee's first book, "Inside the Company: CIA Diary," published in 1975, included a 22-page appendix with the real names of about 250 undercover agency operatives and accused a handful of Latin American heads of state of being CIA assets. The CIA's classified in-house journal, Studies in Intelligence, called it "a severe body blow" to the agency.
Two subsequent books by Agee and Louis Wolf revealed the names of about 2,000 more alleged CIA operatives in Western Europe and Africa.
After the release of "Inside the Company," Congress passed legislation making it a crime to intentionally publish the names of undercover CIA personnel.
In contrast to Agee, WikiLeaks withheld the names of hundreds of informants from the nearly 400,000 Iraq war documents it released over the weekend, according to news reports. And its previous surfacing of Afghan war documents, which an Army specialist is suspected of leaking, did not reveal "any sensitive intelligence sources and methods," according to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.
Agee may have started out as an independent whistleblower, but according to retired KGB Maj. Gen. Oleg Kalugin, the ex-operative offered CIA documents to the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City in 1973. Suspecting a ruse, the KGB turned him down, Kalugin said. Agee denied that he worked for the Russians, but he openly enlisted Cuba's help in his campaign to neutralize CIA operations against leftists and trade unions in Latin America.
NYU's Tamiment Library, which acquired Agee's papers from his widow, Giselle Roberge Agee, made no mention of the renegade agent's KGB and Cuban intelligence connections in its Monday news release.
But it did maintain that "for the rest of his life Agee was a target of CIA assassination threats."
In response to a query, Michael Nash, the library's associate curator, said, "This information came from the Agee book 'On the Run,' and it is supported by some CIA documents that Agee received as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request."
A CIA spokesperson, speaking on the condition of anonymity, dismissed the allegation as "not only wrong, but ludicrous."
NYU said the acquisition of the Agee collection will be celebrated with a Nov. 9 reception, but the papers will not be available until April.
They include "legal records, correspondence with left-wing activists, mainly in Latin America, and others opposed to CIA practices and covert operations; papers relating to his life as an exile living and working in Cuba, Western and Eastern Europe; lecture notes, photographs, and posters," the library said.
"Mrs. Agee donated the collection to Tamiment because we have an international reputation as a repository documenting the history of left politics and the movement for progressive social change," Nash said in the library's statement.
To read more about the intelligence community, go to voices.washingtonpost.com/spy-talk.