Intelligence Identities Protection Act

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The Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 (PL97-200, 50 United States Code Secs. 421–426) is a United States law which makes it a federal crime to knowingly reveal the identity of a covert CIA agent. It was written after the 1975 assassination of CIA Athens Station Chief Richard Welch by the Greek terrorist group Revolutionary Organization 17 November. He was outed by a magazine called CounterSpy edited by Timothy Butz.[1] A local paper checked with CounterSpy confirmed his identity.[2]

The activities of ex-CIA agent Philip Agee during the 1960s and 1970s may have also led impetus to the Acts passage as some commentators have noted the law was very specifically targeted at his actions. Congressman Bill Young said during a debate in the House of Representatives, "What we're after today are the Philip Agees of the world."[3]

Agee's book CIA Diary and publication Covert Action Information Bulletin (CAIB) blew many agents' cover. Agee was deeply involved in the antigovernment Counterspy magazine, which made a practice of such disclosures. Louis Wolf and Chip Berlet both wrote for CAIB and also The Public Eye, described as a "spawn of the first Counterspy.[4] Butz also was on the editorial staff of The Public Eye along with Russ Bellant.[5] Wolf was listed as being on the advisory board of Political Research Associates on PRA's 1999 letterhead.[6]

According to an item in Security Intelligence newsletter :

"To the surprise of few, CIA defector Philip Agee was named as a recipient of KGB pay for almost 20 years. Florintino Aspillaga Lombard, formerly a major in Cuba 's Direccion General de Inteligencia (DGI) before defecting to the US, said payments to Agee for anti-CIA writing and lecturing could exceed $1 million.
Agee...left the agency in 1968 and began exposing CIA officers and operations through lectures, magazines and books.[7]

Referring to Counterspy, a Washington Post editorial asked, "What other result than the killing [of Richard Welch] did Mr. [Timothy] Butz and his colleagues at Counterspy expect when they fingered Mr. Welch?"[8]

The Intelligence Identities Protection Act was passed soon thereafter. U.S. Senator John Chafee, a ranking member of the Select Committee on Intelligence pointed out in the Congressional Record:

"At the time of the Welch assassination, Counterspy magazine claimed they had leaked the names of 225 alleged CIA agents. Now, five years later, Louis Wolf of Covert Action Information Bulletin can boast that he has helped to disclose the names of more than 2,000 American intelligence officers stationed around the world.[9]

Agee wrote in the CovertAction Quarterly, the successor to CovertAction Information Bulletin, in 1998:

Havana, Cuba, July 1998
This was an exciting city 20 years ago this month, as more than ten thousand young people from around the globe gathered for the Eleventh World Festival of Youth and Students.
A group of had just launched this magazine in Washington, DC. as the Covert Action Information Bulletin, and all six of us were here for the world festival.
We gave speeches describing Agency [CIA] operations and how to identify their undercover personnel, and we testified at the International Tribunal Against Imperialism, the Festival's main political event which focused on the CIA's war against Cuba.[10]

Further reading

See also


  1. Washington Post, Obituary: Richard S. Welch, 29 December 1975, A16. ISBN 01908286
  2. Morton H. Halperin and National Security Issues—A Partial Record, Congressional Record, United States Senate - July 15, 1994, pg. S9109.
  3. Agee's Revenge, It's past time to kill the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, Jesse Walker, Reason, July 14, 2005.
  4. Chip Berlet and Linda Lotz, Reading List on Intelligence Agencies and Political Repression, (NY:National Lawyers Guild Civil Liberties Committee, Rev. 1/14/91).
  5. "Public Eye Staff," The Public Eye (Vol II, Issues 1 & 2, 1979), 3.
  6. Laird Wilcox, The Watchdogs: A Close Look at Anti-Racist "Watchdog" Groups, Editorial Research Service, 1999, p. 29. ISBN 0-993592-96-5.
  7. "To The Surprise Of A Few....," Security Intelligence (24 August 1992), 5.
  8. Obituary: Richard S. Welch, Washington Post, 29 December 1975, A16. ISBN 01908286
  9. For The Record, Washington Post, 27 July 1980
  10. Philip Agee, CovertAction Quarterly: Turning Twenty, Looking Back, CovertAction Quarterly (Fall 1998).