Appendix E: Part II
Following speech by Philip Agee
Comments and questions of audience in italics
I regard this period as the most dangerous in the world since the Cuban missile crisis. I wonder if you share that assessment. I would also like to ask your opinion of Professor Robert Wrights op-ed piece in todays New York Times, which argues that the United States will have to surrender some of its sovereignty if it expects to get anywhere with its war on terrorism. That means, for example, that it will have to submit to something like the international war crimes tribunal, which it has been willing to impose on others but not on itself.
Philip Agee: The comparison with the Cuban missile crisis had not occurred to me, but I do not feel that the present situation is the same as in October, 1962. The main difference is that, this time, there is no open confrontation with nuclear weapons-- although there is a danger that fundamentalists might get their hands on such weapons. That risk is especially high in Pakistan, as I noted earlier.
But the most serious danger right now has to do with the measures that the Bush administration may take. The first thing I thought of was that they might use tactical nuclear weapons. Of course, that would not do very much good, and would produce nuclear fallout in large parts of Central Asia.
So, it is indeed a very dangerous period, and perhaps the greatest threat is to civil liberties in the United States.
As for the second part of the question, I do not believe that the U.S. will have to surrender any of its sovereignty in order to get the backing of other countries around the world. It might have to give up some information. You may have noticed that Colin Powell, the Secretary of State, keeps saying, Weve got the proof, and we may share it with certain governments. But the U.S. government is not prepared to share it with its own people, who will have to pay the bill and put their lives on the line in order to fight this phantom figure. It is almost insulting.
The argument, of course, is that making the information public would endanger their sources and compromise their methods. That is the oldest line in the book. They will always say that, and they probably do not have adequate information. They have some indicators or circumstantial evidence, perhaps. But it is probably not strong enough to justify a full-scale war, the first war of the 21st century.
In any event, the U.S. is the sole superpower, and it is able to count on the British following in lock-step. Together, they will try to get the NATO countries and others to follow. They already have the Security Council resolution. So, I think they are going to go about this in a very systematic fashion, and I suspect that they are going to have to establish bases in Muslim countries such as Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and in Afghanistan, itself.
It is my understanding that there is a secret budget of 30-50 billion dollars controlled by the CIA, the DIA and especially the NSA for terror activities around the world. I believe there are also training centres for torture and terrorism, including the use of remote-controlled bombs, in the states of Texas, Georgia and Florida. The CIA is reported to have financed the Albanian rebels in the Balkan region, and similar groups throughout Central Europe, and to have financed the Brigada Rosa in Italy which is responsible for a terror bombing in 1978 that was blamed on the Communists. The U.S. has bases in Latin America and trains professional terrorists that are sent all over the world. What can you tell us about all this?
Well, to reaffirm what I said earlier, the United States has been involved in state terrorism from the 1940s on, and it still is. There is an old expression in English about the pot calling the kettle black-- in other words, one person accuses another of doing exactly what he is doing, himself. When the U.S. starts denouncing terrorism around the world, while at the same time is the strongest and longest-running terrorist power in the world, it makes you wonder what language really means.
The U.S. has always felt that it has the right to intervene and promote terrorism in other countries. This has been fully documented by my friend, Bill Blum, a former State Department official whose books present a litany of CIA interventions around the world since the 1940s. If you only read the part on what they did in East Germany during the 1950s and 60s, you will see that they organized a full-scale terrorist campaign to create chaos and undermine the government there.
[Editor's note: See William S. Blum, Killing Hope and Rogue State, both published by Common Courage Press, Maine, U.S.A. The former is available in Swedish under the title of CIA & USA:s verkliga utrikespolitik; published by Epsilon Press, Göteborg.]
But they did this all over. I was myself involved in some of these activities. I worked, for example, with the police in Latin American countries, and they were often involved in torture. I remember one Sunday morning in the office of the chief of police during a state of siege in Montevideo. My boss, the CIA chief of station in Uruguay was present, along with the local army colonel in charge of anti-riot forces.
We began to hear a low moaning coming through the walls and, at first, I thought it was a street vendor outside. But then it became clear that it was someone being tortured in another part of the building. As this horrible sound became louder and louder, the police chief told the colonel to turn up a radio in order to drown out the groans and screams.
There is no end to such examples, and Latin America was one of the places where the worst offences occurred. But it was not just Latin America. Remember Greece under the military junta, which was urged by the CIA to prevent the election of Georgios Papandreou. That began seven years of severe political repression by this fascist regime.
So it does not have to be in a Third World region like Latin America. It can happen right in Western Europe, and even in a NATO country. Italy, which you mentioned, was targeted from the very start. The first important CIA intervention in elections occurred in Italy following World War II. The CIA was established in September of 1947, and the Italian elections were coming up in March of the following year.
President Truman directed the CIA to prevent the Communist Party from gaining a majority in the parliament. Since the Communists had been the strongest of the resistance forces and had produced many heroes, they emerged from the war with tremendous prestige and had a good chance to do well in the 1948 election. So the CIA set up all kinds of operations to support the Christian Democrats. It also developed a very close liaison with Pope Pius XII and with the Catholic Church, in general-- and with the mafia, by the way, which had helped U.S. forces during the war. As a result, the Christian Democrats won the election in March, 1948.
The United States government in general, and the CIA in particular, have been conducting these kinds of interventions all along. In Brazil, for example, a government elected in the early 1960s underwent a period of instability. This led to the resignation of the president and the accession of the vice-president, as called for by the Brazilian constitution. The new president was Joao Goulart, a large landowner. But he was also a populist who proposed a major land reform. If there was any place in the world that needed land reform, it was Brazil, and it still is. In addition, Goulart adopted an independent foreign policy, and even made a trip to China.
So the CIA organized his overthrow by the Brazilian military in March, 1964. That ushered in twenty years of a fascist regime in Brazil. What happened? The same thing as everywhere else: the institutionalization of torture, death squads, disappearances, and eventually a backlash.
What later happened in Chile, after Salvador Allendé became president, was almost a carbon copy of what happened in Brazil. In Chile, the CIA carried out a programme of destabilization for nearly three years in order to turn the people against the government.
So the short answer to your question is that terrorism fomented by the U.S. government started in the mid-1940s, and has continued through the present day. It is not only the CIA, but also the U.S. military committing outright terrorist acts such as the bombing of Libya some years ago.
Do you have any idea how big the peace movement is in the United States. Also, what will happen to the U.S. Muslims, if they are called upon to go and fight other Muslims in Asia? Will there be civil war in the United States? What will happen?
To be honest, it is too early to tell. There have been some peaceful voices, and you can be sure that some Americans are going to organize against this war. But even though there was a large movement against the Persian Gulf War, it was split. As in other places, it is difficult to develop total unity in such opposition movements, and that tends to weaken them.
But there will surely develop a peace alternative to this war, and it is not a war that will be over in a matter of days or weeks. There is not going to be a set battle between military forces, for example. This means that there will be plenty of time for a peace movement to grow and become stronger. And when U.S. citizens start coming home in body bags, as from Vietnam or Somalia, the peace movement will be strengthened.
But there is no way to predict how strong it will be. Eventually, the issue will be taken up in Congress where one of the most positive figures right now is Congresswoman Barbara Lee from Oakland, California. She is the only one who refused to sign the resolution empowering Bush to go to war, and she has received all kinds of hate mail since then. But the National Lawyers Guild, a progressive movement of some 6000 lawyers which was founded in the 1930s, has taken out a full-page advertisement in a San Francisco newspaper to support her.
This is only the beginning, and we will just have to keep an eye on developments. I will certainly be doing that from Havana. I might mention, by the way, that the current political campaign in Cuba is called The Battle of Ideas. This is a response to U.S. initiatives, including laws known as the Toricelli and Helms-Burton acts, which openly call for the subversion and destruction of the Cuban revolution.
The Cubans understand very well how the United States intends to do this, which is one of the reasons there is no freedom of the press as we know it. Cuba will not tolerate the kinds of subversive media operations that have been targeted at other Latin America countries through the years. In the same way, the Cubans are doing everything in their power to protect their own institutions. The Battle of Ideas is a programme for confronting U.S. efforts to destroy the revolution.
For those of you who have never been to Cuba or may have limited knowledge of the situation there, I will note that it has been highly successful in many ways. When you compare the Cuban experience over the past forty years with the rest of Latin America-- and that is the only appropriate context-- you will find that it is the only country in the region that has made any consistent progress.
Everyone should be aware of its outstanding achievements in the field of health care; people come from all over the world for organ transplants and other medical treatments. This has led, in turn, to the development of world-class pharmaceuticals and biochemical industries. They have, for example, developed the first vaccines for common forms of meningitis and hepatitis.
Cuba has an educational system and a literacy rate which are second to none in Latin America. Every child can go through school, all the way through university or technical school, without the parents ever having to pay a cent.
Cubans are also well-known as phenomenal athletes. I believe it was the British newspaper, The Guardian, which analysed the results of the Sydney Olympic Games-- controlling for national and personal income, population size of the country, etc., in order to create a level playing field between large and small countries-- and found that Cuba had won the Olympics when such factors were taken into account.
But there seems to be no end to the United States official hostility toward Cuba-- although the recent bombings seem to have opened an opportunity for a reduction of hostilities. On September 11th, Fidel Castro denounced the bombings in the strongest possible terms and expressed total Cuban solidarity with the people of the United States.
In any case, Cubans are very aware of the power of propaganda, and they have their own campaign to counteract what is coming into their country from the U.S.
Is it fair to say that the word communism is the most valuable trademark in the world, when it is used as a psychological trademark to scare the living daylights out of people?
It is certainly a powerful word and, along with other powerful words such as democracy and freedom, has been very badly misused. To cite one example. I read all of the dispatches filed by Anita Snow, the Associated Press correspondent in Havana, who cannot mention the Cuban government without attaching the adjective, communist. Apparently, that has got to be included in every article she writes, although I dont know if she puts it in or an editor does. But its function is obviously to remind readers that this is a dirty regime. By contrast, when journalists write about the United States, they do not refer to the capitalist regime in Washington.
It is a label, and the effect is almost comical at times. They have pinned all sorts of labels on me over the years. They tried to make me out as a KGB agent, as a Cuban agent, an alcoholic, a womanizer-- think of something negative, and the have tried to stick it to me.
They started with a fairy tale after I had finished writing my first book in mid-1974. On the fourth of July-- and you know what that day means for Americans-- the New York Times published a front-page article about this former CIA officer somewhere in Latin America who was drunk and despondent, and had been telling everything he knew to the KGB. But I had not even been in Latin America at the time, and certainly not spoken with the KGB; I had been struggling with my book.
It was something they made up in order to get the first blow in. The first blow is always the most important-- because a person can issue a denial, but what people will remember is the accusation. I was identified as the wayward agent, of course.
If we are going to conduct a global war on terrorism, we must first agree on what it is. If we take, for example, the actions of the CIA and especially Henry Kissinger in supporting Pinochets military regime in Chile, should that not also be considered as terrorism? Is it possible that the crusade against terrorism might rebound against the United States and, if so, how could that be made to happen?
Well, the information is out there, for anyone who cares to acquire it. The only question is whether there is a will to emphasize the history of U.S. sponsorship of terrorism, including the Kissinger period, and to make it public. This is what I was referring to when I spoke of selection-- that is, what is news and what is not news. Since the attacks on September 11th, I do not believe there has been any serious effort by the U.S. mainstream press to review the history of U.S. involvement in and support of terrorism. The news is monopolized by those who want to go to war.
For that reason, I do not think it will be very easy to avoid this war on terrorism. The U.S. media are so powerful, and they fill our minds every day with what they think we should know and how we should interpret it. They are working hand-in-hand with the government, and they share the same values. This is what makes it possible form them to earn a lot of money by selling advertising. After all, these institutions are privately-owned institutions whose capital is supposed to yield a return for stockholders. They have to keep this constantly in mind, like any other corporation, and so they go along with the government.
It is a great consolation to hear your words at a time like this, when our thoughts are being manipulated. Could you give us some advice regarding a cure or some sort of medicine that will help us Swedes to resist that manipulation?
I would urge you to go back and review the 1960s and 1970s, when this country was leading the world in opposition to the Vietnam War and the slaughter that was taking place there. I realize times have changed, but a lot of lessons can be learned by recalling how that movement developed here. I am sure that many of the principles of the past can be reapplied, because they will be valuable and relevant forever. Perhaps they can be applied now to oppose the use of violence to create more violence, which is vicious cycle that is now likely to occur. As I noted earlier, there will be time to develop such a movement, because this violence is going to continue for quite some time.
Thats one thing. The other thing is to try to keep the news media open to alternative points of view, and not submit to merely repeating the line of the U.S. government.
Regarding Cuba, for some time now there has been circulating on the Internet a declassified document of the U.S. National Security Agency about planned operations in 1963 to justify the invasion of Cuba. I believe that President Kennedy objected to it, but military leaders wanted to attack U.S. ships and blame it on Cuba in order to justify an invasion. That document was a valuable reminder during these past two weeks, but now it appears to have disappeared from the Internet. I would like to hear your comment on this.
Yes, there were plans to carry out certain acts of terrorism that would be attributed to the Cubans. These plots came out of the Pentagon, but were rejected by the Kennedy administration. A good source for this kind of material is the National Security Archive, which is now affiliated with George Washington University. They have done marvellous work. I believe they were the ones who obtained all the documents on Chile that have recently been released. Among other things, those documents show how the U.S. pinned the label of communist on the Allendé government-- although it was in fact a socialist government-- and how they have continued to do so ever since.
How important is it that the current presidents father is a former CIA director and that many of his old cronies are now advising the son, who is not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed?
There have been many analyses and much speculation about who is really running things in Washington. There are those who say that it is Vice-president Cheney, others say that it is George Bush Sr. who is making the decisions behind the scenes. Actually, W has been putting on a pretty good show since the attacks in New York and Washington. At this point, however, I really cant answer your question.
But I can tell you that the elder Bush was a bit obsessed with me when he became CIA Director one month after the assassination of the Agencys chief of station in Athens. That happened around Christmas, 1975, and my first book had come out in January of that year; so the CIA tried to pin the blame on me. It was true that I had disclosed the names of CIA agents working in various other countries. People were aghast to learn, for example, that there were 65 CIA agents working out of the U.S. embassy in London, or 60 in Paris, Rome or Bonn.
But I had never met the station chief who was murdered in Athens, and I never mentioned him in any of my writings. It was a pure myth that I was responsible. Nevertheless, George Bush Sr. was convinced that I was and, when Barbara Bush published her autobiography in 1995, she repeated the myth by relating how her husband had told a black-tie crowd of 800 people at the Washington Hilton that I was responsible. So I sued her, and I won. She had to correct that part of her book, write me a letter of apology, and acknowledge the error.
Do you suspect that the CIA or any other intelligence agency of the United States had anything to do with the murder of Olof Palme?
I havent the slightest idea, but I really doubt it. Olof Palme gave the U.S. a lot of trouble-- no doubt about that. He had many admirers in the United States, and many detractors, as he had here. But I do not think that the U.S. would go to the extreme of assassinating a Western European leader, even one as independent as Olof Palme. But, again, I really dont know. I prefer to concentrate on the things that I know about, and leave the speculation to others.
Some years ago, a Swedish radio programme referred to one of your books in which it was stated that the CIA controlled some 400 newspapers and media companies around the world. Is that true?
I suspect the book you are referring to is Dirty Work: The CIA in Western Europe. It was an anthology, and we had quite a bit on the media in that book. I do not recall the actual number, but it was substantial. In the United States, there was a time when every major news organization was co-operating with the CIA. The official in charge of media operations during the 1950s, used to refer to his mighty Wurlitzer. A Wurlitzer is a huge juke box, you know, and he gave his programme that name because it involved the orchestration of propaganda all around the world.
For example, we would put out a story in one country of Latin America, and then get CIA stations in ten or fifteen other countries to do the same. This gave the appearance of a news item that was making the rounds of the media on its own merits, when in actual fact it was being fed through secret CIA channels. Local agents would take the story to journalists who could be relied upon to get it published. We made a huge amount of news that way, by orchestrating propaganda.
But I think the word control is too strong in this context. The CIA did not really need to control newspapers. It only had to place whatever it wanted to place, and that cold be done through the control of one person. If it had the rights editor on the payroll, they would make sure that things got published. So in most cases, it was a question of individuals, not entire organizations.
But there were organizations founded by the CIA to produce news analyses and feature articles which would then be circulated in different parts of the world. One of the largest propaganda operations during the early years was the Congress for Cultural Freedom, which was founded in Berlin during the 1950s. Its political line was right-wing social democratic, and its headquarters were in Paris. Several publications were set up through this Congress, including the magazines Encounter in England; there were others in Germany, India and in France. It was a huge propaganda operation.
But in most cases, it is not necessary to control entire institutions in order to use them to get a message out. The key word is penetration, which means recruiting or placing someone inside the organization who will do your work for you.
Do you feel that the events of 11 September are likely to increase support for the missile-defence system or to weaken it, now that it has been demonstrated that such a shield in outer space is not able to protect the U.S. population from attack? Also, do you believe that the U.S. will try to draw out its so-called war on terrorism so that it will have an excuse to establish a presence in Afghanistan, as it has done with its large military base in Kosovo?
In the short term, the events of 11 September raised doubts about the missile-defence system, because they showed that protecting the U.S. from terrorism has little or nothing to do with missiles. But in the long term, that system and other types of military programmes will probably benefit-- partly due to the commercial spin-offs that military spending has yielded in the past, such as the transistor and the computer chip.
As for the strategic significance of Afghanistan, the key factor is the petroleum of the Caspian region. From what I have read, the proven reserves there are on the order of those in Saudi Arabia. Of course, U.S. policymakers will not be saying this: They will be talking about the crusade against terrorism. But they no doubt see a need for a military presence in Central Asia, in the countries where this oil is going to be extracted and shipped. So there may very well be a permanent military presence, as in Saudi Arabia, in order to ensure U.S. access to and transport of those petroleum resources. Down the line, we can expect to see the issue of petroleum becoming intertwined with the crusade against terrorism.
Is it possible for the CIA to infiltrate U.N. agencies? I ask this because of allegations that Israels Mossad and the CIA have used UNESCO to gather intelligence in Iraq. The former U.S. inspector in Iraq, Scott Ritter, has said this, for example. It has also been alleged that Saddam Hussein had connections with the CIA during his exile in Egypt, and that the 1963 fascist coup in Iraq was initiated by the CIA. Do you know anything about this?
I have no inside knowledge of possible CIA infiltration of the U.N. weapons-monitoring programme in Iraq. I would assume that it did take place, however, because the programme was essentially controlled by the United States. I should think that it would be a perfect opportunity-- too obvious to ignore. So, I would assume that they made an effort to penetrate the programme for monitoring and destroying weapons.
Regarding a possible link between the CIA and Saddam Hussein in Egypt, I have no idea. But I can tell you that the CIA played a very important role in the provocation of the Iran-Iraq war. It encouraged the Shah of Iran to demand half of the waters in the Shatt al Arab that had always been recognized as part of Iraq. At the same time, they began fomenting rebellion among the Kurds of northern Iraq. All of this eventually led to that horrible war, and the CIAs fingerprints are all over the initial stages.
The past few weeks have caused me to realize that I am a child of the United States. I have visited there, of course, and I know that there are homeless people and stuff like that. But I go to the movies where the U.S. flag is always flying and U.S. citizens always save the world. I drink their soft drinks, I eat their food, and the fact is that I kind of enjoy it. That is my problem right now. I would like to ask you: How important is the export of U.S. culture for the CIA?
The CIA has published more than one thousand books in order to spread the views of certain authors, which can certainly be regarded as a cultural operation. In some cases, the authors were hired by the CIA to write these books.
In general, however, the spread of U.S. popular culture is a commercial phenomenon that benefits from having a lot of power. I cannot remember any CIA activities that were designed to spread U.S. culture around the world. I dont think it has needed to.* Even Cuba gets the U.S. version of break-dancing, of rock n roll, and so on, and there is an enormous interest in U.S. popular culture. Cuban young people always know the latest songs and all the entertainment stars.
By the way, those of you have never visited Cuba, I would urge you to do so. If you want to know what is waiting for you, go to the web site of CubaLinda.com. It is the result of what I have been doing for the past four years, having decided around 1997 to continue some thirty years of solidarity work by presenting Cuban realities to the world, and to bring the world to Cuba in order to see those realities at first hand. It is an attempt to counteract forty years of propaganda, manipulation and lies that have been disseminated primarily by the United States.
*Editors note: This response is based on Philip Agees knoweldge and experience of the CIA. There are, however, other institutions which do strive to expand U.S. cultural influence abroad. Among them are those agencies of international commerce and foreign relations which constantly work against broadcast content rules and other trade barriers which various countries have devised to protect their own cultural products and traditions.
Also, there is at least one government agency whose specific purpose is to spread and promote U.S. culture abroad. It is the U.S. Information Agency, whose background and operating methods have been outlined by former employee, Nancy Snow, in Propaganda, Inc.: Selling Americas Culture to the World (New York: Seven Stories Press, 1998).
In the foreword to that work, Herbert L. Schiller notes that: The commercial flood of U.S. cultural products which engulfed the world during the past fifty years-- movies, TV programs, recordings, publications, student exchanges, theme parks, data bases, etc.-- was by far the most important means for transmitting ideology, anti-communism and American socio-economic institutions.
The other day, I saw a report on Fox News with a lot of U.S. flags waving, a lot of music, a lot of emotions. I did not want to be affected by that, but I was. It caused me to wonder: What is the way out of this? I do not see the U.S. backing off from Africa, from the Middle East or from Latin America. Is the solution for us to become more aware, or for the EU to offer an alternative to U.S. policy? And a final question: Is there a CIA agent among us this evening?
A lot of people have asked me how to keep the CIA from infiltrating an organization. I always tell them that you cant. The CIA, the FBI and all of these agencies have people who are prepared to join any open organization. But what you can do is to ensure that everyone does a lot of work for the cause, whatever it may be-- enough work so that infiltrators will be more valuable to the cause than to the CIA or the FBI with the information they provide.
The best thing you can do as an individual is to take an active part in the organizations that do or will exist to find a peaceful solution to the problem of international terrorism-- and such organizations will emerge, or already exist. But get involved, because every individual counts. To all those who may think that nothing they can do can have any significance, I say: Youre wrong. There is strength in numbers.
I believe that this is what will happen in the United States and in a country like Sweden. People will get concerned, they will get involved, they will see the futility in creating yet another cycle of violence which offers no real solution to international terrorism. As I mentioned earlier, the more frequent and forceful the attempts to solve the problem with military attacks, the stronger bin Ladin will become. That is precisely the reaction he wants to provoke.
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