June 23, 2000

Infamous ex-CIA agent Philip Agee resurfaces in Cuba

                  HAVANA (AP) -- Former CIA agent Philip Agee, a longtime friend of communist
                  Cuba who exposed purported CIA operatives in his infamous book, has
                  resurfaced in Havana, where he has launched what he says is the first
                  independent American business in 40 years.

                  With European investors and the state-run travel agent as his partner, Agee has
                  opened a travel Web site designed specifically to bring American tourists to the
                  island -- even if it means violating the U.S. trade embargo.

                  The site,, offers package tours within Cuba and other help with
                  Cuban tourism that is largely off limits to Americans because of U.S. law.

                  "I would like to see people ignore the law," Agee said at a press conference
                  Thursday. "The idea is to disdain this law to the point that our grandfathers
                  disdained Prohibition."

                  Agee has long enraged supporters of U.S. sanctions on Cuba by his support of
                  Fidel Castro's revolution and campaign to end the nearly four-decade-old
                  embargo, which limits American tourists from spending money on the island --
                  effectively barring them from visiting.

                  He has also been accused of receiving up to $1 million in payments from the
                  Cuban intelligence service. He has denied the accusations, which were first made
                  by a high-ranking Cuban intelligence officer and defector in a 1992 Los Angeles
                  Times report.

                  Agee, 65, quit the CIA in 1969 after 12 years with the agency, working mostly in
                  Latin America during the years that leftist movements were gaining prominence
                  and sympathizers.

                  His 1975 book "Inside the Company: CIA Diary" cited alleged CIA misdeeds
                  against leftists in Latin America that included a 22-page list of purported agency

                  Barbara Bush, the wife of former president George Bush -- himself a onetime
                  CIA chief -- in her autobiography accused the book of exposing a CIA station
                  chief, Richard S. Welch, who was later killed by leftist terrorists in Athens in
                  1975. Agee, who denied any involvement in the death, sued her for defamation
                  and she revised the book to settle the case.

                  Agee's U.S. passport was revoked in 1979. U.S. officials said he had threatened
                  national security.

                  After years of living in Hamburg, Germany -- occasionally underground, fearing
                  CIA retribution -- Agee has decided to make Havana his home and the seat of his
                  new business.

                  American companies have been barred from doing business with Cuba since the
                  embargo was imposed in the 1960s to put pressure on Castro.

                  "I don't have a license. I don't have permission. I haven't asked and I'm not
                  going to because it's a question of principle," Agee said.

                  A spokesman at the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington said officials were
                  unaware of Agee's plans and had no comment Thursday.

                  Agee said he received funding for the tourism project from European investors,
                  but declined to say how much or even who they are.

                  "They are not especially interested in advertising the fact that they're involved
                  with me here," Agee said, acknowledging his own infamy.

                  The Web site, which has been partially running since February, on Friday is to
                  launch its first major promotion targeted at Americans -- a weeklong tour during
                  carnival festivities in July and August.

                  Prices start at around $600 inclusive -- although not including airfare, which
                  must be arranged separately and through a third country unless the visitor
                  receives a Treasury Department license, he said.

                  The tours must be pre-paid over the Internet to a European bank account run by
                  the company -- a rare concession to U.S. law in that the money isn't directly
                  deposited in a Cuban account.

                  Agee said he has received no word from the U.S. government about his dealings.
                  But he has received threatening e-mails from people he believes are anti-Castro
                  Cuban-American exiles in Miami, who are opposed to any dealings with Cuba.

                  "It's always nice to know that your enemy, or that your unfriendly side, knows
                  that you're in business," he said.