Philip Agee [1935-2008]
Philip Agee died in a Cuban hospital at the age of 72 on Monday evening, 7 January 2008, from complications following surgery for peritonitis [perforated ulcers].
Philip 'Phil' Burnett Franklin Agee was born 19 July 1935. He was a former Central Intelligence Officer [CIA], author, travel website administrator since year 2000 of his business Cuba Linda, and speaker.
Agee was on the Editorial Board of Covert Action. In Agee's work with Bill Schaap, Ellen Ray and Louis Wolf of Covert Action Information Bulletin, Agee was party to accusations of counter-revolutionary activity by Grenadians Stanley Cyrus, James Herry, and Michael Sylvester. His expertise was also utilized in numerous other articles for the magazine.
Agee led an illustrious life and his history can be found in multiple sources. For purposes of this web site, the concentration is on Agee's relationship with Grenada.
Philip Agee and Maurice Bishop [holding a child's hand]
Photo from "On the Run", Lyle Stuart Inc., 1987
Agee and Grenada
Most likely, Philip Agee was in contact with 'progressive' world movements through out his wide travels, and his association with friends, including Bill Schaap, Ellen Ray and Louis Wolf. A line of supposition can be drawn of an early link with the Grenadian youth movement by way of Agee's attendance at the World Festival of Youth in August, 1978, Havana, Cuba. Grenada had observer status with the World Federation of Youth [WFDY], sponsor of the Cuban event.
At that time, there was in Grenada a Grenada-Cuba Friendship Society [CGFS], established by the New Jewel Movement in 1975. The CGFS became public knowledge in 1978. Among Grenadian youth leaders in attendance at the World Festival were Bernard Bourne, Liam James, George Louison, Nelson Louison, Elliot Maitland, Colville McBarnette, Martin Oliver and Judy Ellen Williams, Most likely only seven young people went as the name of Nelson Louison in printed lists was more likely George Louison. They flew to Jamaica and from there on took a ship to Cuba.
Agee and his family [Giselle, sons Phil and Chris] were invited as "Guests of Honour" of the Festival from the Cuban Embassy in Madrid and traveled to Cuba via West Germany to Spain and on to Cuba. Agee was especially interested in the Anti-Imperialist Tribunal and attendees at the Festival were interested in hearing about covert operations from Agee. Bill Schaap, Ellen Ray and Louis Wolf also attended and copies of the first issue of "Covert Action Information Bulletin" were distributed. An estimate of 18,500 youth from 145 countries attended the conference whose theme was "For Anti-Imperialist Solidarity, Peace and Friendship".
While Agee was back again in Cuba during July 1979, he writes in "On the Run" that he met with a member of the Grenadian mission in Havana offering help to Bishop and the new People's Revolutionary Government [PRG]. He also sent direct word to Bishop through Bill Schaap that he would go to Grenada anytime.
Also in 1979, a year after John Stockwell's book "In Search of Enemies" was published, Stockwell and Agee met in Cuba. Agee comments: "It was a strange experience, speaking for the first time with a former Agency operations officer whose experience was rather like mine, and whose reaction was not so different either." Stockwell toured Grenada in September 1980, and in April 1981 made a request to the Political Bureau to live in Grenada for six months.
On Christmas Eve, 1979, Agee received this message from the consulate in Hamburg. It read -
The Consulate has been instructed by the Department of State in Washington to inform you that the Secretary of State has revoked your passport. Sorry to bring bad news for Christmas.
Philip Agee visited Grenada off and on during the period of the People's Revolutionary Government [PRG].
In February 1980, Maurice Bishop invited Agee to the First Anniversary Celebration of the Revolution, 13 Marcy 1980. Since Agee was in Germany and his U.S. passport had been held by the U.S. Government, Bishop sent Agee, via the Grenadian High Commission in London, a Grenadian passport along with the invitation. Use of a Grenadian passport became problematic for Agee, especially getting a visa at a West German Embassy in Trinidad. Agee notified Bishop he could not attend, but sent that message along with a letter of congratulations on the PRG's first anniversary.
Agee received notice that the invitation to visit Grenada was an open one. Finally, he would make the trip to the Spice Isle. It is unclear how he did it. Agee lodged at the Horseshoe Bay Hotel and left Grenada 30 August 1980.
By 13 November 1980, following communication with John Stockwell about his "stimulating and interesting" stay in Grenada, Agee again wrote Prime Minister Bishop exploring the possibility to again travel to Grenada on a "Grenadan passport". His thought was that before he traveled, the Grenadian High Commission in London would request a visa for him from the West German Embassy in London. A passport would repeat the one before - U.S. citizen, photos, etc. Agee figured if the visa was issued, the passport could be mailed to him in Hamburg, Germany.
The [real] U.S. passport-return case went to the U.S. Supreme Court with oral arguments heard mid-January 1981; inevitably matters dragged on, and information about Agee's paths, other than Grenada, is found online and in the print media.
It is documented Philip Agee was in Grenada July-August 1981 when Marcus Garvey's 94th birthday [17 August 1887], was celebrated at a Market Square rally on Sunday, 23 August 1981 and People's Law No. 22 of 1981 outlined Carnival between the morning of Monday, 17 August 1981 and midnight Tuesday, 18 August, 1981.
In August 1981, from West Germany, Agee and his wife Giselle Roberge flew to Madrid, to Havana and on to Grenada with Agee traveling on the Grenadian passport given to him through Maurice Bishop.
They arrived mid-August 1981 in a Learjet charter. After landing at Pearls Airport around noon, according to Agee, they were met by Major Ian St. Bernard, Chief of Police for the PRG. A young man, Jonathan, a member of Bishop's Personal Security staff was to be their escort. It turned out that Liam "Owusu" James, "political adviser to the Prime Minister" was in charge of the trip, but could not make it to the airport where Agee's plane had been expected for days. It was Carnival and they drove through "Jab Jabs" to reach their lodging at the Horse Shoe Bay Hotel on Lance aux Epines. That evening they met Maurice Bishop and Liam James on the veranda of the main building.
According to Agee, Bishop said -
During a Political Bureau meeting of Wednesday, 19 August 1981, where Liam James was listed as a "non-Bureau member," it was noted in the minutes that James reported he is organizing a program for Agee. In addition to other activities, Agee is to visit the St. David's National Women's Organization general meeting, the St. John's and St. Patrick's NWO parish general meetings, and the St. George's Workers Parish Council.
Phil, we have a fairly intensive program for you. We have militia-recruiting rallies in different towns this coming week, and I'd like to invite you to speak at as many as possible. Then next Sunday I'd like you to speak at a big meeting planned for Market Square in St. George's. It's Marcus Garvey Day, and other comrades from the Caribbean will be there. We're also working out meetings for you with our youth and women's organisations, the cultural and media workers, and some trade unions. In addition, I want to discuss the VIA with you and how they would be operating here. Most of us read "Inside the Company" a few years ago, but we've got some special problems. I also want you to meet with some of our police and army officers. How long can you stay?
Agee was able to stay for two weeks. He describes the Garvey Day rally in his out-of-print book "On the Run" -
For the Marcus Garvey Day rally thousands of people jammed Market Square, and I got my first real taste of Grenadian revolutionary oratory. Kenrick Radix, the Minister of Legal Affairs, spoke first, concentrating on the Jamaican hero's work to raise black consciousness in the Caribbean and the U.S., and the hatred, harassment and imprisonment he got from the U.S. government in return.
Radix's energy and emotion brought an enthusiastic but curious reaction from the crowd. Besides cheering and applauding at appropriate intervals, people constantly responded with their own rambling expressions of agreement. Often they would interrupt him in mid-stream with long chants and political songs—rather like a time-out in a sports contest. Over and over I heard the main refrain: 'No Backward Reaction Can Stop This Revolution."
Other speakers from progressive movement in Barbados, Dominica, St. Lucia and Trinidad spoke in praise of Grenada, and I followed with the theme of Grenada's example as the real threat to U.S. hegemony in the Caribbean.
At the end a somber Maurice Bishop described in detail the Ocean Venture war games and pledged that no amount of U.S. pressure would cause Grenada to stop its revolutionary programs to benefit the poor. His manner of speaking, in simple, reasoned and articulate expressions, brought huge ovations.
On Tuesday, 25 August 1981, Philip Agee spoke to the Media Workers Association of Free Grenada [MWAFG] on the basic principles of CIA media operations. Among other points, Agee said -
The CIA is a very rich, very powerful international Mongoose Gang whose sole purpose is to penetrate and destroy progressive revolutionary movements and countries.
In their final meeting, Bishop asked Agee to return for more conversations "on the danger posed by U.S.-supported counter-revolution." Agee said he did that three or four more times between 1981-1983. Agee states in "On the Run" that he never got any hint of dissension within the NJM.
After the execution tragedies of 19 October 1983, Agee, the expert on CIA, came to this conclusion, also from "On the Run" -
Many asked what role, if any, the CIA might have had in the NJM split and collapse of the revolution. From the news at the time, and from all the later revelations, I never though they were involved. The problems were internal, it seemed to me, with no need for an outside hand.
The noted visit of Agee to Grenada was during the time of Ocean Venture 81 at Vieques, Puerto Rico. Ocean Venture is the name of the U.S. military exercise, known also as Amber and the Amberines, led by Rear Admiral Robert P. McKenzie, Caribbean Task Force Commander, that took place from 1 August 1981 to 15 October 1981. PRG interpretation of the exercise was that it was a practice of a direct invasion, by air and by sea, at a simulated Grenadian location on the island of Vieques.
The speech Maurice Bishop gave at that Garvey Day Rally is titled Why Grenada Frightens the US. In the speech, Bishop warned against U.S. plans to invade Grenada, that mercenaries had been training in Florida, that those mercenaries were in contact with Eric Gairy and that because of a lack of finances, the mercenaries transferred their invasion plans to Dominica check Mercenary Activities and that their real plans were to use Dominica as a beachhead for attack on Grenada. Bishop said -
We have to see all of this, therefore, in the light of the fact that the Americans have come to the conclusion that the revolution is so popular, so organised, no vigilant, so strong, that the only possible way in which they are going to be able to overturn this revolution is if they come with troops and land for themselves.
According to Agee in "On the Run", his West German wife, Giselle Roberge, a German citizen, had returned to Hamburg for her work after the first ten days in Grenada, and he stayed on a little longer to finish out activities in the two weeks planned. Agee "wanted to return to Hamburg via Trinidad where I could take a KLM flight non-stop to Amsterdam." He was afraid he would be held up in Trinidad by the port control officer and be returned to Grenada. Agee writes " . . . he smiled and gave me a friendly welcome, and said he was reading 'Inside the Company'."
A couple months after 25 October 1983, when U.S. and Caribbean troops landed on Grenadian soil, Agee met up with Kenrick Radix at a Europe-wide conference of Grenadian solidarity organizations. Radix appealed for support of former international volunteers in Grenada, including West German Doctor Regina Fuchs, in reference to "their arrests, interrogations and summary expulsions."
Radix, who died in 2001, also told the organizations about the Maurice Bishop Patriotic Movement and Foundation. Agee agreed to tour for a month to raise funds for the Foundation. He traveled to ten countries, thirty-three meetings in thirty-five days, from Vienna to Helsinki, and raised $10,000.
No public records indicate Philip Agee resided in Grenada from 1981-1983. He writes that from time-to-time, his wife Giselle Roberge, a ballerina, discussed with him the possibility moving to Grenada and of her starting a ballet school in Grenada after Giselle stopped dancing. They even had the encouragement of Jacqueline Creft, for a school location in an old abandoned hotel renovated as a performing arts center.
The Nicaraguan Consul General in Hamburg relayed a message to Philip Agee that the Nicaraguan Committee for Solidarity with the Peoples wanted him to visit Managua in October 1981.
Philip Agee, who was cremated in Cuba, is survived by his wife of 17 years, Giselle Roberge Agee, and two grown sons from a former marriage. The couple's apartment in Havana's Vedado district was a base for Agee's web-based travel to Cuba business.
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