Part 6 in our Biden Series: A Company Man?
On May 9, 1981, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Security and Terrorism was debating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (S. 391). Their goal: criminalize the unauthorized identification of U.S. intelligence agents.
Then-Senator Joe Biden rose to his feet to denounce my father, Philip Agee, the CIA whistleblower whose 1975 book, Inside the Company, identified some 250 officers, front companies and foreign agents working for the United States.
Agee had become public enemy #1 after publication of his book. He also became the victim of a disinformation and harassment campaign that forced him to live on the run for the rest of his life.
Co-sponsored by segregationist Strom Thurmond (R-SC), the Intelligence Identities Protection Act mandated a $50,000 fine and ten years’ imprisonment for those who had access to classified information and publicly identified covert agents.
CIA Deputy Director Frank Carlucci acknowledged on NBC in July 1979 that the CIA had drafted the legislation, which Floyd Abrams, the most eminent First Amendment lawyer in the U.S., considered unconstitutional.
At the sixth annual meeting of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers in 1981, Carlucci bragged that “we’ve managed to pursue a very aggressive strategy on the Hill; that strategy has paid dividends.”
The Intelligence Identities Protection Act was signed into law in June 1982 at a ceremony at CIA headquarters, in which President Ronald Reagan praised CIA employees as “heroes engaged in a grim twilight struggle.”
The law was part of a wave of post-Watergate legislation that aimed to reaffirm the authority of the CIA following the 1975 Church Committee hearings, which had exposed the CIA’s involvement in foreign assassinations, illegal drug testing on unwitting suspects and illegal surveillance.
CIA veterans James “Jesus” Angleton and Ray Cline had set up two new pro-intelligence foundations in the late 1970s which pledged support for a restoration of the CIA’s effectiveness while lamenting the damage done by revelations and criticism.
Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) supported another pro-CIA bill exempting the CIA from the Freedom of Information Act, while Senator Walter Huddleston (D-KY) led passage of a bill supported by Biden in 1980 limiting congressional oversight of the CIA.
John Stockwell, a prominent CIA whistleblower in his own right, testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee in 1980 that
CIA critics at the time included most notably Philip Agee and the editors of CovertAction Information Bulletin (CAIB), founded by Agee and others in 1977. In the magazine, they published a “Naming Names” column from public unclassified sources that outed CIA agents and others. See our archives.
The Senate Judiciary Committee’s report on the bill highlighted the efforts of Agee and other CAIB founders to identify and disclose U.S. intelligence officers as part of “a systematic effort to destroy the ability of [U.S.] intelligence agencies to operate clandestinely.”
Congressman Bill Young (R-FL) said during a House debate on the bill: “What we’re after today are the Philip Agees of the world.”
CIA Director Stansfield Turner, who compared the exposure of his young officers to the “cutting off the hands of a young surgeon” and characterized the CAIB editors as “traitors,” made speeches urging passage of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.
So did Frank Carlucci who wanted to criminalize exposure of agency personnel by people who never had access to classified information in an effort to shut down the “Naming Names” column, which was eventually achieved.
Senator Biden’s position aligned with Carlucci’s and Turner’s as well as right-wing extremists like Larry McDonald (D-GA) of the John Birch Society, who characterized Agee as a “CIA defector who could give [British Soviet spy] Kim Philby a lesson in treachery.”
Biden personally threatened to “put away” members of the CAIB editorial board who helped write the “naming names” column.
In his memoir On the Run, Agee wrote that “Joseph Biden, like [Barry] Goldwater [conservative Senator from Arizona and 1964 presidential candidate and] a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called for a new law to stop my revelations by criminalizing the exposure of undercover intelligence officers.” [sic]
Biden was one of only four Senators who ultimately voted against the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. The reason was that he feared it could subject to prosecution not only the “malicious publicizing of agents’ names,” but also the “efforts of legitimate journalists to expose any corruption, malfeasance, or ineptitude occurring in American intelligence agencies.”
Biden found particularly problematic the targeting of anyone who published the name of an agent with “reason to believe” that publication will impair or impede American intelligence activities in violation of the law.
Biden felt that the wording was too ambiguous and could impede news organizations from publishing legitimate stories about CIA malfeasance such as its spying on U.S. citizens or about rogue agents who sold their services to foreign governments.
Biden sought the substitution of “reason to believe” with “intent,” which he said would have clearly focused the legislation on the problem it was meant to solve and would minimize its effect on those he thought were legitimate journalists.
Biden told Strom Thurmond, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that he planned to “work with him to see to it that we get a bill [as] we must to stop the Agees” of the world. “We must find a way to do it,” he said, “it is outrageous and reprehensible what they do.”
But Biden did “not want to stop publication of a book like ‘The Spike’ and ‘The Terrorist Network [sic]’ that we all think are important.”
The Terror Network was a CIA-subsidized book written by Claire Sterling, which falsely accused the Russian KGB of supporting terrorist organizations around the world while disclosing the names of some CIA agents.
The Spike was actually a novel with fictional characters.
Agee and the Naming of Names
Phil Agee wrote in On the Run that the Intelligence Identities Protection Act was
The bill’s main targets were “straight media” and “our guerrilla journalism,” Senator John Chafee (D-RI) told him.
In 2003, Agee told CBS News that he had disclosed the identities of his former CIA colleagues to “weaken the instrument for carrying out the policy of supporting military dictatorships in Greece, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.”
Those regimes, he said, “were supported by the CIA and the human cost was immense: torture, executions, death squads.”
Agee was falsely blamed for the 1975 death of Richard Welch, CIA Station Chief in Greece, who had been identified as a CIA officer in Peru in Counterspy Magazine, the forerunner of CAIB.
However, Welch’s identity had already been known and CIA Director William Colby backpedaled in attributing initial blame for Welch’s death on Counterspy, attributing it ultimately to “bad cover.”
CAIB editors Louis Wolf, Ellen Ray and William Schaap testified before a House Subcommittee in January 1980 that Welch had been murdered by people who were “deliberately stalking his predecessor,” even sitting behind him in a movie theater, and that his death had “nothing to do with his having been named as a CIA officer” by other publications.
Wolf, Ray and Schaap explained to the House Committee that the “Naming Names” column was guided by the belief that the nation’s intelligence activities should be restricted to the gathering of intelligence in the strictest sense,” and that the CIA had evolved into an “evil instrumentality… involved in bribery, buying elections, controlling media, political and economic sabotage, bombing and assassination…that was beyond reform and had to be abolished.”
Wolf, Ray and Schaap stated further that it was
At the 1978 launch of CAIB in Havana, Bill Schaap had described his ambition of establishing a worldwide group of researchers called “CIA Watch” through which CIA operatives under diplomatic cover would be identified and exposed in the local press, hence disrupting CIA operations.
Agee advocated for public demonstrations against those exposed, and pressure campaigns to have them thrown out.
This did not sit well with the traditional foreign policy establishment, of which Biden was very much a part.
Joe, the Company Man
When Biden was first elected to the United States Senate as a “29-year-old kid,” he was mentored by Averell Harriman, the former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union who supported CIA covert operations throughout his long and distinguished diplomatic career.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Biden sat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which was established upon recommendation of the 1975/1976 Pike Committee to provide “vigilant legislative oversight over the intelligence activities of the United States to assure that such activities are in conformity with the Constitution and laws of the United States.”
Biden admitted that the Senate Intelligence Committee failed at this latter task, telling The New York Times in 1982 that its performance was “barely adequate. There is a lack of prudent and consistent oversight…. and a willingness to accept blanket findings and to give indefinite approval for conducting operations.”
Among other things, the Senate Intelligence Committee failed to (1) adequately probe into the CIA’s assassination of Frank Olson, a CIA biochemist who helped run germ warfare experiments at a secret army laboratory in Fort Detrick, Maryland, (2) acquiesced to the CIA’s lies about its subversion in Angola, and (3) covered up the CIA’s support for narco-traffickers in Latin America and Afghanistan.
In the early 1980s, after complaints by at least one Delaware citizen, Biden launched an investigation into Summit Aviation Corp., a Middletown, Delaware company owned by Richard “Kip” DuPont that ferried bombs and guns to the Nicaraguan Contras, a right-wing paramilitary group fighting the left-wing Sandinistas, but never released the findings.
Senator Biden’s standing as a “company man” was apparent during hearings on the National Intelligence Act of 1980 requiring reporting of covert actions to House and Senate intelligence committees.
Biden stated that people had
Though chiding his colleagues for “suggesting that we should return to the supposed good old days of the CIA—the era of the Bay of Pigs and wonderful estimates on Vietnam and how well we were doing”—Biden nevertheless concluded that he was not worried about the intelligence community “going off on its own and abusing their powers.”
In his estimation, the CIA “housed probably the most intelligent people that work in government; among the best and the brightest the government has to offer,” and was the key to “establishing world peace.”
Biden had not long before dismissed the concerns of American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawyers at a meeting about the CIA’s charter, stating:
At this time, Biden was helping to write the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which permitted electronic surveillance by the President to acquire foreign intelligence information for a period of up to one year without a court order and sanctioned secret court proceedings.
Biden also collaborated with CIA Director William J. Casey in 1980 in promoting legislation that banned graymailing, a tactic used in leaker trials in which classified documents are requested by the defense during discovery to pressure the government into dropping its case.
Under Casey’s direction, the CIA ramped up covert arms supplies to the Afghan mujahidin—which in December 1982 Biden voted to authorize—and to the Nicaraguan Contras and Jonas Savimbi’s right-wing UNITA forces in Angola.
Biden was especially admiring of Deputy CIA Director under Casey, Bobby Ray Inman, who later became an executive with Blackwater.
Casey highlighted “the tongue lashing [Biden] gave Justice for their passive attitude and general ineffectivenesss” as well as “his demand that if his gray mail legislation which he sponsored was not enough to enable them to go after leaks, they tell them what else needs to be done.”
Casey stated that Biden’s performance “made for an opportunity to launch a more effective campaign against leaking which can cost us the great bulk of intelligence assets if it keeps up.”
In an informal speech at Stanford University, Biden emphasized that an entire Central American spy network had been compromised by leaks, which he said had to be shored up, and referenced Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, American citizens who were executed by electric chair after being accused of providing intelligence to the Soviet government.
Biden’s public outreach was part of the CIA’s efforts to recover its tarnished image following exposés by CIA critics and the Church Committee revelations.
Biden was especially suited for the job because of his ability to charm audiences and his reputation as something of a liberal in Congress who had nominally opposed the Vietnam War and supported the Boland Amendment blocking aid to the Nicaraguan Contras.
Ever the Company Man
In 2003, Biden co-sponsored a Senate resolution supporting and reaffirming the mission of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a brainchild of William Casey established in the 1980s to take over many functions from the CIA, including those that were designed to affect regime change.
NED co-founder Allen Weinstein proudly stated:
Over the next five years, Biden strongly supported NED-sponsored color revolutions in Belarus, Ukraine and Georgia, which aimed to replace pro-Russian leaders with pro-Western oriented ones that supported NATO expansion.
In the 2008 election, Biden was a fitting choice to be on the ticket with a President [Barack Obama] who would give the CIA “everything that it wanted.”
An anonymous Cabinet member explained that “presidents tend to be smitten with the instruments of the intelligence community [but] Obama was more smitten than most—this has been an intelligence presidency in a way we haven’t seen maybe since Eisenhower.”
Biden was (1) a staunch champion of Obama’s drone war, (2) supported regime change operations in Honduras, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Syria, and (3) oversaw the ferrying of arms to right-wing militias in Ukraine through a CIA front company, Burisma, which appointed his son Hunter as a board member.
National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, who exposed illegal government surveillance operations in 2013, stated in a 2019 interview that Vice President Biden along with Secretary of State John Kerry warned foreign countries that there would be “consequences” if they granted him asylum.
Biden stated: “This guy (Assange) has done things that have damaged and put in jeopardy the lives and occupations of people in other parts of the world.”
President Biden’s choices for top intelligence positions—including especially Avril Haines, as Director of National Intelligence—show that Biden remains a company man.
As CIA deputy director from 2013 to 2015, Haines authorized using drone strikes to carry out targeted extrajudicial assassinations, according to CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou.
Haines further helped protect CIA agents who illegally hacked the computers of Biden’s old Senate Intelligence Committee to thwart its investigation into the CIA’s detention and interrogation program that used torture methods like waterboarding.
At the 1980 congressional hearings in which the CovertAction Information Bulletin editors testified, Representative Romano L. Mazzoli (D-KY) stated that the latter’s view of the CIA, “while carefully reached and zealously held, was [that] of a very, very small minority throughout the country, and I think legitimately a small part.”
The history of the last 40 years shows, however, that CAIB’s view was prescient, even if marginal.
Joe Biden’s fealty to the CIA, and his attacks on my father Phil Agee and his associates, were by contrast dishonorable, and put him in with Mazzoli and Casey and all the others on the wrong side of history.
 Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1981—S. 391, Hearing before the Subcommittee on Security and Terrorism of the Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate, 97th Congress, 1st Session (Washington, D.C.: U.S. G.P.O., 1981), 54.
 Philip Agee, On the Run (Secaucus, NJ: Lyle Stuart, 1987). The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice conducted a criminal investigation of the CIA involving its activities against Agee.
 Walter Karp, “New Cloaks for the CIA,” The Village Voice, November 11, 1981.
 Karp, “New Cloaks for the CIA.” On Carlucci’s career, see Francis Schor, “The Strange Career of Frank Carlucci,” Counterpunch, February 1, 2002.
 Agee, On the Run, 371. The Intelligence Identities Protection Act was first proposed by Senator Lloyd Bentsen (D-TX) in 1975. A 1979 House bill identical to the CIA-drafted legislation was introduced by Edward Boland (D-MA); Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) introduced another identical bill which had strong bipartisan support.
 Agee, On the Run, 311.
 On the latter, see National Intelligence Act of 1980, Hearings Before the Select Committee on Intelligence of the U.S. Senate, 96th Congress, 2nd Session, February 21, 1980 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. G.P.O., 1980), 7-10. When Huddleston’s bill passed the Senate in 1980, Huddleston said he was happy that his colleagues had overcome “purist attitudes” about things like “bugging, tapping and burglarizing innocent people,” which the CIA had long been engaged. In the hearing on the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, Huddleston had rebuked the book Dirty Work II on the CIA in Africa which was edited by William Schaap, Ellen Ray and Louis Wolf.
 Karp, “New Cloaks for the CIA”; “Testimony of John Stockwell,” Intelligence Identities Protection Legislation, Hearings Before the Select Committee on Intelligence of the U.S. Senate, 96th Congress, 2nd Session on S.2216, June 24, 25, 1980 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. G.P.O., 1980), 50-60. In his 1978 book, In Search of Enemies (New York: W.W. Norton, 1984), Stockwell wrote that “The CIA presence in American foreign affairs will be judged by history as a surrender to the darker side of human nature. . . . [W]orst of all, by retaining the CIA we are accepting ourselves as a harsh and ruthless people.”
 Agee, On the Run, 339.
 Agee, On the Run, 311.
 Agee, On the Run, 312, 371. Carlucci’s measure was ultimately introduced into the bill, in violation of the U.S. Constitution and its protection of freedom of speech, though neither the ACLU nor any other civil liberties organization came forward to mount a challenge in court.
 Agee, On the Run, 287.
 Agee, On the Run, 339; Personal recollection of CAIB editorial board member, email correspondence, January 2021.
 Agee, On the Run, 288.
 Joe Biden, “A Spy Law That Harms National Security,” The Christian Science Monitor, April 6, 1982, https://www.csmonitor.com/1982/0406/040622.html
 Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1981—S.391, 50.
 For a discussion of the shoddy research methods in Sterling’s book, see Edward S. Herman, The Real Terror Network: Terrorism in Fact and Propaganda (Boston: South End Press, 1999).
 Agee, On the Run, 370. Agee compared the bill to the British Official Secrets Act.
 Agee, On the Run, 370.
 Despite what Colby said, President George H. W. Bush, CIA director in 1976-1977, accused Agee of responsibility for Welch’s death in a 1989 speech at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. The slander was repeated by Barbara Bush, the former first lady, in her 1994 autobiography. Agee sued her for libel, forcing a legal settlement in which Mrs. Bush agreed to remove the charge from subsequent editions of her book.
 “Statement of CovertAction Information Bulletin,” January 31, 1980, CovertAction Information Bulletin, March-April 1980, https://covertactionmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/CAIB08-1980-1.pdf. In the “Naming Names” column in the first issue of CovertAction Information Bulletin, the editors wrote: “We do not believe that one can separate the dirty work of the CIA from the people who perform it. The exposure of past operations is valuable, but it is only half the job. How many times have we all heard the CIA, the FBI and others say, whenever a particularly nasty covert operation has been exposed, “Oh yes, but we don’t do that any more. We believe that they do, and that the same people are often involved. – “Naming Names: A Regular Feature of the CovertAction Information Bulletin,” Number 1, July 1978, p. 23.
 Agee, On the Run, 281.
 Agee, On the Run, 286.
 See H.P. Albarelli, Jr., A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA’s Secret Cold War Experiments (Walterville, OR: Trine Day, 2011); Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall, Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies and the CIA in Central America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998); Douglas Valentine, The Strength of the Pack: The Personalities, Politics and Espionage Intrigues that Shaped the DEA (Walterville, OR: Trine Day, 2010).
 See Gerard Colby, DuPont Dynasty (Secaucus, N.J.: Lyle Stuart, 1984), 14, 786, 787. Biden was long supported by the Delaware-based DuPont Corporation, celebrating his election to the Senate in 1972 at the DuPont hotel in Wilmington, boasting a DuPont lawyer as a top adviser and chemist as a policy consultant and for many years chief of staff, and eventually moving into one of the family mansions. According to an international arms dealer who knew a Summit executive, Summit planes were used by high-ranking members of the Thai military in northern Thailand to protect illegal drug operations along the Cambodian border and for counterinsurgency operations in the Vietnam War and to protect the illegal Southeast Asian heroin connection by which the CIA funded mercenaries. Some of its warplanes–including ones outfitted for spraying crop defoliants–were sold illegally to dictatorships in Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala and Anastasio Somnoza’s Nicaragua in operations supported by Theodore Roosevelt III. DuPont may have further set up military training camps at his Maryland farm where there were reports of automatic weapons being fired.
 National Intelligence Act of 1980, 7-10.
 Quoted in Daniel Boguslaw, “Joe Biden’s Love Affair with the CIA,” The American Prospect, October 10, 2019, https://prospect.org/power/joe-bidens-love-affair-with-the-cia-william-casey/
 Biden bragged that prosecutions of leakers increased by three times due to the legislation.
 Philip Taubman, “Inman Loss Raises fears in Congress,” The New York Times, April 24, 1982, https://www.nytimes.com/1982/04/24/us/inman-loss-raises-fears-in-congress.html
 The resolution passed unanimously in the Senate and had only one opposition vote in the House, reflecting the bipartisan support for the U.S. empire at this time.
 David Ignatius, “Innocence Abroad: The New World of Spyless Coups,” The Washington Post, September 22, 1991.
 Jeremy Kuzmarov, Obama’s Unending Wars: Fronting the Foreign Policy of the Permanent Warfare State (Atlanta: Clarity Press Inc, 2019), 21.
 Kuzmarov, Obama’s Unending Wars, 21.
Jessica Bles, “Edward Snowden: Joe Biden told countries there’d be ‘consequences’ if they granted him asylum,” Delaware Online, September 17, 2019.
 Ewan MacAskill, “Julian Assange like a high-tech terrorist, says Joe Biden,” The Guardian, December 19, 2010.
 MacAskill, “Julian Assange like a high-tech terrorist, says Joe Biden.”
 MacAskill, “Julian Assange like a high-tech terrorist, says Joe Biden.”
 Ironically, Kiriakou was jailed for a year under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.
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About the Author
Chris Agee is Executive Editor of CovertAction Magazine.
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