By Murray Seeger
Philip Agee, the most notorious defector from the covert service of the Central Intelligence Agency, is coming home after living without a country for three decades. Agee died in Havana in January, 2008, at the age of 72. Now, his papers have been given to the Tamiment Library at New York University and will be open for public examination next April.
The library announced that the 20-linear-foot collection was donated by his widow, Giselle Roberge Agee, a German national and former ballet dancer. “We have an international reputation as a repository documenting the history of left politics and the movement for progressive social change,” Michael Nash, the associate curator, said.
Included in the papers, according to the press release, are “legal records, correspondence with left-wing activists, mainly in Latin America, and others opposed to CIA practices and covert operations; papers relating to his life as an exile living and working in Cuba, Western and Eastern Europe; lecture notes, photographs and posters.”
While Agee’s life and career represent a small entry in the history of the Cold War, there are many parties interested in what these papers may contain. The first question will be, did Agee purge his files of the most damaging evidence of his perfidy as a secret agent? He took pride in revealing the identities of thousands of his former colleagues and their contacts in foreign countries with assistance of the Cuban and Soviet intelligence services.
Perhaps these papers contain information that will encourage the CIA to open its files about Agee’s undercover work and his activities after he left the agency in 1969. And, perhaps, the agency will produce evidence documenting one of the most damaging accusations against Agee: that he exposed a circuit of Polish Army officers who were supplying information to the West.
I have both personal and professional interests in these secrets because Agee was at the center of the strangest incident in my career as a foreign correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. I never met Agee in person, but I learned a great deal while writing a story about him that was mysteriously buried by my editors.