Inside the Company

Title:                  Inside the Company

Author:                 Phillip Agee

Agee, Phillip (1975). Inside the Company: A CIA Diary. New York: Stonehill

LCCN:    75323312

JK468.I6 A75 1975


Date Updated:  February 27, 2017

First published in England, Agee’s reconstructed diary of his twelve years as a CIA operative is a dense and far-reaching insider’s account of the U.S. Intelligence community yet to appear. If it were true it would surpass Marchetti and Marks’ The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence (1974) (which appeared with numerous court-ordered deleted passages) as a record of CIA planned sabotage, bribery, bugging and blackmail. However, one must always keep in mind that memoirists are never wrong in their writings. As all defectors, Agee has his own ax to grind, and no doubt believed himself a true patriot, regardless of his country’s condemnation of his defection and the futile attempts of the CIA to suppress his book.

Agee gives his detailed story of CIA intervention and manipulation of elections in Ecuador and Uruguay in which he was personally involved. He names Gustav Diaz Ordoz, president of Mexico from 1964 to 1970 – a period of considerable world tension – and former presidents of several other Latin American countries as CIA agents, along with innumerable labor leaders, Communist Party members, police, and military officials. (“In many countries $700 a month could get you a cabinet minister. Payment is made in cash.”)

Describing the top-secret Technical Services Division (TSC) Agee cites the routine use of sophisticated surveillance devices, explosives and steam tables used to open mail–as well as toxic chemicals which produce respiratory damage, hysteria and body odor. He claims that a CIA thermal device was responsible for the fire which burned down Havana’s largest department store- part of the continuing anti-Castro crusade.

Recruited as an idealistic young man straight out of Notre Dame, Agee was initiated at the CIA training station in Camp Peary, Virginia (ISOLATION) into a world of code names and cryptograms, a mania for classification, secrecy and bureaucratic double-talk; he became part of the Clandestine Services operations network which honeycombed Latin America. After he was overtaken by the slow, difficult realization that “the CIA, after all, is nothing more than the secret police of American capitalism . . . so that shareholders of US companies, operating in poor countries can continue enjoying the rip-off” he decided to leave The Company and publish his experiences.

In spite of new CIA exposes of domestic and foreign insurgency appearing almost daily, this book remains as one of the most hotly debated and discussed books about the CIA. Agee died January 7, 2012. For whatever reasons, he still maintains a loyal following, as exemplified in Counterpunch magazine.

The exposés of Mr. Agee and others led Congress to pass the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, which made it a crime to intentionally reveal the identity of a covert intelligence officer. An investigation of the possible violation of that law in 2003 after Valerie Wilson was named as a C.I.A. officer led to the perjury conviction last year of I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff. “Phil Agee was really the first person to do whistle-blowing on the C.I.A. on the grand scale,” said William H. Schaap, a New York lawyer and old friend who worked with him on anti-C.I.A. projects. “He blew the whistle on hundreds and hundreds of undercover operations.”

What Mr. Agee and his political allies saw as a moral imperative, his former colleagues at the intelligence agency saw as reckless and venal betrayal. He was accused of working with the Soviet K.G.B. and Cuban intelligence against the agency, though as a fellow traveler rather than as a formal agent.

“You can package it any way you want — the simple reality is he defected to the enemy during the cold war,” said Frank R. Anderson, 65, who worked as a clandestine officer for the C.I.A. abroad from 1968 to 1995. “He did everything he could to endanger his colleagues and fellow American citizens.”

Phillip Agee was a CIA officer, formerly based in Mexico. Agee volunteered his services to the KGB in Mexico City following his divorce and a refusal from the CIA to his request for financial assistance, but he was turned away by a Soviet security officer who did not believe such a scruffy individual could really be an authentic CIA officer. Allegedly, he was also rejected by Colonel Krepkogorsky, a KGB officer in the US who suspected a provocation. Agee subsequently flew to Cuba where his offer was accepted with alacrity, and he was subsequently handled by Directorate K’s Oleg Nichiporenko. Under his guidance, Agee wrote Inside the Company: A CIA Diary and disclosed details of the CIA’s operations conducted against the PRC.

It is unclear if Agee had direct contact with the Chinese, but given the historically close relationship between the Chinese and their communist counterparts in Cuba, it is highly likely that the Chinese received information provided by Agee. Later, during the Vietnam War, Agee reportedly volunteered to help in the interrogation of American prisoners of war, and while it is uncertain if his offer was taken up, he definitely had the opportunity to extend the cooperation he had provided the Cubans to the Chinese. Agee is known to have divulged virtually all the information he had at his disposal and that included details of operations conducted against the Chinese.

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

Of those CIA officers who published works critical of that agency up to 1981, Agee stands apart. He was the only ideological Marxist convert among them, the only one whose purpose was to neutralize CIA’s activities and expose its personnel in order to destroy it as an effective organization, and the only one considered a defector to the opposition for all intents and purposes. Agee made no effort to disguise his Marxist ideological orientation or his purpose in writing this reconstructed diary covering his twelve years as an agency officer with service in Washington, Ecuador, Uruguay, and Mexico. Allegedly provided in the text and appendixes are details of CIA operations, of the functioning of CIA stations abroad, and the names of CIA personnel and agents and of organizations supported by or used by that agency in its operations. Purported penetration operations for intelligence, liaison activities, covert action, counterespionage, and counterintelligence work of various types are all laid out, allowing the reader to see them both as isolated operations and as part of the team effort of a CIA station. At the time of its publication, this book was unique and unparalleled for its claimed revelations and for its close-up of CIA training, activities, and personnel seen through the eyes and mental filter of the operations officer. However, one should be aware of the following. First, there is the polemical quality of his writing that reflects on the reliability of what he writes and also shows its ideological bias. CIA, for example, he calls the “biggest and most powerful secret service that has ever existed”—a statement that will surprise the KGB. Next, there are errors in the book that justify caution regarding Agee’s infallibility: he claims CIA set up the Greek junta and associates CIA with the coup attempt in Indonesia in 1965 and the slaughter that followed; and he flatly accuses CIA of being the party that arranged for the assassination of Trujillo. Third, he does not explain adequately his conversion to Marxism or his relations with the Cubans after he left CIA. The New York Times reviewer found it hard to believe the details Agee set down were possible to remember without notes, as he claims, and speculated that some of Agee’s material had been provided by Cuban intelligence. Agee admits that in going to Cuba for material he knew his book would have to be “politically acceptable” to the Cubans. The same review, which philosophically sympathized with Agee’s criticism of CIA’s covert actions, made a fourth and telling point: Agee always pictures Americans as one dimensional without any noble or patriotic motives, and Agee’s world never includes “disruptive acts by Cuban or Soviet agents, though bombings, strikes and guerrilla warfare were being promoted by their Communist agents.” Phillips in The Night Watch[2] gives first-hand in-formation on CIA’s intelligence of Agee’s travels to Cuba and of CIA’s damage-limiting measures in reaction to Agee’s disclosures. For a refutation of Agee’s intimations of CIA complicity in torture in Latin America, see Colby’s Honorable Men[3]. The November 1975 report of the Senate Select Committee to Study Government Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities (Church committee) entitled Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders deals with the Trujillo assassination question.

This is a review by the Defense Intelligence School.[4]

Agee served twelve years in CIA, ending in 1969. His book purports to be a “diary” of his career there, first during his training period, and then as an operations officer in Ecuador, Uruguay, and Mexico. His own political change has brought him to aspire to be “a communist and revolutionary.” The book is in reconstructed “diary” form, placed in time context by memory and research in Cuba and Western Europe. In it, the author purports to name many of his colleagues, agents and contacts in the countries where he served. His announced aim is to disclose as much as he can in order to force CIA into withdrawing its officers and shutting down its overseas operations, which Agee feels are oppressive to peoples throughout the world. Because of the plethora of names and pseudonyms which the author includes in his operational discussions, and the writer’s style, the book is tedious reading.

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[5]

Agee, a former ClA employee for twelve years, has prepared a comprehensive expose of the ClA’s clandestine activities and operations during the period 1960-68 in the countries of Ecuador, Uruguay, and Mexico. The book, written as a diary of day-to-day actions, provides a unique insight into the details of the operations and techniques of espionage and covert political operations. The first part of the book provides detailed descriptions of the author’s recruitment into the CIA and his early training in the ClA’s school. Appendices contain lists of individuals and organizations in Latin America supported or used by the CIA, a list of abbreviations which is in itself an insight into the details of the CIA’s activities, and a collection of organization charts of the CIA. The book was originally published in England to avoid legal action; legal action was attempted by the CIA to prohibit its sale and publication in the United States. The American edition has a smalI number of corrections and additions.

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[6]

An account of the CIA operations in Latin America in the fields of political action and propaganda. Provides a useful categorization system for covert operations as used in the CIA school. For main entry, see chapter 14, section C.

Counterintelligence Reading

This is one of many books on the Department of Energy Hanford counterintelligence reading list. The entire list is as follows (with links when appropriate.) The entire list is found at Historical Dictionary of Cold War Counterintelligence.

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

Agee, Phillip (1975). Inside the Company: A CIA Diary

Gates, Robert M. (2007). From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider’s Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War

Grose, Peter (1994). Gentleman Spy: The Life of Allen Dulles

Gup, Ted (2000). Book Of Honor: Covert Lives And Classified Deaths At The CIA

Hersh, Burton (1992). The Old Boys: The American Elite & the Origins of the CIA

Howard, Edward Lee (1995). Safe House: The Compelling Memoirs of the Only CIA Spy to Seek Asylum In Russia

Jeffreys-Jones, Rhdori (1998). The CIA and American Democracy, 2nd ed.

Kessler, Ronald (1992, 2012). Inside the CIA: Revealing The Secrets of The World’s Most Powerful Spy Agency

Maas, Peter (1986). Manhunt: The Incredible Pursuit of a CIA Agent Turned Terrorist

Marchetti, Victor (1990) and John D. Marks. The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence

Melanson, Philip H. (1990). Spy Saga: Lee Harvey Oswald and U.S. Intelligence

Murphy, David E. (1997), Sergei A. Kondrashev, and George Bailey. Battleground Berlin: CIA vs. KGB in the Cold War

Penkovsky, Oleg (1965). The Penkovsky Papers: Introd. and Commentary by Frank Gibney. Foreword by Edward Crankshaw. Translated by Peter Deriabin

Persico, Joseph E. (1990). Casey: From the OSS to the CIA

Ranelagh, John (1986). The Agency: The Rise and Decline of the CIA

Rudgers, David F. (2000). Creating The Secret State: The Origins of the Central Intelligence Agency, 1943-1947. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas

Saunders, Frances Stonor (1999). The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters

Schecter, Jerrold L.(1992) and Peter S. Deriabin. The Spy Who Saved The World: How A Soviet Colonel Changed The Course of The Cold War


United States. Congress. Senate. Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities (1976). Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders : An Interim Report Of The Select Committee To Study Governmental Operations With Respect To Intelligence Activities, United States Senate : Together With Additional, Supplemental, And Separate Views (foreword by Clark R. Mollenhoff ; introd. by Senator Frank Church)

Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations With Respect to the Intelligence Activities United States Senate (1976). Supplementary Detailed Staff Reports on Foreign and Military Intelligence: Book IV

Thomas, Evan (1995). The Very Best Men: Four Who Dared: The Early Years of the CIA

Troy, Thomas F. (1981). Donovan and the CIA: A History of the Establishment of the Central Intelligence Agency

Westerfield, H. Bradford, Ed. (1995). Inside CIA’s Private World: Declassified Articles from the Agency’s International Journal, 1955-1992

Wise, David (1988). The Spy Who Got Away: The Inside Story of Edward Lee Howard, The CIA Agent Who Betrayed His Country’s Secrets And Escaped to Moscow

Wise, David (1960), and Thomas B. Ross. The U-2 Affair

Woodward, Bob (1987). Veil: The Secret Wars of CIA 1981-1987

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp. 56-57

[2] Phillips, David Atlee (1977). The Night Watch: Careers in Secret Operation. New York: Atheneum

[3] Colby, William E. (1978) and Peter Forbath. Honorable Men: My Life in the CIA. New York: Simon and Schuster

[4] Defense Intelligence School (1981). Bibliography of Intelligence Literature (7th ed Rev.). Washington, DD: Defense Intelligence School, p. 2

[5] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., p. 147

[6] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., p. 211





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14 Responses to Inside the Company

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