“Today, there are still plenty of Philip Agees in the world, and the harm they inflict on U.S. institutions and personnel is just as serious today as it was back then. They don’t all come from the Intelligence Community, share the same background, or use precisely the same tactics as Agee, but they are certainly his soulmates.”
CIA Director Mike Pompeo
On April 13 2017, CIA Director Mike Pompeo delivered his first public speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. While mainstream media have mostly reported that Pompeo denounced WikiLeaks as a “hostile intelligence agency”, nobody has yet pointed out that Pompeo clearly distorted historical facts to suit his narrative. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY
In his attempt to build a parallel between Philip Agee and Julian Assange, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said:
“That man was Philip Agee, one of the founding members of the magazine Counterspy, which in its first issue in 1973 called for the exposure of CIA undercover operatives overseas. In its September 1974 issue, Counterspy publicly identified Richard Welch as the CIA Chief of Station in Athens. Later, Richard’s home address and phone number were outed in the press in Greece.
In December 1975, Richard and his wife were returning home from a Christmas party in Athens. When he got out of his car to open the gate in front of his house, Richard Welch was assassinated by a Greek terrorist cell. At the time of his death, Richard was the highest-ranking CIA officer killed in the line of duty.”
NOTE: You can watch the video and/or read the text directly on the official website of the CIA.
The story as told by Mike Pompeo requires quite a bit of fact checking!
First, let us point out the obvious. Counterspy could not have publicly identified Richard Welch as the CIA Chief of Station in Athens in September 1974 since Welch arrived in Greece in July 1975!
Secondly, while it is true that Agee wrote the lead article in CounterSpy’s Winter 1975 edition, it was a separate article in that edition that named Welch. Agee had no knowledge of this article on Welch until after its publication.
Thirdly, Agee was not a co-founder of the magazine.
Fourthly, the CounterSpy story was hardly ‘news’ as the identity of Richard Welch had been revealed to the public since 1968.
And finally, N17 – the group that assassinated Welch — did not need any of this information as the CIA Chiefs of Station in Athens had been living in the same house for the last 25 years.
Welch was recruited to the CIA in 1951 upon graduation from Harvard, where he studied classics. His first assignment as a case officer was in Athens working as a civilian employee of the U.S. Department of the Army (1952–59). From 1960-64, he served in Cyprus, and then in Guatemala (1965–67), Guyana as Chief of Station [COS] (1967–69), and Peru as COS (1972–75).
Again quoting directly from the CIA website on Richard Welch:
“In the spring of 1975, at the age of 45, Dick was asked to go to Greece to lead the Station there. He agreed immediately, telling friends that, for him, going to Greece was like going home.
Dick had been extremely careful about personal security while in Latin America, but he was more confident in Europe. However, Dick’s identity was revealed in foreign publications, endangering the safety of him and his family.”
Welch arrived in Athens, Greece, in July 1975, at a time when Greece had just come out a tumultuous period of military dictatorship. Welch stayed in the house occupied by several of his predecessors as chief of the CIA station. [Wikipedia]
He had been officially serving as the first secretary of the U.S. Embassy and special assistant to the Ambassador, Mr. jack Kubisch.
Identity revealed in foreign publications prior to CounterSpy
Richard Welch’s name was first published in “Who’s Who in CIA” by Julius Mader (East Berlin, 1968), along with 2500 other names.
In retaliation, the CIA assisted journalist John Barron in writing his book KGB: The Secret Work of Soviet Secret Agents, the appendix of which named 1,600 alleged KGB and GRU officers posted abroad under diplomatic cover. Barron admitted to the New York Times, that he received help from the CIA in writing the appendix. [Wikipedia]
The ‘CounterSpy’ stories
Richard Welch’s name was also published in early 1975 by CounterSpy Magazine (Winter
1975 issue, page 26), along with about 100 other names. This issue of CounterSpy listed Welch as residing in Lima, Peru — which was his previous posting. In the next issue, Summer 1975, Counterspy again listed Welch as a CIA officer, under cover as an attaché at
the U.S. embassy in Lima.
A priest who worked as a missionary in Peru had visited their office a year earlier (1974), and brought with him a copy of a Peruvian journal with Welch’s name in it as the CIA chief in Lima. The information was hardly difficult to confirm.
Welch was listed in the 1969 State Department Biographic Register and the 1973 State Department Biographic Register, and no doubt others as well (these are the two I have handy). In both the 1969 and 1973 listings, the biographic details peg him as an obvious CIA officer for those who know how to read the Register. [D. Brandt]
Identity revealed in Greek publications
In late November, 1975 the Athens News named ten CIA people in Greece, and included Welch’s name and address. It is said that even the local tour buses would point out the home of the CIA station chief as they drove by.
Welch’s name and address had been published in the Athens News and Eleftherotypia in November 1975. He had been revealed as a CIA agent in an East German book and a magazine called CounterSpy after the Athens News and Eleftherotypia disclosures. [Wikipedia]
[NOTE: Wikipedia seems to be wrong about this. CounterSpy did indeed publish Welch’s identity before the Greek magazines.]
Philip Burnett Franklin Agee (July 19, 1935 – January 7, 2008) was a Central Intelligence Agency case officer and writer, best known as author of the 1975 book, Inside the Company: CIA Diary, detailing his experiences in the CIA.
When the book was finally published in the United States; it became an immediate best seller. Inside the Company identified 250 alleged CIA officers and agents. Richard Welch is not mentioned in the book.
Libel case against Barbara Bush
U.S. President George H. W. Bush directed the CIA from 1976 to 1977. Bush accused Agee of being responsible for the death of Richard Welch. This accusation was included in Barbara Bush’s 1994 memoir, but was removed from its paperback edition after Agee sued her for libel. [WIKIPEDIA]
CIA Director William Colby
N17 did not rely on anything Agee did in order to identify Richard Welch. [D.Brandt Analysis] Even William Colby admitted as much. The Los Angeles Times — 12/28/77 — quotes William Colby:
“Bad cover contributed to the assassination two years ago of Richard Welch, CIA station chief in Athens. This was partly a result of administrative practices that made it easy to identify CIA employes from embassy lists.”
“Welch accepted the bad cover by living in the same house as his predecessor and by making only minimal efforts to disguise his identity. Welch’s cover was not adequate to hide him, even without the newspaper account.”
“Subcommittee Chairman Les Aspin (D-Wis.) reminded Colby that CIA spokesmen called a number of newspapers the morning after Welch’s death to suggest that the assassination was a direct result of the newspaper’s printing his name.
“I have pretty specifically avoided saying that. Maybe you are right about the first few telephone calls.”
Welch was — officially — the first CIA officer to be assassinated. By presidential order of U.S. President Gerald Ford, Welch was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. His death helped turn the political tide back in favor of the CIA after the damning revelations by the Church Committee earlier in 1975.
Welch’s murder contributed to passage of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, making it illegal to reveal the name of an agent who has a covert relationship with an American intelligence organization.
U.S. officials, including then-CIA Director George H.W. Bush, have blamed Agee and CounterSpy for contributing to Welch’s death.
However, it is rather obvious that the real timeline and the facts do not support the allegation made by U.S. President George H. W. Bush and repeated this week by the CIA Director Mike Pompeo — who modified the timeline and the facts to make it a bit more compatible with his narrative.
“In its winter 1975 issue, CounterSpy revealed the identity of the CIA Station Chief in Lima, Peru. The revelation was not an investigative coup: the officer, Richard Welch, had previously been identified by the Peruvian press. The magazine did not even give Welch’s assignment correctly, for he had since move to Athens. Even though he had been identified in Peru, Welch chose to occupy a house in Athens that had been used by many of his CIA predecessors.” [Kathryn S. Olmsted – Challenging the Secret Government]
“Welch’s identity had already been disclosed by the Peruvian press in 1974, and most recently in a letter published by Athens News on 25 November. It emerged some years later that hundreds of Greeks in fact knew Welch’s identity because he lived in a house known to be residence of the incumbent CIA station chief in Athens. Reportedly, local tour guides even pointed out the residence during their bus journeys around the city.” [Christopher Moran — Turning Against the CIA: Whistleblowers During the ‘Time of Troubles’]
Actually, a communiqué sent by 17N [Revolutionary Organization 17 November] to French newspaper Libération in March 1976 demonstrated that the group had been watching Welch’s movements since his arrival in Athens in the summer of 1975.
To this day, it remains unclear why 17N killed Welch. Professor Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones has suggested a few explanations. [The CIA & American Democracy]
Commenting on the libel case, a wise observer wrote:
“Elements within the CIA seized on the Welch assassination as a convenient way to discredit Agee. But the details of what happened don’t support their propaganda that Agee was responsible for Welch’s death. The media, however, didn’t worry about the details and tended to repeat the CIA’s line.”
FINAL THOUGHT — If Mike Pompeo is fudging the undisputable timeline of past events to convince his audience about the causal link between the CounterSpy publication and Welch’s assassination, how can the world trust him when he says a few minutes later that he is absolutely certain that Assad has ordered the chemical attack earlier this month?
RELATED POST: CIA Directors — Test your ‘Spy’ knowledge with our quiz!
A Discussion on National Security with CIA Director Mike Pompeo
3’35 mark — “That man was Philip Agee, one of the founding members of the magazine Counterspy, which in its first issue in 1973 called for the exposure of CIA undercover operatives overseas. In its September 1974 issue, Counterspy publicly identified Richard Welch as the CIA Chief of Station in Athens. Later, Richard’s home address and phone number were outed in the press in Greece.”
Director Pompeo Delivers Remarks at CSIS — CIA Website
Remembering CIA’s Heroes: Richard S. Welch — CIA Website
Philip Agees Sues Barbara Bush for Libel — D.Brandt Analysis
The murder that sparked Identities Protection Act — Chicago Tribune
Turning Against the CIA: Whistleblowers During the ‘Time of Troubles’ — Christopher Moran
CIA Director Mike Pompeo tells a whopper