Former CIA Agent Agee Wants Government To Restore His Passport
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Former CIA agent Philip Agee asked the government on Thursday to restore his passport which he said was taken from him not because he disclosed U.S. intelligence operations and agents but because he disagreed with American foreign policy.
″I believe it is my right to criticize the United States’ foreign policy and oppose it actively,″ Agee said at a State Department hearing. ″I don’t have the slightest intention of stopping.″
Agee is best known for his 1975 book, ″Inside the Company: CIA Diary,″ which cited alleged CIA misdeeds against leftists in Latin America and included a 22-page list of purported agency operatives.
After he was stripped of his passport in 1979, he acknowledged his disclosures damaged U.S. national security. But he said in an interview before the hearing Thursday that ″that was a tactical move. The situation has changed.″
Agee’s attorney Melvin Wulf said ″it is now our position that his revelations help national security.″
Secretary of State George Shultz, acting on information from the Central Intelligence Agency, denied Agee’s application in January for a new passport on grounds that he was a paid adviser to Cuban intelligence, had trained Nicaraguan security officials, and had instructed security officials in Grenada before a U.S. invasion toppled a communist government there.
Wulf called those charges ″a tissue of lies. There is nothing to them. They are false.″ Neither Wulf nor Agee offered evidence to deny the charges, saying the burden of proof was on the government, which has not publicly disclosed the basis for the accusations.
″Who is the source of allegations that Mr. Agee is a paid consultant to Cuban intelligence? The source is probably some guy in the CIA that made it up,″ said Wulf.
State Department official Michele Truitt, conducting the hearing, said Shultz’s decision was based on determination that the former agent’s actions continued to cause ″serious damage to the national security and the foreign policy of the United States.″
At the hearing, Agee and Wulf accused the CIA of illegal actions against Agee and contended the State Department denied Agee the right to confront his accusers.
″The CIA is eager to strip Mr. Agee of his constitutional rights and punish him,″ said Wulf.
Mrs. Truitt said she would make a recommendation to Joan Clark, the assistant secretary of state for consular affairs.
According to documents provided by Wulf to reporters, but not presented at the hearing, the Justice Department in 1976-78 considered whether to prosecute CIA officials in matters involving Agee’s civil rights, apparently stemming from surveillance of his activities abroad.
A memorandum dated Jan. 19, 1977, from Attorney General Edward Levi to Deputy Assistant Attorney General Robert Keuch, said ″the Criminal Division is investigating whether the activities of the CIA involved any criminal violation and is also considering referring the matter to the Civil Rights Division.″
In April 1978, according to documents supplied by Wulf, John Martin, then deputy chief of the criminal division’s internal security section, said in a memo to one of Attorney General Griffin Bell’s aides that ″successful prosecution of CIA officials is precluded.″
Much of the memo, recently declassified, is blacked out and it was not immediately clear why the investigation of CIA actions was dropped.
Another memo dated April 14, 1978, recommended Agee not be prosecuted because ″Agee could still discover information which the CIA has informed us cannot be revealed.″
The memo did not disclose the nature of the information that the CIA wanted to protect, and the law which prohibits disclosing the identities of U.S. intelligence agents abroad was not passed until early in the Reagan administration. It was designed to prevent disclosures such as those by Agee.
Agee told a news conference after the hearing that ″we don’t have details yet″ about any allegedly illegal activities against him, although he said he was regularly followed in Europe.
A CIA spokeswoman, Sharon Foster, says the agency would have no comment on the Agee case.
William Wharton, the State Department official who argued the government case at the hearing, said Shultz decided to deny Agee’s latest passport application because ″Mr. Agee has failed to sustain that there has been a change in the material circumstances″ since the passport was revoked.