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Phil Agee vs Barbara Bush (1995) Jan 13, 2008 1:49 PM
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Phil Agee vs Barbara Bush (1995)

Via NY Transfer News Collective  *  All the News that Doesn't Fit

[We have a copy of this buried somewhere in our archives but found it
more easily elsewhere on the net.  The result of this case was that
Barbara Bush removed her allegations about Agee in the 2nd edition of
her book.]

Found at:
Origin: helix.uucp =FidoNet/Internet= Seattle (1:343/70)

NY Transfer News Collective
Sat, 9 Sep 1995 14:20:48 -0400 (EDT)

Libel Suit: Philip Agee vs Barbara Bush

[Some context, first, from the mainstream Reuters news agency,
followed by Daniel Brandt's analysis -- NY Transfer]

WASHINGTON (Reuter) - Philip Agee, a former CIA operative who
turned against the spy agency, announced Wednesday he had filed a
$4 million libel suit against Barbara Bush, saying she had wrongly
linked him to the assassination of a senior CIA officer.
Agee, who led a worldwide campaign in the late 1970s to unmask
Central Intelligence Agency officers, accused the former first lady
of making false and defamatory statements about him in her 1994
autobiography, ``A Memoir.''
Agee claims he has been unfairly tarred by the CIA and U.S.
officials in connection with the December 23, 1975, assassination
of Richard Welch, CIA station chief in Athens.
Mrs. Bush wrote in her book that Agee disclosed Welch's identity in
a ``traitorous, tell-all'' book published shortly before Welsh's
assassination by a Greek extremist group.
Agee asserts in his suit, however, that nowhere in his 1975 book,
``Inside the Company: A CIA Diary'', did he mention Welch. Nor, he
says, did he ever mention Welch in any publication or communication
before Welch's death.
Agee said he was suing Mrs Bush because her claim that he exposed
Welch was ``particularly egregious'' since her husband, former
president George Bush, became CIA director 38 days after the
``The man's name was not in my book,'' Agee said in a telephone
interview from his home in Hamburg, Germany. ``She's just repeating
what her husband and others have been saying ... This just cannot
Agee had his passport revoked in 1979 for allegedly having damaged
U.S. national security.
Lynne Bernabei, Agee's Washington lawyer, told a press conference
that Agee, 60, had suffered serious damage to his reputation ``as a
result of the CIA's concerted efforts -- this time through the
baseless allegations in Mrs. Bush's autobiography -- to malign him
and falsely ascribe blame to him for a death that was caused by its
own ineptitude.''
In addition to compensatory and punitive damages of at least $4
million, the suits seeks a full retraction by Barbara Bush and her
publisher, Charles Scribner's Sons and Simon & Schuster, that Agee
caused or contributed to Welch's killing.
A spokesman for the Bush family in Houston, Jim McGrath, declined
comment on the suit.]


      Philip Agee v. Barbara Bush: An Analysis of the Case
                       by Daniel Brandt

Richard Welch was killed in December, 1975 in Athens. A Greek urban
guerrilla group calling itself "November 17" took credit for the

Richard Welch's name was first published in "Who's Who in CIA"
by Julius Mader (East Berlin, 1968), along with 2500 other names.

It was also published in early 1975 by Counterspy Magazine (Winter
1975 issue, page 26), along with about 100 other names. This issue
of Counterspy listed Welch as residing in Lima, Peru -- which was
his previous posting. In the next issue, Summer 1975, Counterspy
again listed Welch as a CIA officer, under cover as an attache at
the U.S. embassy in Lima.

Welch was listed in the 1969 State Department Biographic Register
and the 1973 State Department Biographic Register, and no doubt
others as well (these are the two I have handy). In both the 1969
and 1973 listings, the biographic details peg him as an obvious CIA
officer for those who know how to read the Register.

Counterspy could have gotten its information from the Biographic
Register. Beginning in 1975, the Biographic Register was given a
"Limited Official Use" classification, but before 1975 it was
available to the public. In the Washington Monthly, November 1974,
an article by former State Department official John Marks, titled
"How to Spot a Spook," described how to read the Biographic Register.

In fact, Counterspy told Agee that a Maryknoll priest who worked as
a missionary in Peru had visited their office a year earlier, and
brought with him a copy of a Peruvian journal with Welch's name in
it as the CIA chief in Lima. ("On the Run," p. 133)

In late November, 1975 the Athens News named ten CIA people in
Greece, and included Welch's name and address. It is said that even
the local tour buses would point out the home of the CIA station
chief as they drove by.

Agee's book came out in 1975, which blew the cover on dozens of
CIA officers. By the Summer 1975 issue of Counterspy, Agee was
listed on the advisory board of Counterspy, along with 15 other
prominent activists.

By the time Agee's book came out, the CIA's Ted Shackley was
running a major operation to control the damage to the CIA and
discredit Agee (see David Corn's "Blond Ghost," 1994). The Welch
assassination was also seen a convenient "hook" for stopping the
Congressional investigations of the CIA, by changing the focus
from "what is the CIA doing around the world," to the issue of
"endangering the lives of officers by naming names." The media,
which the CIA can manipulate by planting stories and calling in
chits from friendly reporters, pretty much fell for this. The CIA
had every reason to play up the Welch assassination, and nothing
to lose.

The "November 17" group, according to Agee's autobiography "On the
Run" (1987), had been stalking Welch's predecessor in Athens, Stacy
Hulse, until Welch replaced him in mid-1975. They knew what Welch
ate, what cars he drove, and the hours he came and left his
residence. ("On the Run," page 134).

It's apparent that "November 17" did not rely on anything Agee
did in order to identify Richard Welch. Even William Colby
admitted as much:

>From the Los Angeles Times, 12/28/77, part I, page 8:

"[William] Colby said 'bad cover' contributed to the assassination
two years ago of Richard Welch, CIA station chief in Athens. This
was partly a result of administrative practices that made it easy
to identify CIA employes from embassy lists, he said.

"Besides, Colby said, Welch 'accepted the bad cover' by living in
the same house as his predecessor and by making only minimal
efforts to disguise his identity.

"Although an Athens newspaper published a story naming Welch as a
CIA official shortly before his death, Colby said this had only the
indirect effect of inflaming potential killers to strike at CIA
employes. He said Welch's cover was not adequate to hide him, even
without the newspaper account.

"Subcommittee Chairman Les Aspin (D-Wis.) reminded Colby that CIA
spokesmen called a number of newspapers the morning after Welch's
death to suggest that the assassination was a direct result of the
newspaper's printing his name.

"'I have pretty specifically avoided saying that,' Colby said.
'Maybe you are right about the first few telephone calls.'"


As Colby suggests in the above quotations, elements within the CIA
seized on the Welch assassination as a convenient way to discredit
Agee. But the details of what happened don't support their propaganda
that Agee was responsible for Welch's death. The media, however,
didn't worry about the details and tended to repeat the CIA's line.
By 1982 the CIA's campaign was successful: the investigations had
stopped and the Intelligence Identities Protection Act was signed
by Ronald Reagan.

Barbara Bush and her fact-checkers were careless, and forgot to
make allowances for the fact that George Bush has always been
willing to believe the worst about Agee. George inherited the
weak cover problems during his tenure as CIA director immediately
following Welch's assassination.

Agee's lawsuit, if it goes to trial, hinges on whether the
judge will limit the evidence to the facts of the Welch death
specifically. If the judge limits the testimony, Barbara had better
reach for her pocketbook. However, if the judge allows the issue of
"naming names" in general to be admitted into evidence, then Agee
might not even get an apology. Barbara's defense will be that
although she got the "letter" of the facts wrong, she had the
"spirit" of the general situation correct.

Needless to say, if the judge is interested in his own career,
he won't go against the CIA and Barbara and George. Nevertheless,
Agee's lawsuit is a good idea, because it might stop some of the
sloppy history, disinformation, and shoot-from-the-hip
impressionism that has plagued the issue of Welch, Agee, and
"naming names." If you are going to pump out disinformation, you
should at least be held accountable for getting the facts right.

[Daniel Brandt is President of Public Information Research
in San Antonio and non-profit publisher of Namebase as well as several other very interesting
websites including Google-watch at
and has also developed the alternative search-engine Scroogle.]

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