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David Atlee Phillips (October 31, 1922 – July 7, 1988) was a Central Intelligence Agency officer for 25 years, one of a handful of people to receive the Career Intelligence Medal. He rose to become the CIA's chief of all operations in the Western hemisphere. In 1975 he founded the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO), an alumni association comprising intelligence officers from all services.
Background[edit | edit source]
Phillips was born in Fort Worth, Texas. He attended William and Mary College and Texas Christian University. Phillips established his ties to the intelligence community during World War II, when as a prisoner of war in Germany he became a member of an escape committee, serving until his own escape.
CIA career[edit | edit source]
Phillips joined the CIA as a part-time agent in 1950 in Chile, where he owned and edited "The South Pacific Mail", an English-language newspaper that circulated throughout South America and several islands in the Pacific. He became a full-time operative in 1954 and rose through the ranks to intelligence officer, chief of station and eventually chief of all operations in the Western hemisphere, serving primarily in Latin America, including Cuba, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic.
Some researchers claim Phillips used the alias "Maurice Bishop" (not to be confused with the former prime minister of Grenada, Maurice Bishop). He used the pseudonym whilst working with Alpha 66, an organization of anti-Castro Cubans. Alpha 66's founder, Antonio Veciana, claimed that during one of his meetings with "Bishop", Lee Harvey Oswald was also in attendance. Some observers falsely note that Phillips was the officer in charge of the CIA's Mexico City station when Oswald visited the city in the fall of 1963. The Chief of Station in Mexico City was Winston Scott. Scott asked Phillips to take the number three position, "a job Howard Hunt had held in the early fifties and in which Hunt had handled, among others, an American contract agent named William F. Buckley." In a deathbed statement released in 2007, Watergate figure and CIA officer Howard Hunt named Phillips as one of the participants in the JFK assassination.
United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) investigator Gaeton Fonzi believed Phillips was Bishop. In the HSCA's 1979 report, it stated:
- "The committee suspected that Veciana was lying when he denied that the retired CIA officer was Bishop. The committee recognized that Veciana had an interest in renewing his anti-Castro operations that might have led him to protect the officer from exposure as Bishop so they could work together again. For his part, the retired officer aroused the committee's suspicion when he told the committee he did not recognize Veciana as the founder of Alpha 66, especially since the officer had once been deeply involved in Agency anti-Castro operations. Further, a former CIA case officer who was assigned from September 1960 to November 1962 to the JM/WAVE station in Miami told the committee that the retired officer had in fact used the alias, Maurice Bishop. The committee also interviewed a former assistant of the retired officer but he could not recall his former superior ever having used the name or having been referred to as Bishop."
The report went on to dismiss Veciana's testimony about the meeting:
- "In the absence of corroboration or independent substantiation, the committee could not, therefore, credit Veciana's story of having met with Lee Harvey Oswald." (page 137)
Retirement[edit | edit source]
During the 1970s the intelligence community was rocked by a number of leaks and embarrassing revelations. Phillips took early retirement in order to respond in public. The former officer stated that he felt intelligence communities should be kept from committing excesses, but not undermined or destroyed. Although much attacked at a time when many people called for the dismantlement of the CIA, Phillips toured the world to speak out in favor of the need for a strong intelligence community.
He was subsequently himself accused of being a participant in the John F. Kennedy and Orlando Letelier assassinations. Philips successfully sued some publications for libel; retractions were issued and monetary damages were awarded. Phillips donated these proceeds to AFIO for the purpose of creating a legal defense fund for American intelligence officers who felt they were the victims of libel.
Phillips wrote and lectured frequently on intelligence matters. He authored five books, including his CIA memoir The Night Watch, Careers in Secret Operations, a novel of Arab terrorists intent on damaging Washington landmarks, The Terror Brigade, a spy novel called The Carlos Contract, and The Great Texas Murder Trials: A Compelling Account of the Sensational T. Cullen Davis Case. (on T. Cullen Davis).
See also[edit | edit source]
- Bay of Pigs Invasion (1961)
- E. Howard Hunt (1918–2007)
- Operation 40
- Felix Rodriguez (b.1941–)
- Richard M. Bissell, Jr. (1909–1994)
- Frank Sturgis (1924–1993)
- Guillermo Hernández-Cartaya (b.1932–)
- Porter Goss (b.1938–)
- Barry Seal (1939–1986)
- Zapata Corporation
- Watergate scandal (1972)
References[edit | edit source]
- New York Times, 10 July 1988, David Atlee Phillips Dead at 65; Ex-Agent Was Advocate of C.I.A.
- Fonzi, Gaeton. The Last Investigation, (New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1993), pp. 263-266. ISBN 1-56025-052-6
- Fonzi, Gaeton. The Last Investigation, (New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1993), p. 396. ISBN 1-56025-052-6
- Fonzi, Gaeton. The Last Investigation, (New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1993), pp. 141-142. ISBN 1-56025-052-6
- Summers, Anthony. Not in Your Lifetime, (New York: Marlowe & Company, 1998), pp. 250-251. ISBN 1-56924-739-0
- Phillips, Davd Atlee. The Night Watch. New York: Atheneum, 1977 (113).
- Erik Hedegaard, "The Last Confession of E. Howard Hunt", Rolling Stone, April 5, 2007.
- United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (1979), HSCA Report, page 136, footnote 23
Bibliography[edit | edit source]
- Phillips, David Atlee (1977). The Night Watch: 25 Years of Peculiar Service. New York: Atheneum. ISBN 0-689-10754-4. OCLC 2424448.
- Phillips, David Atlee (1978). The Carlos contract : a novel of international terrorism. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 0-02-596110-1. OCLC 4135781.
- Phillips, David Atlee (1979). The Great Texas Murder Trials: A Compelling Account of the Sensational T. Cullen Davis Case. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 0-02-596150-0. OCLC 4907946.
- Phillips, David Atlee (1984). Careers in Secret Operations: How to be a Federal Intelligence Officer. Frederick, Md.: University Publications of America. ISBN 0-89093-653-6. OCLC 11316169.