The forthcoming book for former Central Intelligence Agency officer Philip Agee is actually a compilation of previously published articles and a list of alleged CIA operatives gleaned from public documents, according to co-editor Louis Wolf.
"There's nothing classified in it," Wolf, a free-lance journelist, said in a recent interview. "The CIA is trying to claim the identity of its personnel is classified. But they've been publishing their names for 30 years."
The Justice Department has been investigating the possibility of seening a civil injurtion or bringing espionage charges in an effort to stop publication of the book "Dirty work: The CIA in Western Europe." The book is about to be mailed to distributors, according to publisher Lyle Stuart.
The Department's legal basis for attacking the book could be severely undermined if the names in it are publicity available and collected by Wolf rather than Agee. Wolf says he has never been a CIA officer and thus is under no obligation to clear a work with the agency, as Agee would be.
Officials at CIA and Justice apparently have not seen a copy of the book. But copies of page proofs made available to The Washington Post seem to back up Wolfs contention.
The first, 318-page section is an anthology of articles, including two from The Post, describing CIA techniques or operations.
Wolf said that "from 70 to 90 percent" of the more than 700 names printed in the 386-page "appendix" to the book have been identified previously as intelligence officers based in U.S. embassies in Western Europe.
Wolf said he checked the names in State Department biographic registers and diplomatic lists before including them in the book, and deleted more then 100 names he wasn't sure of.
For the past years researchers have used clues in diplomatic biographies to expose the cover of CIA officers stationed at embassies. The reference books have not been available to the public since this practice began.
CIA spokesman Dale Peterson said he wasn't sure how the new information about the book would effect the legal positions being considered to stop it. "Until we see that list we can't say much about it," he said. "We don't know the basis of their information or how accurate it is."
Justice Department officials said have not decided whether they can take any action against the book. After much deliberation, the department announced last year that it would not move against Agree for an earlier book. "Inside the Company: CIA Diary," which disclosed names of agents.
According to Agee, in an article reprinted in the latest book, and Wolf, in the interview, they want to expose names of American intelligence agents so people overseas will be alerted to the operatives' diplomatic "masquerade." In that case, they said, the agency might be forced to recall the officers to Washington.
Despite what appear to be implied threats of violence against CIA agents in Agee's article, Wolf insisted that harming agents is not their goal. He and the book take pains to defend against what he calls the agency's "manipulation" of the media in the 1975 assasination of the CIA's Athens station chief, Richard S. Welch.
Welch had been identified as a CIA agent in CounterSpy, an anti-CIA magazine. But it was later reported that Welch had declined agency suggestions that he not move into the station chief's home in Athens because it was so well-known.
Publisher Stuart said in a recent interview that he was first approached about the book last year by Wolf and later met Agee in Jamaica to discuss the project.
"I was interested in their motivation," he said. "I didn't want to do a book by [KGB Soviet intelligence] agents."
Stuart said he first heard from the CIA on May 31, when general counsel Anthony A. Lapham wrote him asking about the book. A few days earlier, Stuart said, he had passed around a blurb at a publishers' convention, mentioning that Agee was involved.
The original printing of 3,000 copies of the 700-page, $24.95 book is now being bound and should be in distributors' hands in a few weeks, Stuart said.
If that sells as expected, he will soon put out a $10 paperback version, he added.
Wolf said the editors' $3,000 advance and any future royalties will go to C.I. Publications Inc., a nonprofit group in Washington that puts out a Covert Action Infirmation Bulletin with the goal of continually exposing CIA officers.
Stuart said he had distributed 18 copies of the book's page proofs here and abroad - "just in case" the Justice Department tries to stop publication.