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Philip Agee Playboy Interview

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Michael Kelly

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Feb 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/21/96
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Copyright (c) 1994, PLAYBOY

PLAYBOY: Are you in danger here?

AGEE: Probably not. If they tried any rough stuff, it would have to look
like an accident, and if anybody slipped up, there would be a very big
flap.

PLAYBOY: Is the room bugged?

AGEE: I doubt it. Too much trouble for a short visit. But the phone may
be tapped. The hell with them. Let's talk.

PLAYBOY: How do you like having the Central Intelligence Agency
breathing down your neck?

AGEE: Not much. That's a dangerous bunch of people to tangle with. I
don't want to sound as if I think I'm a hero. I'm not. I just think
something's got to be done about the CIA. Remember, I'm not the first
ex-CIA man to come out against the agency. Victor Marchetti was the
first. But while he was fighting to get his book published, I was
working fast and furiously on mine in secret.

PLAYBOY: Why did you decide to blow the whistle on the CIA?

AGEE: I finally understood, after 12 years with the agency, how much
suffering it was causing, that millions of people all over the world had
been killed or at least had had their lives destroyed by the CIA and the
institutions it supports. I just couldn't sit by and do nothing.

PLAYBOY: Millions of people? Aren't you overstating the case?

AGEE: I wish I were. Even after the revelations we've had so far, people
still don't understand what a huge, powerful and sinister organization
the CIA is.

PLAYBOY: How big is it?

AGEE: In my opinion, it's the biggest and most powerful secret service
that has ever existed. I don't know how big the K.G.B. is inside the
Soviet Union, but its international operation is small compared with the
CIA's. It's known now that the CIA has 16,500 employees and an annual
budget of $750,000,000. But that's not counting its mercenary armies,
its commercial subsidiaries. Add them all together, the agency employs
or subsidizes hundreds of thousands of people and spends more like
billions every year. Even its official budget is secret; it's concealed
in those of other Federal agencies. Nobody tells the Congress what the
CIA spends. By law, the CIA isn't accountable to Congress. Not for
anything.

PLAYBOY: To whom is it accountable?

AGEE: To the National Security Council, which is composed of the
President and officials chosen by him. So it's really an instrument of
the President to use in any way he pleases. If there are legal
restraints on this, I don't know of them. It's frightening, but it's a
fact: The CIA is the President's secret army.

PLAYBOY: What does this army do?

AGEE: To understand that, you have to understand why the CIA was set up.
There are two reasons: the official reason, as set forth in the
National Security Act of 1947, which authorized the CIA to collect and
analyze foreign intelligence, and the real reason, which was carefully
hidden. There was a sleeper clause in the National Security Act,
allowing the CIA to "perform such other functions and duties related to
intelligence affecting the national security as the NSC may from time to
time direct." Right from the start, it was those "other functions" that
occupied most of the CIA's time. And money.

PLAYBOY: Just what are those other functions?

AGEE: Covert action. The dagger inside the cloak. It's a form of
intervention somewhere between correct, polite diplomacy and outright
military invasion. Covert action is the real reason for the CIA's
existence, and it was born out of political and economic necessity.

PLAYBOY: What does covert action have to do with economics?

AGEE: Think back to the end of World War Two. The United States faced a
really alarming economic crisis. In 1945, 11,000,000 men were still
under arms--and out of the work force. Even so, production was more than
double what it had been in the best prewar year. But then something
scary happened. In the first six months after the war ended, production
was cut in half and unemployment shot up from 830,000 to 2,700,000. In
six months! It looked as if the U.S. might have won the war only to
fall back into a depression. And the people who were running the
country, politicians and those who later became known as the
military-industrial complex, were badly frightened. Somehow they had to
create 11,000,000 new jobs or face catastrophe. So they decided to
reconstruct the European and Japanese economies, thus providing new
markets for the U.S., and adopted the "containment" policies of such
military alliances as NATO that brought on the Cold War.

PLAYBOY: Wait a minute. Are you saying that we started the Cold War?
Didn't the Russians have something to do with it?

AGEE: I'm saying that when World War Two ended, U.S. policy toward the
Soviet Union came to be dominated by the anti-Soviet school in the State
Department led by George Kennan and Chip Bohlen, who were convinced that
the Soviets wanted to conquer the world. Such a foreign policy meant
that revolutionary socialism must be opposed, with arms if necessary,
wherever it appeared, because the Soviets were supposed to be behind it
all. Sure, the Soviets also helped start the Cold War; they were
aggressive and they reneged on agreements. Militarily, though, they were
much weaker in those days than the U.S. public was led to believe. But
the scenario of an innocent and defensive America struggling to save the
world from Communist dictatorship provided the rationalization for the
dominance of foreign economies by American companies. This was the CIA's
main mission, to guarantee a favorable foreign-investment climate for
U.S. industry. You see, the U.S. market isn't big enough to support the
kind of production we need to keep unemployment down to so-called
acceptable levels. We've got to export--finance capital as well as
products--or die. But where were our markets when the CIA was
established? Europe was in ruins. Japan was flat on its back.
Reconstruction of those economies would re-create those markets.

PLAYBOY: Do you discount America's humanitarian motives in rebuilding
Europe and Japan?

AGEE: No. Most Americans, I think, felt a generous, really unselfish
obligation to help the people whose countries had been devastated by the
war. But European Communists opposed the Marshall Plan because they
understood that U.S. economic domination would accompany it. So the
CIA's covert-action operations began as secret political warfare against
those people who opposed the Marshall Plan. For example, the CIA broke
dock strikes against Marshall Plan aid, got non-Communist labor unions
to withdraw from the World Confederation of Trade Unions and establish
the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. All this, of
course, with the help of George Meany, who----

PLAYBOY: You're saying that the president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. is a CIA
collaborator?

AGEE: One of the most effective. For almost 30 years, he has helped the
CIA pour money and agents into the "free world" labor movement. By the
Fifties, unions supported by the CIA had become a pretty effective
counterweight to the ones controlled by Communists in western Europe.
This meant 20 years of relative labor peace during which U.S. companies
and their local counterparts could consolidate investments. But those
labor-union penetrations were only the beginning of The Company's covert
actions.

PLAYBOY: The Company?

AGEE: To the people who work for it, the CIA is known as The Company.
The Big Business mentality pervades everything. Agents, for instance,
are called assets. The man in charge of the United Kingdom desk is said
to have the "U.K. account." But, as I was going to say, The Company has
conducted covert actions all over the world. In the Forties and early
Fifties, it operated mainly in Europe. In the late Fifties and Sixties,
emphasis shifted to the Third World: Africa, Asia, Latin America, the
Middle East. These operations are carried out at different levels of
intensity, of course. Not all of them are violent. Sometimes The Company
forges documents or spreads false rumors and untrue news stories--what
it calls disinformation. The Company sends hecklers to public meetings,
pays strikebreakers and industrial spies, organizes propaganda services
like Radio Free Europe, launders millions of dollars' worth of dirty
cash each year. It has also spent huge amounts to buy elections and
overthrow liberal or socialist or nationalist governments--or to prop up
repressive regimes. But The Company gets into a lot of violence, too. It
trains and equips saboteurs and bomb squads. The police and
military-intelligence services of many countries are trained, financed
and controlled by the CIA. Worse than that, The Company has assassinated
thousands of people, some of them famous, most of them unknown. If it
has to, it will conduct paramilitary campaigns and even full-scale wars.
You name it, the CIA does it.

PLAYBOY: Those are sensational but very general accusations. Can you
give specific examples of such actions?

AGEE: Sure. In the past 25 years, the CIA has been involved in plots to
overthrow governments in Iran, the Sudan, Syria, Guatemala, Ecuador,
Guyana, Za‹re and Ghana. Will that do for starters? In Greece, the CIA
participated in bringing in the repressive and stupid regime of the
colonels. In Brazil, the CIA worked to install a regime that tortures
children to make their parents confess their political activities. In
Chile, The Company spent millions to "destabilize"--that's the Company
word--the Allende government and set up the military junta, which has
since massacred tens of thousands of workers, students, liberals and
leftists. And there is a very strong probability that the CIA station in
Chile helped supply the assassination lists. In Indonesia in 1965, The
Company was behind an even bloodier coup, the one that got rid of
Sukarno and led to the slaughter of at least 500,000 and possibly
1,000,000 people. In the Dominican Republic--you want more?--the CIA
arranged the assassination of the dictator Rafael Trujillo and later
participated in the invasion that prevented the return to power of the
liberal ex-president Juan Bosch. And in Cuba, of course, The Company
paid for and directed the invasion that failed at the Bay of Pigs. Some
time later, the CIA had a go at assassinating Fidel Castro. That one was
close, but no cigar.

PLAYBOY: What you are saying is that the CIA can overthrow governments
practically at its pleasure. How is that possible?

AGEE: It's not a question of snapping fingers and telling some generals,
"Now's the time, boys." What the CIA does is to work carefully, usually
over several years' time, to undermine those governments whose policies
are unfavorable to U. S. interests. Through propaganda, political action
and the fomenting of trade-union unrest, often carried out through many
different front organizations, the CIA cuts away popular support from
the undesired government or political leader. Major emphasis is placed
on influencing reactionary military officers. Once this process gets
started, it will acquire its own momentum and eventually lead to the
desired coup. The CIA can sometimes speed things up by providing a
catalyst: let's say preparing a forged document such as a list of
military officers allegedly due for assassination, then seeing that the
list gets publicized.

PLAYBOY: You mentioned the CIA's role in Indonesia. What about
Indochina?

AGEE: I figure everybody knows the war there began as a CIA war, as far
as direct U. S. intervention was concerned. This is documented in the
Pentagon papers. CIA officers were in Indochina before the French left.
They organized the Montagnards into a paramilitary force to fight the
Viet Cong. CIA agents helped put Ngo Dinh Diem in power and CIA agents
at the very least cooperated in his assassination. It was the failure of
the CIA's secret operations in the Fifties that led to the overt
military intervention of the Sixties.

PLAYBOY: Speaking of the Diem assassination, are the rumors we hear
true--that the CIA was involved in Diem's killing without President
Kennedy's approval and that when Kennedy found out he was furious with
the agency?

AGEE: I don't know, but I've heard that from people who should know.

PLAYBOY: If the CIA were to admit to all your allegations, what
justification would it give for such actions?

AGEE: The same old emotional appeal: that we have to prop up our
so-called friends--usually the tiny minority that has cornered most of
the wealth in poor countries--or they'll fall victim to the Soviets and
lose their freedom. Kissinger and people like him keep reviving that
argument, but the truth is--and the CIA knows it better than anybody
else--that for many years there has been no worldwide Communist
conspiracy! The socialist bloc has just as many cracks in it as the
capitalist bloc. I think most revolutionary socialists--call them
Communists, if you like--want the advantages of socialism without the
disadvantages of some Soviet-style police state.

PLAYBOY: You don't believe in Marxist conspiracies, but you do admit
there's repression in Russia?

AGEE: Don't put me on. Sure there's repression in Russia--and it goes
back for centuries, not just to 1917. But I think it'll take another
generation of Soviet leaders to relax things there; today's leaders
can't answer very well the question of what they were doing during
Stalin's reign of terror.

PLAYBOY: But if the CIA knows, as you claim it does, that there is no
worldwide Communist conspiracy, why does it act as if there were?

AGEE: Remember, the CIA is an instrument of the President; it only
carries out policy. And, like everyone else, the President has to
respond to forces in the society he's trying to lead, right? In America,
the most powerful force is Big Business, and American Big Business has a
vested interest in the Cold War.

PLAYBOY: Hold on. This is beginning to sound like Marxist jargon about
the big bad imperialists on Wall Street.

AGEE: That's because, in my opinion, the Marxists are right about
American economic imperialism. American multinational corporations have
built up colossal interests all over the world, and you can bet your ass
that wherever you find U. S. business interests, you also find the CIA.
Why? Because the foreign operations of American companies are the key to
our domestic prosperity. The multinational corporations want a peaceful
status quo in countries where they have investments, because that gives
them undisturbed access to cheap raw materials, cheap labor and stable
markets for their finished goods. The status quo suits bankers, because
their money remains secure and multiplies. And, of course, the status
quo suits the small ruling groups the CIA supports abroad, because all
they want is to keep themselves on top of the socioeconomic pyramid and
the majority of their people on the bottom. But do you realize what
being on the bottom means in most parts of the world? Ignorance,
poverty, often early death by starvation or disease.

PLAYBOY: You paint a bleak picture. Hasn't the CIA accomplished anything
positive, at least for the U. S.?

AGEE: Over the short run, quite a bit. The CIA certainly helped goose up
the American economic boom of the past 25 years. What many Americans
don't seem to have noticed, though, is that American prosperity over
those years was to some degree a false one. Have you noticed that as the
political and economic independence of the Third World has increased,
American prosperity has begun to sputter? In the long run, I'm betting
that the CIA will be seen to have done a lot of damage to the United
States, because, along with its business allies, it has caused us to be
hated by millions of people as the last of the great colonial
exploiters. That hatred is going to haunt us for a long, long time, and
it has got to be focused on the few people who deserve it and not on the
American people as a whole.

PLAYBOY: Your own experience in the CIA has been mostly with its
overseas operations. What do you know about alleged CIA activities
inside the U.S.?

AGEE: Very little--but enough to suspect strongly that they're much more
extensive than anybody outside the CIA or the National Security Council
realizes. I think a lot of sinister things will come out in the
investigations that are under way in Washington. I think the American
people may be in for some severe shocks.

PLAYBOY: What are you hinting at?

AGEE: I can only hint, because I have no direct knowledge. But I can
tell you what I was told by Marchetti. I told him I thought that most of
the 10,000 cases the CIA admits to having investigated inside the U. S.
would turn out to be connected, no matter how tenuously, with some sort
of foreign-intelligence effort. "You're wrong," he said. "You just don't
know. You haven't been here. There are going to be some revelations that
will chill your spine, really grisly things. And some of them," he said,
"may be connected with the assassinations of President Kennedy, Senator
Kennedy, Martin Luther King and other well-known individuals both at
home and abroad."

PLAYBOY: Connected how? What are you trying to say?

AGEE: Just what I said. That's all I know. But by the time this
interview appears, a lot of these things may have come out. I hope so.
That's really all I know. I can give you an opinion, though, for what
it's worth. Knowing the CIA as I do, I can tell you that everything I
have read about the assassination of President Kennedy--Lee Harvey
Oswald's background, Jack Ruby's background, the photograph that seems
to place E. Howard Hunt at the scene of the crime, the mysterious deaths
of so many people involved--everything makes me very suspicious of the
Warren Commission's version of what happened. And remember: Allen
Dulles, the former head of the CIA, was a member of the Warren
Commission. If the agency had anything to cover up, Dulles was in a very
good position to do so. But I don't have any proof that the CIA was
involved. Remember, I wasn't working in Washington then. What I can tell
you about best is the normal, everyday dirty tricks a CIA man is up to.

PLAYBOY: All right. Let's go into that. Beginning at the beginning, how
did you get into the CIA?

AGEE: Through my college placement bureau. No kidding. Just before I was
graduated from Notre Dame, I was interviewed by a CIA man. He made his
pitch like any other company recruiter: interesting work, good pay,
opportunity for advancement, foreign travel. He also mentioned
patriotism and public service. I said no at first, but a year later,
when the draft began to catch up with me, I changed my mind. The CIA
training program allowed me to do my compulsory military service as an
agency man. So I went away for two years with the Air Force--always in
the special CIA program--and in 1959 I returned to Washington to begin
formal training as a CIA officer. After about three months of classes at
headquarters in Langley, Virginia, learning the structure and functions
of the CIA, most of us went to The Farm for operational training.

PLAYBOY: The Farm?

AGEE: Camp Peary, Virginia. A secret CIA training center. So secret at
the time that some of the foreign trainees weren't even told they were
in the United States. We worked hard, I can tell you, for more than six
months. There was a physical-conditioning program, plenty of practice in
the martial arts. How to disarm or cripple, if necessary kill an
opponent. We had classes in propaganda, infiltration-exfiltration, youth
and student operations, labor operations, targeting and penetration of
enemy organizations. How to run liaison projects with friendly
intelligence services so as to give as little and get as much
information as possible. Anti-Soviet operations--that subject got
special attention. We had classes in how to frame a Russian official and
try to get him to defect. The major subject, though, was how to run
agents--single agents, networks of agents.

PLAYBOY: How does a CIA officer set up and operate a network of spies?

AGEE: The first stage of the process is targeting prospects. Say your
objective is to penetrate a leftist political party. The first thing to
do is to probe for a weak spot in the organization. Maybe you bug the
phone of a leading party member and find out he's playing around with
the party's funds. In that case, perhaps he can be blackmailed. Or one
of your agents plays on the same soccer team as a party member, or goes
out with his sister, and gets to know something about him that seems to
make him a good prospect. Then you make him an offer.

PLAYBOY: You mean money?

AGEE: Usually, but not necessarily. In rich countries, a man might
become a spy for ideological reasons, but in poor countries, it's
usually because he's short of cash. A hungry man with a family to
support will do almost anything for money, and there are a lot of hungry
people in most of the countries in the world. So you make an offer.
Maybe you make it yourself, but maybe you have someone else do it,
because you don't want the prospective agent to know who he's working
for. Not all CIA agents are what The Company calls witting.

PLAYBOY: How could a person be a CIA agent without knowing it?

AGEE: Thousands of policemen all over the world, for instance, are
shadowing people for the CIA without knowing it. They think they're
working for their own police departments, when, in fact, their chief may
be a CIA agent who's sending them out on CIA jobs and turning their
information over to his CIA control. There's also a lot of "false flag"
recruiting, when one agent will recruit another one by telling him he'll
actually be working for his own government, or even for Peking or
Havana. You don't let the recruit know he'll be working for the United
States, because if he knew that, he might not consent to do it.

PLAYBOY: How much do you pay a spy?

AGEE: It depends on local conditions. In a poor country, $100 a month
will get you an ordinary agent. In my day, about $700 a month would buy
a Latin-American cabinet minister.

PLAYBOY: After you've recruited your agent, what then?

AGEE: Then you've got to run him, and that's an exacting job--mainly
because of the secrecy. You both have to be very careful what you put on
paper or say on the phone. You communicate mostly by signals agreed upon
in advance. For example, you can make a chalk or pencil mark or place a
strip of colored tape in a certain telephone booth or on a fence, wall
or utility pole. Different marks or colors signify different
instructions. Since you usually can't be seen together, you have to meet
in what the CIA calls "a safe house." Sometimes, even that's too risky,
so you arrange for your agent to leave his information at a "dead drop,"
like a hollow place in a cement block or a magnetized container you can
fasten under the shelf in a telephone booth--anyplace a message or a
roll of microfilm or a reel of tape would be safe until it could be
picked up.

PLAYBOY: What if you suspect that an agent's information is false?

AGEE: You can put him through a polygraph test or cut off his
money--fire him. Or, if necessary, and headquarters approves, you can
"burn" him. In Companyese, that means to reveal his connection with the
agency, or frame him. I remember, for instance, the case of Joaquin
Ordoqui, who was an old-time leader of the Communist movement in Cuba. I
don't know if he was ever a CIA agent, but a decision was made to burn
him in order to create dissension in Cuba. So a series of letters
implicating him as a CIA agent was sent to the Cuban embassy in Mexico
City. In 1964, Ordoqui was placed under house arrest in Cuba and the
case caused a lot of friction there. Just before he died in 1974,
though, he was exonerated. In 1966, Stan Archenhold, the CIA officer who
dreamed up this burning operation, got the Intelligence Medal--the CIA's
biggest merit badge--for it. Then there's the really extreme situation
in which someone who has worked for the CIA has to be physically
eliminated for some reason or other. I don't know of any of these cases,
but I've heard that has happened, especially in Indochina during the
Sixties.
So the stick is a big element in keeping control of agents. But the
carrot, usually money, is at least as important.

PLAYBOY: How does a CIA officer make payments to his agents?

AGEE: In cash. Let's face it, you can't pay spies by check. The minute
you go into the bank, the operation goes public. No, toward the end of
every month. I'd go out with my pockets stuffed full of little pay
envelopes and run all over town to meet my agents in cars or safe houses
and pay them off. I had so many envelopes that once in a while I got
mixed up and gave an agent the wrong one. I always made them count the
cash in front of me, though, so I was able to correct those mistakes on
the spot.

PLAYBOY: Besides cash, what were you supplied with? Were you given James
Bond gadgets and trained to use them?

AGEE: Bond never had it so good. In CIA jargon, tradecraft covers the
tricky side of espionage; it includes all the techniques that keep a
secret operation secret. We learned how to write secret
messages--there's a carbon system, a microdot system and various wet
methods; we also learned how to open and then reseal a letter. Very
simple when you have the flat steam table.

PLAYBOY: What's that?

AGEE: It's a rectangular platform, about one foot by two feet, with a
heating element built into it and foam rubber all around the outside.
You plug the unit into a wall socket, let it heat up and put a wet
blotter on top of it. Right away, the steam begins to rise from the
blotter. By experience, you know just how wet to get it. Then you place
the envelope on top of the blotter, with the flap side down. In a matter
of seconds, any envelope will come right open. Later you reseal it--the
CIA makes a very effective clear glue. If it's done right, there's no
trace that the envelope has been tampered with.
We were also taught how to bug a room and how to restore a wall or a
ceiling to its original appearance afterward. The CIA puts out a
handy-dandy plaster-patching and paint-matching kit, by the way, that is
better than anything the public can buy. They give you about 150 chips
on a chain, practically every color you can think of. You just match the
chips to the wall paint until you get the right color. Then you look on
the back of the chip, which gives you the formula for mixing the paint.
It really works. I took the kit home one weekend when I was renovating
my apartment. It's superquick-drying, odorless paint.
They trained us in the use of disguises, too--wigs, mustaches, body
pads--and taught us to work with hidden cameras. Some of them had lenses
that looked like tie-clasp ornaments or locks on briefcases. The Company
had other cameras with telescopic lenses that could photograph documents
inside a room, right through a curtain. There was also a machine through
which we could overhear a conversation inside a room across the street;
it bounced an infrared beam off a window, using the windowpane to pick
up the vibrations of the voices inside the room. The reflected infrared
beam would carry the vibrations to a receiving set.

PLAYBOY: All that, we suppose, comes under the heading of gathering
information. What about the dirty tricks we hear the CIA pulls? Did you
have special gadgets for those, too?

AGEE: The CIA has a department called the Technical Services Division,
TSD, and its laboratories have produced all sorts of things. Some of
them are pretty unpleasant. For instance, TSD has developed an invisible
itching powder--I think it's made of asbestos fibers, actually--that
drives its victims wild for about three days. My agents used a lot of
it. They went to leftist meetings and sprinkled it on the seats of
toilets. TSD has also produced an invisible powder that will just lie
harmlessly on the floor--at a meeting hall, say--until people arrive and
start walking around, so the powder gets stirred up. Within about five
minutes, everybody in the room is gasping and watering at the eyes, and
the meeting has to break up.
I remember another chemical we had. If you dropped it into somebody's
drink, it would give him a horrible body odor. We also had a drug that
would make people say whatever they were thinking, just babble on. We
had a powder that, mixed with pipe tobacco or sifted into a cigarette,
would give the smoker an annoying respiratory ailment. We even had an
ointment that came in a little container that looked like a ring. On the
underside was a little compartment filled with ointment that, when you
smeared it unobtrusively on the door handle of a car, would give the
person who opened the door terrible burns on his hand. Ordinary stink
bombs were effective, too--small glass vials with the vilest-smelling
liquid on earth. One time at the Mexico City station, some clown poured
a bunch of that liquid down the drain. It was going bad. I guess. At
that time, the station occupied the upper floors of the embassy, in a
high-rise building. Somehow the liquid didn't run out into the sewer
system; it got caught in the basement area, and the smell began to seep
back upstairs. They had to evacuate the whole building for a while. I
heard that when the Ambassador asked the station chief if he knew
anything about it, the chief replied that somebody must have had a worse
case of Montezuma's revenge than usual.

PLAYBOY: But all those things--itching powder, stink bombs--are
incredibly petty, the kinds of things nasty little kids might think of.

AGEE: The CIA isn't always petty. For instance, we had a whole inventory
of sabotage devices. Chemicals to gum up printing presses, foul
bearings, contaminate wheat or rice or sugar sacks. There were limpets
to sink ships. Also some frightening stuff called thermite powder. Add a
little water and you could mold it like clay--into an ashtray or a book
end or a doll. It looked harmless, but when the time pencil up the
doll's behind ignited, there was a shuddering ball of violent white heat
that ate through concrete or even steel in a few seconds. There was no
way you could put it out. I heard it was a CIA thermite doll that burned
down El Encanto, the big department store in Havana. You could also
combine thermite with tear-gas rods and create a cloud that would clear
an area for blocks around.

PLAYBOY: Did you learn these techniques during your CIA training in the
States?

AGEE: Yes.

PLAYBOY: Where was your first assignment outside the country?

AGEE: Quito, Ecuador. I went there in December 1960 under cover as a
State Department political officer, but using my own name. My secret
Company name was Jeremy S. HODAPP. I fell in love with Ecuador. The
mountains are spectacular, and high; Quito is 9000 feet above sea level.
On the coastal plain, there are endless palm forests and banana
plantations. But the country is appallingly poor. When I was there, the
average income was $18 a month. A conservative upper class, about one
percent of the population, held most of the wealth. However, for about
12 years before I went there, Ecuador had been politically stable and
some economic progress was being made. But from 1961 to 1963, we really
subverted that country.

PLAYBOY: What was the point of that?

AGEE: Cuba was the point. The Cuban Revolution had swung to the far left
and the State Department was terrified. So were I.T.T. and United Fruit
and the big U.S. banks with Latin-American interests; they feared that
Cuba would export revolution to other countries in the hemisphere, and
then those countries might nationalize their holdings. So the top
priority of U.S. policy in Latin America became to seal off Cuba from
the continent. In Quito, our orders were to do everything possible to
force Ecuador to break diplomatic and economic relations with Cuba and
to weaken the Communist Party there whatever it cost?

PLAYBOY: What did it cost?

AGEE: About $2,000,000. We bought everybody willing to sell himself to
get our jobs done. The vice-president of the country--his name was
Reinaldo Varea--was a CIA agent. We paid him $1000 a month and kept a
suite for him in Quito's best hotel, where he could take his
girlfriends. The president's personal physician, Felipe Ovalle, was on
the CIA's payroll, too. So were the president of the Chamber of
Deputies, the minister of the treasury, the minister of labor and the
chief of police intelligence. So were the leaders of several right-wing
political parties and some key members of the Communist Party, too.
Several ministers of government and the director of immigration also
worked closely with us. It was like a covert occupation of the country.
But, at the time, I didn't see anything wrong in what we were doing. I
believed what the CIA told me, that we were buying time for liberal
reforms by checking the spread of communism. So I went out and worked
like a demon to make that policy effective. We ran over Ecuador like a
steam roller. It was like living a fantasy of absolute power. That's one
of the insidious things about the CIA. If you get exciting assignments,
you can get hooked on your own adrenaline.

PLAYBOY: Let's get into some of those assignments.

AGEE: Don't think it was all excitement. A CIA officer spends at least
half of his day on paperwork. Then he spends hours in musty little
basement rooms, waiting for agents to show up and make their reports.
Then he spends more hours listening to agents' problems--how their
girlfriends are pregnant, how their cars need new transmissions, how
their brothers-in-law would make good spies. When he isn't mothering
agents, a CIA officer is at a cocktail party or a diplomatic reception
or trudging around some golf course, sucking up to a corrupt politician
in hopes of corrupting him still further. But some wild things did
happen. I would say maybe our most successful operation in Ecuador was
the framing of Antonio Flores Benitez, a key member of a Communist
revolutionary movement.

PLAYBOY: Tell us about that one.

AGEE: By bugging Flores' telephone, we found out a lot of what he was
doing. His wife was a blabbermouth. He made a secret trip to Havana and
we decided to do a job on him when he landed back in Ecuador. With
another officer, I worked all one weekend to compose a "report" from
Flores to the Cubans. It was a masterpiece. The report implied that
Flores' group had already received funds from Cuba and was now asking
for more money in order to launch guerrilla operations in Ecuador. My
Quito station chief, Warren Dean, approved the report--in fact, he loved
it so much he just had to get into the act. So he dropped the report on
the floor and walked on it awhile to make it look pocket-worn. Then he
folded it and stuffed it into a toothpaste tube--from which he had spent
three hours carefully squeezing out all the tooth paste. He was like a
kid with a new toy. So then I took the tube out to the minister of the
treasury, who gave it to his customs inspector. When Flores came through
customs, the inspector pretended to go rummaging through one of his
suitcases. What he really did, of course, was slip the tooth-paste tube
into the bag and then pretend to find it there. When he opened the tube,
he of course "discovered" the report. Flores was arrested and there was
a tremendous scandal. This was one of a series of sensational events
that we had a hand in during the first six months of 1963. By July of
that year, the climate of anti-Communist fear was so great that the
military seized a pretext and took over the government, jailed all the
Communists it could find and outlawed the Communist Party.

PLAYBOY: Is forgery often resorted to by the CIA?

AGEE: It's a standard technique. The catalyst for the coup in Chile was
almost exactly like the Flores incident. A document describing a leftist
plot to seize absolute power and start a reign of terror was
"discovered" by the enemies of Allende. Plan Z, it was called. It made
big headlines and the military used it as an excuse to take over the
country and start a real reign of terror. I can't prove it, but I
strongly suspect that Plan Z was written by a CIA officer, or by the
coup makers at the CIA's suggestion.

PLAYBOY: You mentioned that the Communist Party was outlawed in Ecuador.
Did you succeed in your other objective, getting the Ecuadorian
government to break off relationships with Cuba?

AGEE: Yes. The government of JosŠ Maria Velasco Ibarra, who was a
moderate liberal, had resisted breaking with Cuba. He was followed in
1961 by a moderate leftist, Carlos Julio Arosemena, who also tried at
first to resist U.S. policy. Finally, though, he caved in and broke with
Cuba after about six months in office. When I left Ecuador, with the
military junta in power, the short-run security situation had been
improved from our viewpoint, but there hadn't been much improvement for
most of the people there. Practically none of the reforms everyone
agreed were needed--redistribution of income, agrarian reform, and so
forth--had been installed. Do you know that today the Ecuadorian
government is still talking about those reforms without really acting on
them? But, at that time, I didn't realize how reactionary the effects of
our CIA operations really were.

PLAYBOY: Why not?

AGEE: For one thing, I suppose, I barely had time to stop and turn
around. The job of an operations officer calls for dedication to the
point of obsession, if you try to do it well. You have too many secrets;
you can't relax with outsiders. It's a very unnatural life, hard on the
people who live it. There's a lot of alcoholism and a lot of emotional
breakdowns in the CIA.

PLAYBOY: What sort of breakdowns?

AGEE: I'm not an expert on this, but it's a schizophrenic sort of
situation. Sometimes a CIA officer is using several identities at once,
and when you wake up in the morning, your mind goes click! OK, who am I
today? All day long, there's the same problem. Somebody asks you a
simple question: "What did you do over the weekend?" Click! Who does
he think I am? What would the guy he thinks I am do over the weekend?
You get so used to lying that after a while it's hard to know when
you're telling the truth.

PLAYBOY: How did that sort of stress affect CIA marriages?

AGEE: It didn't do mine any good. I had married Janet the year before I
went to Ecuador, but after we got there, we began to have difficulty. I
was gone all day and half the night and when we did see each other, I
couldn't tell her what I was doing. On top of that, she had trouble
learning Spanish, so she was somewhat cut off from the Ecuadorians. More
and more, she spent her time playing bridge with embassy wives.

PLAYBOY: What did you do when you weren't working?

AGEE: I had some pretty wild friends, and some close calls; barely
missed a scandal several times. One time--God, was I lucky! I went to
Guayaquil for the weekend. It's a steamy, tropical town and I spent
Saturday night with a convivial agent, making the rounds of the sleazier
dives. About 15 minutes after we left one of them, a place called Cuatro
y Media, President Arosemena and some of his cronies came in. The
waiters in that joint were all homosexual and Arosemena and his friends
began to taunt them. Arosemena would get wild when he drank, and after a
while he ordered one of the waiters to put a lamp shade on his head.
Then he took out his pistol, but instead of shooting the lamp shade off,
he shot the waiter in the head. The whole affair was hushed up, so I
still don't know if the man was killed or just wounded. But if I'd been
in the Cuatro y Media when the shot was fired and the Ambassador had
found out, I'd have had to leave the country.

PLAYBOY: Which, of course, you eventually did--though not under a cloud.
What was your next station?

AGEE: Montevideo, and I think Uruguay had something to do with turning
me around in my attitudes toward the CIA. For years, Uruguay had been
one of the most prosperous and progressive countries on the continent.
It had a $700-a-year per-capita income and a 90 percent literacy rate,
an eight-hour day, a minimum wage, workmen's compensation, free,
secular, state-supported education, free elections. The country was
showcase of liberal reform, but in the Fifties some deep cracks showed
up in the window. The reforms hadn't touched land tenure--a few rich men
owned most of the countryside. Uruguay had a sheep-and-cattle economy,
and a collapse in the prices of wool, hides and meat after the Korean
War sent the country into a tail spin of inflation, deficits,
unemployment, stagnation, strikes and corruption. The left was getting
stronger, and the CIA reinforced its station in Montevideo.

PLAYBOY: When did you arrive in Uruguay, and what did you do there?

AGEE: I got there in March 1964 and stayed about two and a half years.
We pretty well ran the military and the police intelligence services,
gave them information from our penetration agents in the Communist Party
and used the police to tap telephones. I ran an operation to bug the
United Arab Republic's embassy, which enabled us to break the U.A.R.'s
diplomatic codes. My main responsibility, though, was for operations
against the Cubans. We had an agent in the Cuban embassy, the chauffeur,
and we thought at one point that we'd recruited the Cuban code clerk. We
offered him $50,000 for a look at the code pads and $3000 a month if
he'd continue working at the embassy, but at the last minute he backed
out. I'm glad now that we lost him, but I was really disappointed then.

PLAYBOY: What about the Russians? Did you run any operations against
them?

AGEE: Another officer was in charge of anti-Soviet operations, but after
we finally got the Uruguayans to break with Cuba, I began working
against the Soviets. In fact, I really made trouble for the Russians in
Uruguay. It all began when I met a K.G.B. officer from the Soviet
embassy named Sergei Borisov. We met at the Montevideo Diplomatic Club
and struck up a kind of unreal friendship. He knew what I was, I knew
what he was. We both knew we were spying on each other, but we went
ahead and did it anyway, because it was part of the game we were
playing. It was like chess. In fact, we sometimes played chess and he
beat my ass off every time, but I liked to think I beat him at the spy
game.

PLAYBOY: How?

AGEE: Well, it started by my inviting Sergei and his wife, Nina, to
dinner at our house. Then we began to see them every month or so. Go to
the beach, have dinner, drink a little vodka and play some chess while
the wives talked girl talk. Then one day our telephone tap on the Soviet
embassy gave us a sensational piece of information about infidelity in
the Borisov mŠnage.

PLAYBOY: You mean Sergei was sneaking out for a quick one now and then?

AGEE: No. Nina was! Sergei had a new boss, a K.G.B. station chief named
Khalturin, and one of Khalturin's first unofficial acts after arriving
in the country, even before he had a permanent place to live, was to
jump into bed with Nina. Then I found out that Khalturin was interested
in an apartment owned by a friend of mine, a Philip Morris distributor
named Carlos Salguero. Salguero agreed to make sure Khalturin took the
apartment--but to give us access before the Russian moved in. We bugged
the sofa and the bed, and we got another apartment on the floor above
and just off to one side. My secretary moved into the other apartment
until we could find an agent to cover it. To operate the bugs, we used
one of the CIA's less amazing technological achievements, a
transmitter-receiver that was fitted into a gray, two-suiter Samsonite
suitcase and gave us nothing but trouble.

PLAYBOY: What went wrong?

AGEE: Well, for one thing, the damned thing put out so much radiation
that you had to wear a lead apron so the radiation wouldn't homogenize
your balls. And for another, you had to tilt the suitcase to just the
right angle so that the beam was aimed directly at the switches in
Khalturin's apartment. Otherwise, the switches would get stuck in the On
or Off position and somebody would have to sneak into his apartment to
move them.

PLAYBOY: What did you learn from Nina and Khalturin's conversations?

AGEE: It's funny, I don't know. None of us could understand Russian, so
we sent the tapes to headquarters to be transcribed, and I was so busy
with other operations that I never bothered to read the English
transcriptions that came back. But that situation served as the basis
for one of the weirdest operational ideas I ever had. I suggested to
Washington that I should arrange to find myself alone with Sergei and
tell him how sorry I was to hear that his wife was having an affair with
his boss. That would have put Sergei and Khalturin into a tricky
situation on two levels, personal and political.

PLAYBOY: We can see the personal problem, but how would it affect them
politically?

AGEE: Well, if a Russian told Sergei his wife was having an affair with
his boss, he would not be obliged to report it to Moscow. Extramarital
affairs in a Soviet colony abroad are, in fact, rather common. Sergei
might even have known about the affair and was allowing it to continue.
But if a CIA man told Sergei about the affair, that would be another
matter altogether. All CIA contacts must be reported. Not to report what
I said would be to take a first step toward treason. If he did report
it, he'd create an uncomfortable situation for himself and for
Khalturin. What I hoped, of course, was that he wouldn't. Then we might
have gotten him into a position for blackmail. If he told his wife what
I'd said, we'd have her, too. And if Nina told Khalturin and we got
their conversation on tape, we could make big trouble for all of them.
We might even find ourselves with some very valuable new assets inside
the K.G.B.

PLAYBOY: So what happened?

AGEE: Washington killed the idea. They were afraid Sergei might throw a
punch at me and cause a flap. I think they were wrong.

PLAYBOY: So that was that?

AGEE: Far from it. We kept right on after Khalturin. I helped forge a
document pretty much like the Flores report, this time seeming to
involve the Soviet embassy in Uruguay with the damaging strikes the
country had been having. By using some of our well-placed agents in the
Uruguayan government, we had six officers in the Russian embassy
expelled, most of them from Khalturin's department. That left him
terribly shorthanded, so he had to work day and night. From our
observation posts at the Soviet embassy, we could see him coming and
going, and he looked really run-down. We hoped he might crack. But I
left Uruguay before Khalturin and the Borisovs did, so I don't know what
finally happened with them.

PLAYBOY: But something happened to you? You were saying that in Uruguay
you began to have a change of heart about the CIA.

AGEE: Yes. Part of the trouble was the atmosphere in the Montevideo
station. Ned Holman, the chief, was a really unpleasant, middle-aged
ex-FBI man. And God, was he lazy! He was only four years from
retirement and all he wanted to do was serve out his time. When anything
went wrong, he wrote scurrilous letters about his officers to our
superiors in Washington. I found the combination to his file and read
them. He gave me good reports, because I was a bear for work, but he
really hurt most of the others. There was a foul atmosphere there.

PLAYBOY: What about the atmosphere in your home?

AGEE: That kept getting worse, too. And so did the atmosphere in the
country. While I was in Uruguay, inflation soared from 33.5 percent a
year to more than 100 percent. For months on end, one sector of the
economy or another was paralyzed by strikes. The more I got to know
about the corrupt government we were backing, the less I liked my work.
I began to see that the landowners, ranchers, bankers and
professionals--a small minority--were using the government for their own
selfish purposes. Why were we supporting such people? Then came the
invasion of the Dominican Republic by U.S. Marines. That really got to
me. It was done under the pretext that the Dominican Republic might
become another Cuba, which was so absurd I had to wonder what the real
reason was. For the first time, I had to consider that the CIA might not
really be serving the cause of liberal reform. And then one day I got a
shock that's still painful to talk about.

PLAYBOY: What was it?

AGEE: I overheard a man being tortured by the police--a man I'd fingered
for them. You know, at that time, the police in Latin-American countries
didn't use torture as some of them do now. For years I'd been having
people arrested, but I don't think I'd ever actually seen what happened
to them afterward. Then, in December 1965, during a state of siege, I
told the Uruguayan police to pick up a Communist named Oscar Bonaudi for
preventive detention, because he was quite active in street
demonstrations. About five days later, the new chief of station, John
Horton, and I were visiting police headquarters to show the police chief
a forged document we'd prepared, and I began to hear moans coming from
somewhere above the police chief's office. The chief was embarrassed and
told one of his assistants to turn up the radio. I remember there was a
soccer game on. Well, the moans got louder and the assistant kept
turning up the radio. Finally, the moans turned to screams and the radio
was blaring so loudly we couldn't hear ourselves talk. I had this
strange feeling--terror and helplessness. Two days later, I found out
that the man they had been torturing was Bonaudi.

PLAYBOY: What was your reaction?

AGEE: I can't describe it. I just know that after that, I began to
notice certain things and think about them. For instance, I began to
observe what happened to Company men as they got older. Unless they made
it to a high-level job, a lot of them turned into pale-faced paper
pushers who believed in nothing but their pensions. Burned-out cases.
Was I going to be like that in 15 years? It worried me.

PLAYBOY: When did you decide to quit The Company?

AGEE: Before I left Uruguay. But I decided not to leave until I found
another job. When I was transferred back to Washington in the fall of
1966, Janet and I separated, so my expenses were pretty high. We had two
children, Christopher, who was then two, and Philip, who was five. Then
I had a piece of luck. I was sent to Mexico City--assigned, along with
another man who was legitimate, not CIA, as one of the U.S Ambassador's
attachŠs for the 1968 Olympic games. I spent a very pleasant year and a
half working on that assignment. The CIA's purpose in sending me was to
use the Olympic milieu to recruit new agents. I met a lot of people,
didn't recruit any, and meanwhile learned quite a bit about the CIA's
operation in Mexico.

PLAYBOY: Is it a sizable one?

AGEE: Huge. The station's annual budget even then was $5,500,000. And
the Mexicans were very cooperative. With Mexican security's help, the
station was able to tap as many as 40 telephone lines at once. The
president of the country at the time, Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, was a very
close CIA collaborator. So was his predecessor, Adolfo Lopez Mateos. The
current Mexican president, Luis Echeverr a, also was a station
contact--when he was Diaz Ordaz' minister for internal security. But I'm
pretty sure Echeverr a has broken with the CIA; in fact, he's now
denouncing it and accusing it of fomenting demonstrations by what he
calls "young fascists" against his administration.

PLAYBOY: Did you learn about any interesting operations in Mexico?

AGEE: Two. One was a defection operation, the other involved the use of
a woman as bait. In the defection business, I learned how much the CIA
would pay to get what it wanted. We had access through one of our agents
to a senior K.G.B. officer named Pavel Yatskov, who happened to be a
fanatic about fishing. Well, cool as you please, the Soviet Bloc
Division in headquarters proposed to induce Yatskov to defect by
offering him $500,000! Not only that, but the CIA was willing to set
him up with an elaborate cover as the owner of an income-producing
fishing lodge in Canada. The reason this plan wasn't adopted was that we
feared that our own man may have been a double agent, secretly recruited
by Yatskov.

PLAYBOY: And the case in which a woman was used as bait?

AGEE: Straight out of Ian Fleming. She was a young Mexican girl,
recruited through a local businessman. She was used as bait to lure the
administrative officer of the Soviet embassy, a man named Silnikov. He
used to spend a lot of time horsing around with the owner of a tiny
grocery store near the Soviet embassy--who just happened to be a CIA
agent. The Soviets bought a lot of Coca-Cola there and at one time the
CIA was working on ways to bug the Coke bottles that went into their
embassy. Anyway, it became obvious that Silnikov rose to the bait, shall
we say. After some hot necking sessions in the back of the store, they
went to the girl's pad, where, unbeknownst to her, a bug and a hidden
camera had been installed. I don't know how much information Silnikov
spilled, if any, but his virility was beyond belief.

PLAYBOY: When you left the CIA, did you let The Company know how you
felt about what it was doing?

AGEE: Hell, no! I wanted them to think I was still a loyal agency
supporter--that there were no political reasons for my resigning--so I
told them I was leaving for personal reasons. This was true as far as it
went, because the CIA knew I was planning to marry a woman I'd met
through the Olympics and to live permanently in Mexico. If The Company
had known how I really felt, it could have made it impossible, through
its Mexican government friends, for me to remain in Mexico. As it was,
the CIA urged me to stay in The Company and offered me another
promotion. But I refused. In fact, I did something you have to be pretty
damn careful not to do in the CIA. I refused to obey an order.

PLAYBOY: Is that like refusing to obey an order in the military?

AGEE: Almost as bad. It happened like this: Janet was resentful because
of the breakup and other things, so when I took a trip to Washington,
she refused to let me take the children back to Mexico for a visit. I
took them anyway and Janet was furious. She said if I didn't send them
back, she'd expose me as a CIA officer. I knew she was bluffing, but The
Company didn't. So Win Scott, the station chief, called me in and said,
"Send them back." I said, "No. If you want to fire me right now, OK, I
quit." They couldn't fire me, because the Ambassador needed me; it
would have been too awkward for him to fire one of his Olympic attachŠs
on the eve of the games. But they were really in a lather.

PLAYBOY: The CIA felt that you were disloyal?

AGEE: To put it mildly. But, in fact, I wasn't really disloyal to the
CIA even then. When I resigned, I had no intention of writing a book, of
doing the CIA any harm. I was still a prisoner of middle-class
respectability and of that pervasive CIA security consciousness. I went
to work for a friend in Mexico City who was marketing a new product, and
I figured I'd just forget I'd ever worked for the CIA.

PLAYBOY: But you couldn't forget?

AGEE: I couldn't forget. The memories kept coming back like things I'd
swallowed but couldn't digest. Then my marriage plans fell through and I
had plenty of time to think. The feeling began to grow inside me that I
had some message to give--that I should tell the American people what
their Government was doing in their name. I found myself making notes.
First I thought of writing sort of a scholarly treatise on the CIA. I
wrote an outline and took it to New York. Five publishers turned it
down. But I'm stubborn, you know. I'm a Capricorn, if that means
anything. Headstrong. So back in Mexico, a friend who knew Franc‡ois
Maspero, a radical publisher in Paris, put me in touch with him. And,
well, Maspero agreed to give me a small advance and help me get the book
written. But I couldn't find the research material I needed in Mexico.
You see, I had no notes from my CIA days; I had to find contemporary
sources to refresh my memory, so I could reconstruct events. I could
have continued in Paris or maybe London, someplace outside the
jurisdiction of U.S. courts, so they couldn't enjoin my work as they had
Marchetti's. Another possibility was Havana, and with Maspero's help,
arrangements were made for me to go there.

PLAYBOY: Why Havana?

AGEE: We found that there were newspapers and magazines and other
reference works at the National Library and the Casa de las Americas.
But, besides, I really wanted to see for myself what the Cuban
Revolution was all about.

PLAYBOY: How much were you allowed to see in Cuba?

AGEE: They let me go anywhere except onto military reservations. In
1971, I traveled all over the island, and I was impressed. The Cubans
were quite enthusiastic about the Revolution, in spite of the many
hardships caused by the U.S. economic blockade--and by their own
mistakes, too. They supported their government; they were convinced it
was giving them a fair deal. So was I. Cuba had done what the other
Latin-American countries had pledged to do in the early Sixties: It had
redistributed income and integrated its society.

PLAYBOY: Did the CIA discover in 1971 that you were inside Cuba?

AGEE: Surprisingly, I don't think they did. I knew The Company checks
passenger manifests on all planes and ships that make stops in Cuba.
Somehow they missed me. I guess good luck made me reckless, because
before leaving Havana to continue research in Paris, I did something
really foolish. I wrote a long, signed letter to a Montevideo political
journal, describing some of the CIA's covert-action operations in
Uruguay. There was an electoral campaign on there and I thought I could
help the left-wing coalition--which was similar to the Popular Unity
coalition that had elected Allende in Chile the year before--by
suggesting that the CIA would be helping the corrupt traditional
parties. It was as if I had forgotten everything I had learned about the
CIA and how dangerous it can be. I was damn soon reminded, though.

PLAYBOY: What happened?

AGEE: I was visited in Paris by a CIA officer named Keith Gardiner, a
Harvard type, a guy I'd known a long time, who told me that Richard
Helms, who was director of the CIA then, wanted to know what the hell I
thought I was doing by writing that letter to the Montevideo
publication. It was a scary moment. I decided I'd better bluff. I
figured that if The Company knew how little work I'd actually done on
the book--less than a third of the research--they might figure it was
safe to get rough. So I told them it was already written and I was
cutting it to a publishable length. I promised to submit the final draft
to the CIA before publication.

PLAYBOY: But you didn't?

AGEE: I never intended to. At that time, I was just trying to calm them
down. I hoped that would stall them for a while, but I couldn't be
certain, and from that moment on, I lived under a big strain.

PLAYBOY: Were you afraid you might be assassinated?

AGEE: I was too busy to think about that. But I was jumpy. For one
thing, I wasn't sure to what lengths the French secret service might go
to please The Company. At the very least, I was afraid I might be
deported and put on some plane that made its first stop in New York.

PLAYBOY: Did you see any indication that your fears were justified?

AGEE: A few months after Gardiner's visit, I noticed I was being
followed on the street. I couldn't be sure if it was CIA people or a
French liaison operation working at the CIA's request. And I had no idea
what they might be setting me up for. For all I knew, they might have
been a bunch of killers. Anyway, about the same time, my advance from
the publisher ran out. The situation was pretty grim. The CIA was after
me and sometimes I literally didn't have a franc for cigarettes. I felt
pretty damn small and alone. Friends helped out with food and some small
cash donations, and to avoid the surveillance, I went to live in the
room of a friend who's an artist. In the daytime, I worked as usual at
the library doing my research, but I kept the place where I was living a
secret.

PLAYBOY: How did you duck the people who were tailing you?

AGEE: It wasn't too hard. I'd take the MŠtro, for example, the Paris
subway, and when the train arrived, I'd just stand by the door and let
it go off again and see if anybody had stayed in the station with me
when all the other people were gone. Or when I got off the train, I'd
stay there on the platform and let everybody leave and then see if
anybody else had remained on the platform. Usually, there was a group of
three or four of them. Once identified, they'd be easy to lose. One
time, when I had a little cash, I took a cab. My retinue took a cab,
too. I told my driver to stop at the Arc de Triomphe. When he did, I
pretended to be fumbling for my money, but I was really watching my
surveillance team in the rearview mirror. They got out of their cab
fast, all set to keep following me on foot. But the minute their cab
drove off, I told my driver I'd decided to ride a little farther. So we
pulled away and left them standing there. I couldn't resist--I turned
around slowly, held my hand up and gave them the finger.

PLAYBOY: Besides following you, did The Company make any other moves?

AGEE: Some surprisingly obvious ones. A CIA man visited my father in
Florida and tried to scare him about what might happen to me. Another
CIA man called on Janet and got her to write me a letter of concern. He
also told her they'd pay me to stop and not publish. She didn't tell me
this, but my older son did--he was listening secretly. God, I hope
spying isn't congenital!
In the spring of 1972, The Company moved against me more directly. A
young man who said his name was Sal Ferrera showed up in a cafŠ I liked
and introduced himself as an underground journalist. I told him who I
was and what I was doing. He offered me a small loan and suggested that
he might do an interview with me. I was desperate for money, so I took
the loan and let him have the interview. He bought me a dinner one night
and afterward we met a woman named Leslie Donegan, who said she was a
Venezuelan heiress. At Sal's urging, I saw Leslie again and soon she
offered to support me while I finished the book--provided I let her read
the manuscript. I needed money so badly I let her have a copy for a few
days.

PLAYBOY: Did Leslie come through with the money?

AGEE: In dribs and drabs, enough to keep me going. It's ironic to think
that the book may have got finished partly because the CIA, through
Leslie, supported me through my darkest hour. But the situation had its
risks. I was just plain foolish to keep seeing Sal and Leslie. The
bugged typewriter was the last straw.

PLAYBOY: The CIA bugged your typewriter?

AGEE: Sal lent me a portable that Leslie eventually switched for a
different one. I took it to my secret living place. One afternoon I went
out to get a bottle of beer and when I went back to the room, I saw a
man and a woman in the hall outside my door. When they saw me, they
began kissing. I thought right away they might be surveillance
agents--but how had they found out where I lived? The friend whose room
I was staying in went out to see what they were doing in the hall. When
they saw her, they hurried down the back stairs but couldn't get out the
back door, because it was locked. When she followed them down, they
started embracing and whispering again and then ran up to the main floor
and escaped by the front door. They had something bulky under their
coats--probably the receiving set for monitoring the bug in the
typewriter.

PLAYBOY: The typewriter had led them to you?

AGEE: This typewriter--the one you see right here on the table. The one
that's photographed on the cover of my book. After catching the
monitors, I began to examine the typewriter Leslie had given me. I
noticed that when it was facing a certain way, I heard a beeping sound
on my FM radio. So I tore off the lining on the inside roof of the case
and there it was--a complicated system of miniaturized transistors,
batteries, circuits, antennas, even a tiny switch glued flat against the
roof of the case.

PLAYBOY: Have you ever been accused of rigging this yourself to
discredit the CIA?

AGEE: I wouldn't know how to make one of these. My editor in London had
a technical study made and the thing is legitimate--made in TSD.


PLAYBOY: So they'd found out where you lived--what did they do then?

AGEE: I didn't give them a chance to do anything. I left that room the
same day and slept in a different hotel every night until I took off for
London.

PLAYBOY: Why did you go to London?

AGEE: Partly to get information, partly to look for a new publisher. I
found one almost overnight. An editor of Penguin Books, Neil Middleton,
believed in the book and gave me an advance. I also found the
information I still needed. I'd been looking desperately for
Latin-American newspapers that covered the years when I was there. John
Gerassi, who has written extensively on Latin America and was teaching
at the University of Paris when I was in France, had told me the British
Museum had completed files and he was right. They were just what I
needed. I decided to stay in London and rewrite the book. With all the
new material available, I saw I could reconstruct a diary of the whole
period. I finished the research in eight months, then in the next six
months I wrote over 600 pages in a terrific burst of work.

PLAYBOY: Did the new material inspire you?

AGEE: Well, it wasn't only the material. I had met a young woman just
before I left Paris. Angela's a Brazilian in her early 20s. We fell in
love before she knew I had worked for the CIA and before I knew she had
been in prison and been tortured by the CIA-supported military regime in
Brazil. Strange, isn't it, that two people with such opposite
experiences should have come together? It was from Angela that I learned
the full horror of what I had been doing in supporting repression. When
I was in Montevideo, I was actually in charge of spying on Brazilian
exiles who opposed the military regime and had fled to Uruguay. I
reported on their activities to our CIA station in Rio. Anyway, Angela
came over to London a few months after I did and we've been together
ever since. She was a tremendous help with the book, reading and
discussing every sentence with me, helping with the typing and the
Xeroxing. I was so scared that the CIA might try to steal the manuscript
that every time I got 20 or 30 pages done, we'd Xerox copies and hide
them all over London.

PLAYBOY: You say Angela was tortured by the Brazilian government?

AGEE: In early 1970; she was 19, a student at Catholic University in
Rio. She had gotten involved in radical politics and had to go
underground, and was wounded in an ambush by the military police. They
left her for dead and she had almost escaped when they spotted her and
hauled her off to an interrogation center, where they began to torture
her.

PLAYBOY: What kinds of torture did they use?

AGEE: Clubs, truncheons, fists. They hung her upside down from a bar and
beat her. They would stand behind her and clap her ears as hard as they
could with both hands. She says her head felt as if it were exploding,
blood spurted out of her ears and she passed out. But most of the
torture was done with a field telephone. They attached electrodes to
sensitive parts of the body, the nipples or the lips, and then cranked
the telephone as hard as they could. Sometimes they poured water on her
before they turned the crank; because water is a conductor of
electricity, the pain was even more excruciating. One of her torturers
got the bright idea of putting the electrodes on her gunshot wound and
then cranking the generator. The electricity forced the wound open
again. Somehow Angela held out. All she admitted under torture, which
went on over a period of maybe four months, was her membership in an
underground party--and she was ashamed of admitting that. A year and a
half after she was arrested, she went to trial. A year after that, she
finally got out. Her closest relative, an aunt who is a lawyer, shipped
her out of the country.

PLAYBOY: Is torture still going on in Brazil?

AGEE: Every day. There's one difference. At first, the torturers wore
name plates and didn't bother to hide their faces. Later, after several
were executed by revolutionaries, the torturers got nervous and began to
hood their victims. But many names were already known. They turned up in
Chile, too, and were recognized there. After Allende fell, the Brazilian
military lent the Chilean military some of its most successful torture
teams as a gesture of good will.

PLAYBOY: How is Angela now?

AGEE: Solid. No emotional scars that I can see. A very gentle and
spiritual woman. She's with me and my children, who are living with us
permanently now, in England. The book is for her and for all the people
who have suffered torture because of the CIA. You know, when and if the
history of the CIA's support to torturers gets written--not just in
Brazil but in Chile, Uruguay, Portugal, Greece, Iran, Indonesia, above
all in Vietnam--my God, it'll be the all-time horror story.

PLAYBOY: Has The Company kept after you in England the way it did in
France?

AGEE: I've been shadowed and my phone was tapped.

PLAYBOY: People are always saying their phones are tapped. How do you
know your phone was tapped?

AGEE: How about this? Just last week, at home, the telephone went dead
for a couple of hours. Then it rang and a guy on the line asked, "Is
this a WB 400 number?" or some letters like that and then a number. And
I said, "What's that?" And he said, "Oh, this is the telephone-company
engineer, and we've just installed a new cable up the hill toward your
house, and I'm in here in the exchange right now, connecting it." And I
said, "What do you mean, a WB 400 number?" And he said, "Oh, you know,
it's one of those observation lines." And I said, "Observing what?" He
said, "Well, they don't tell you very much about it. I'm new; this is my
first job. But there's this little black box on the frame here where
your pair is." And I said, "Well, I don't know." And he said, "Well,
now tell me, are you . . . is this a private line?" And I said, "Yes."
And he said, "Oh, excuse me. Yes, yes, yes--everything's all right.
Thanks. Bye." I checked later with some people who know about phone
tapping in Britain, and they have a system there for monitoring lines
where they have obscene or threatening calls, and they use that as a
cover for political line tapping.

PLAYBOY: Have there been any obvious attempts to harass you?

AGEE: Nothing overt until Angela and I and the boys went on a two-week
trip to Portugal over Christmas and New Year's. We went with the car by
ferry from Southampton to San Sebasti‚n, Spain, and when we were
rolling off the ferry, Christopher said, "Hey, Dad, I just saw that
policeman looking at our license plate and now he's making a phone
call." Sure enough, when we pulled out of the docking area, five cars
pulled out after us! We looked like a funeral procession. It was
obvious what had happened: The CIA had known of our trip from the
telephone tap and had asked the Spanish service to shadow us--I hoped
that was all. But it occurred to me, for instance, that they could have
planted some drugs in my car. If they stopped us and "found" drugs, I
could be put away for 20 years! Anyway, with that army on our tail, I
figured they had something major in mind, but I knew I couldn't outrun
them. They were all in big cars and I was driving a little VW. So I just
moseyed along steadily for an hour or so. Occasionally, one of them
would pass me, then drop back. Once I pulled into a rest area just as
one of the drivers was changing his license plates--the CIA makes an
all-purpose quick-change license-plate bracket that fits different sizes
of plates from different countries. When we reached the caves at
Altamira, two of our shadows went down into the caves with us to see the
pre-historic paintings. When we came out, I saw another agent holding in
a curious way what looked like a TSD briefcase. So I drifted in his
direction and when I passed him, I heard the camera inside the briefcase
go zing!
It was getting scary, but suddenly I had a real bit of luck. We came
to a city named Torrelavega. It was about six, the rush hour, and the
streets were crowded with cars. Up ahead there was a big intersection,
maybe seven streets coming together and one traffic cop in the middle,
trying to keep all the lines moving. OK, I thought, this is my chance. I
stopped the car against the cop's signal and pretended I was stalled. He
got hysterical. There were horns blowing, mass confusion. The cop forced
all the cars behind me, including, of course, all the surveillance cars,
to go around me and keep moving. I watched which streets they turned
into, then took a different street and made a couple of quick turns.
Pretty soon I was on the back road to Burgos and we never saw them
again. But that was lucky. They were asleep.

PLAYBOY: Do you think The Company is behind the leaks that have been
made to the press about you in the past year?

AGEE: Sure it is. During the Watergate hearings, while Senator Howard
Baker was investigating the CIA's involvement, he came across a veiled
mention of a "WH Flap." He assumed the phrase meant White House Flap.
Actually, it meant Western Hemisphere Flap and referred to me and my
book. This had to be explained to Senator Baker. The CIA figured that
someone would talk and the cat would soon be out of the bag. So an
attempt was made to discredit me in advance. A story was leaked to The
New York Times, A.P., The Washington Post and Newsweek about a "drunk
and despondent former CIA officer" who was talking to the K.G.B.,
telling them all about the CIA.

PLAYBOY: And were you drunk and despondent?

AGEE: Why should I be? I'd finally finished my book.

PLAYBOY: Were you talking to the K.G.B.?

AGEE: No way. And they knew I wasn't. In the CIA's so-called news leak,
the CIA officer wasn't identified, the K.G.B. people weren't identified,
the time and place and substance of the supposed conversations weren't
given. Nevertheless, the Times and Newsweek fell for the story and
printed it as fact. The Washington Post printed an item but said it was
unconfirmed.

PLAYBOY: Nobody bothered to check the story out?

AGEE: That's right. Where the CIA is concerned, very few journalists
have learned to tell information from disinformation. But that time, the
smear wound up on the CIA's face, and I owe that to Victor Marchetti. By
the way, the CIA tried to get Marchetti to spy on me. When The Company
heard that he was going to England, they asked him to steal my
manuscript so they could read it. We think they already had a copy of
the book and were just trying to use him so they could discredit him
with his friends as an informer. Of course, he turned them down.... But
getting back to the smear story. Marchetti told Larry Stern of The
Washington Post what the CIA was trying to do to me, and Larry flew over
to England to see me and got the facts and printed them. The Times sent
Dick Eder to see me and then printed an item saying its source had
retracted the story. It's a small victory, I guess, but to me it's not a
trivial one. If the press can start to expose some of the CIA's little
lies, maybe someday it'll get around to exposing some of the big ones.
The big victory for me right now, of course, is the publication of
the book and the fact that it's a success. But I've been lucky to get
this far, when you think of the odds. My father thinks what I'm doing is
some kind of personal vendetta against the agency--not so, of course,
but the agency sure trashed me in an effort to complicate my
negotiations for U.S. publication of my book. There was, for example, a
series of leaks to Jack Anderson that he obligingly printed, to the
effect that I'm under some kind of Cuban-government control. Too bad
about Anderson. You'd think he'd have wanted to help get my book
published in the U.S., since his so-called CIA sources confirmed its
accuracy to him. But it finally is getting published there. The CIA
can't hide its crimes from the American public forever, and I'll bet
other books will follow Marchetti's and mine.

PLAYBOY: But doesn't the CIA have a legitimate bone to pick with you?
For instance, like Daniel Ellsberg, you've been accused of violating a
secrecy agreement. What do you say to that?

AGEE: I did violate the secrecy agreement. But I think it was worse to
stay silent than to violate the agreement. The agreement itself was
plain immoral--like criminals' swearing secrecy.

PLAYBOY: Do you plan to go back to the U.S. and risk indictment?

AGEE: I don't know if I'm subject to indictment and neither do my
lawyers. If it turns out I am subject to indictment, I may go back and
fight it as a test case. I may not.

PLAYBOY: Even if you don't go back to the U.S., you're going to publish
your book there. Other than indirectly, as through the leaks to
Anderson, do you think the CIA has tried to block it?

AGEE: The CIA let prospective publishers know that if they tried to
publish it, they would face expensive litigation. But a lot has happened
since Marchetti's book was published. If as much comes out as I expect,
the CIA may look pretty silly if it tries to assume a posture of civic
virtue in front of a magistrate. That's why I published the book first
in England. I figured the CIA couldn't so easily stop publication there
and I figured that once the truth was out somewhere in the world, it
would be much harder to keep from the American people. And that's what I
really care about. I wanted the book to be published in the United
States because I wanted the American people to know what I know about
the CIA, what the CIA has been doing all these years, all over the
world, in their name.

PLAYBOY: Many people agree with your aims but disagree strongly with
your methods. They say that by revealing the names of CIA agents and
exposing CIA procedures your book jeopardizes U.S. security. What is
your answer to that?

AGEE: I think it's a little late in the day to pretend that what I've
written puts the country in any danger. What I've written puts the CIA
in danger. The CIA claims that secrecy is necessary to hide what it is
doing from the enemies of the United States. I claim that the real
reason for secrecy is to hide what the CIA is doing from the American
people and from the people victimized by the CIA.

PLAYBOY: But many people who dislike the CIA as much as you do have
charged that by revealing the names and functions of individual officers
and agents of the CIA, you have endangered the lives of your former
colleagues, many of whom you yourself induced to become employees of The
Company. Your accusers ask: Wasn't it unnecessary, wasn't it immoral,
wasn't it, in fact, a crime to reveal those names?

AGEE: Absolutely not. Those people talk about the CIA as if it were an
international charity of some sort and about me as if I'd done something
horrible to a lot of decent, well-meaning Y.M.C.A. leaders. In fact, the
CIA, in my opinion, is a criminal organization at least as nefarious as
the Mafia and much, much more powerful. Even more than the Vietnam war,
the CIA represents the destruction of our national ideals on the pretext
of saving them. What you've got to understand is that in revealing the
names of CIA operatives, I am revealing the names of people engaged in
criminal activities. These people live by breaking the law. Every day of
the week, CIA men break the laws of the countries they're stationed in.
I don't know any country in which bugging or intercepting mail or
bribing public officials is legal.
At the same time, it's nonsense to say that by exposing the CIA
officers and agents I knew, I have endangered their lives. I have
exposed some to problems, but The Company can solve those problems for
the indigenous agents in Latin America. As for the Company officers I've
named, well, they can stay in Langley if they want to be safe.

PLAYBOY: Do you think your book has disrupted CIA operations in Latin
America?

AGEE: I hope so, and I think the disruptions I've caused will be
followed by many more around the world. I think the fact that Marchetti
and I have broken ranks and somehow survived is going to encourage a lot
of other CIA men to come out of that poisonous fog of secrecy they've
been living in and tell their stories. There's a lot of soul-searching
going on in the CIA now and I'm going to do all I can to help the people
who decide to get out. If my book is a commercial success, I'll be able
to support CIA men who want to talk.

PLAYBOY: In your opinion, what will be the result of the CIA
investigations in Washington?

AGEE: The Rockefeller Commission was never a real danger to the CIA.
President Ford set it up to whitewash The Company. The House committee
shows real promise and so does the one in the Senate. These committees
have the chance right now to correct the mistake the Congress made
almost 30 years ago in not making sure the CIA was closely controlled. I
sure hope they do, and I would applaud anything they could do to
restrict CIA-promoted repression, even though I think the CIA should be
abolished.

PLAYBOY: Do you think that's a serious possibility?

AGEE: I think that for the time being, we will have some kind of
intelligence collection for early warning and monitoring of agreements
with the Soviets. But this can be preserved under the military services.
Perhaps also the analytical work done by the nonclandestine part of the
CIA will be continued. But it could be continued in a wholly different
kind of organization, with a different name and without any of the kinds
of overseas operations that I engaged in. Imagine the fear and suspicion
and resentment that would be eliminated on the part of other governments
if the CIA were abolished or at least if its overseas operations were.
And we might avoid those future Vietnams that are germinating wherever
The Company is supporting repressive governments.

PLAYBOY: In your book, you support socialist revolution. Don't you think
that will turn a lot of people off to what you have to say?

AGEE: It's just the opposite: I couldn't answer all the letters of
support I'd gotten--even before the book had come out in the U.S.

PLAYBOY: Couching the world picture in your terms, those of class
warfare, is the CIA winning or losing?

AGEE: The question should be whether people, not the CIA, are winning or
losing. In the Third World, the poor are beginning to win, in my
opinion. In an era of expensive energy, the U.S. no longer has the money
to protect its foreign investments at all costs and to repress every
socialist movement. More and more, we're going to have to learn to live
within our own resources. The CIA can still do a lot of harm, but its
palmy days are over--unless we really go fascist, and with a depression
coming on, that's a live possibility. In the United States, though, it
seems to me the poor are not yet winning. The system that's been
exploiting the rest of the world is also exploiting Americans. The
difference is that other people are more aware of it.

PLAYBOY: Aren't you being doctrinaire? The American worker you consider
exploited is said to have the world's highest standard of living.

AGEE: Poverty and prosperity are relative as well as absolute
measurements. Have you read the 1974 Report of the Senate Select
Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs? This report, written before
unemployment soared, stated that 40,000,000 Americans, 20 percent of the
population, are living in poverty--in fact, are sinking deeper into
poverty every year. On the average, they were hungrier and needier in
1974 than they had been five years earlier. The report also pointed out
that in the last 45 years--all through the New Deal, the Fair Deal and
the biggest economic boom in U.S. history--the proportion of the
national income received by the 20 percent at the bottom of the income
scale had not changed one iota. And get this: The Senate committee
discovered that the richest one percent of the U.S. population not only
has more wealth than the poorest 50 percent of the population--it has
eight times more! And we've supposedly had 40 years of liberal reform.
If we want social and economic justice, we're going to have to scrap
capitalism as we know it. Already in the space of three short
generations, a third of the world's population has done this. Are we
going to be the last? We should realize that socialist societies are
built on national traditions--for better or for worse--and that we can
build socialism and at the same time preserve our special tradition of
civil liberties and right to dissent. But right now, unless someone's
really rich, he's demoralized by the fear that there won't be enough to
go around unless he screws the other guy. We're so goddamn alone,
everybody guarding his own pile, however small. Property separates
people from one another. But we're so tranquilized by sex and beer and
football and the chance to play a small hand in the game of success that
we don't even know we're being exploited. I suggest it's time we noticed
how badly we've been had and began to stand up for ourselves. I suggest
that if we want to, we can make sure that whatever there is to go around
goes around fairly. But that's socialism. And remember: New systems can
develop only when people are ready for them and want them--if imposed by
foreign peoples or brute force, they fail.

PLAYBOY: We all agree that the free-enterprise system has faults. But no
socialist system that has been set up so far provides the sort of
idealistic paradise you envision, with everything fairly distributed.
The point at issue here is the CIA--whether it does more good than harm,
whether the world would be better served by its existence as is, by its
reform or by its destruction.

AGEE: I leave it to you to decide. I promise you that the CIA now knows
who you are and is undoubtedly at this moment running you through its
computers. Have you ever been arrested? Are your tax returns up to date?
Did you ever fail to pay a bill? Have you ever been to an analyst? Did
you ever knock a girl up? Are you strictly heterosexual? Do you
sometimes blow a little grass? And, by the way, when you leave the
hotel, glance over your shoulder. Somebody may be following you.


ciao

--

Mike

To see how the game is played on alt.politics.org.cia,
browse this URL: http://www.copi.com/articles/CIAPsyOps.htm

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