July 22, 2002 - UPI: RPCV and CIA defector Edward Howard dies in Moscow

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RPCV and CIA defector Edward Howard dies in Moscow

Read and comment on this story from UPI on the death of RPCV and CIA Defector Edward Howard in Moscow.

While it is widely understood that there is an absolute prohibition against anyone who ever worked for a US intelligence agency ever serving in the Peace Corps, many do not know that former volunteers may go to work for the CIA after a 5-year waiting period. The pertinent CIA regulation also requires that the employment of any former member of the Peace Corps "must have the specific prior approval of the deputy director concerned." Edward Howard was one such former Peace Corps Volunteer who went to work for the CIA under the five year rule. He later became a traitor to his country when he defected to the USSR.

Read more about Edward Howard in this story from the Peace Corps Writers web site at:

The Spy Who Was a PCV

A book about Mr. Howard is available on Amazon.com at:

The Spy Who Got Away: The Inside Story of Edward Lee Howard, the CIA Agent Who Betrayed His Country's Secrets and Escaped to Moscow

Read the story at:

CIA defector dies in Moscow *

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

CIA defector dies in Moscow

By Richard Sale, UPI Terrorism Correspondent
From the International Desk
Published 7/22/2002 3:45 PM

WASHINGTON, July 22 (UPI) -- A former CIA employee who defected to the Soviet Union as he was about to be arrested by the FBI died over the weekend, according to former senior CIA officials.

CIA spokesman Paul Nowack, when asked for the exact date of Howard's death, said, "I have nothing for you on that," and said he would have to check with the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

Edward L. Howard was discharged in 1983 amid growing suspicions that he may have betrayed his country.

One former CIA official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said of Howard, "He was known to be an erratic guy. I think it actually helped him get his job."

In 1980, at the age of 28, Howard applied to work at the CIA and appeared to be bright, trustworthy, and forthright. Former CIA officials told United Press International that Howard was also described as being fundamentally amoral, a quality that CIA recruiters were looking for at the time.

"There is a school of thought in the CIA that they needed people like that --swashbucklers, adventurers, high rollers -- in order to do the spying work," former CIA Director Stansfield Turner has said.

Howard was fluent in German and Spanish and was the son of a father who had been a career U.S. military officer. He was also a cum laude college graduate, a former Peace Corps volunteer, and a political conservative.

But according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, Howard also used drugs, had problems with alcohol, and was a petty thief. He admitted to once having pilfered a woman's purse on an airline flight.

The drug problem emerged in his initial polygraph test. The theft and other defects emerged from latter ones, according to former CIA officials.

Howard was hired and served in the agency's directorate of operations, which runs the organization's clandestine services. His wife, Mary, worked for the same office.

According to former agency sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Mary Howard was being trained as a support worker who would back up her husband and other CIA case officers in Moscow, servicing dead-drops or acting in a counter-surveillance capacity. One of Howard's trainers was Martha Petersen, who served in Moscow with the cover job of vice consul in the U.S. Embassy until arrested by the KGB while servicing a dead drop in 1977.

In the U.S. Embassy, Howard's cover job was to be that of embassy budget analyst. He was taught a great deal about KGB operations in Moscow, including the name of one KGB operative spying in place for the United States.

Howard was also trained by the FBI how to spot and outwit hostile surveillance, former CIA officials said.

But given further polygraph tests, Howard was found by his trainers to be deceptive. He lied about womanizing, about having trouble in his marriage and about his drug use.

He was fired from the agency in 1983.

With some help from the CIA, Howard then got a job in the New Mexico state legislature's Legislative Finance Committee, sources said.

In September 1984, still stung over being discharged, Howard told CIA employees he was considering treachery. But Howard, his wife and his newborn son moved to a Santa Fe suburb, where he lived a quiet life until he got involved in a drunken brawl in which he fired a .357 magnum. He was put on probation for five years.

A few months later while on a trip to Europe, Howard met with KGB agents.

According to former CIA officials, Howard was either paid for information he had learned at the agency about Moscow operations or he had gathered additional data to sell from the highly sensitive Los Alamos National Laboratory, which was not far from where he worked, and which was involved in developing "Star Wars" space missile shield technology.

In 1985, Howard made two trips to Europe and met KGB officials both times, according to sources.

Howard was "blown" in August 1985 when high-ranking KGB officer, Vitaly Yurchenko, talking to agency debriefers in a safe house in southern Virginia, revealed his activities.

The FBI put surveillance on Howard and taps on his phone, but on the night of Sept. 21, Howard left his house by the back door, and was then picked up by his wife in a car and escaped as he lay flat on the back floor. He changed clothes at his office, wrote a letter of resignation so his wife could collect his pension, and went to Moscow by way of Texas, Mexico and Vienna.

Because of Howard's activity, several U.S. operatives in Moscow were arrested and executed.

In August 1986, Howard resurfaced in Moscow when the Soviet Union announced that it had given him asylum for "humane considerations."

But former CIA director Turner quotes the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, an independent group that reports directly to the president, as telling the president, "Howard devastated the CIA's human intelligence operations in the Soviet Union."

"Don't kid yourself. We're not exactly going to grieve," a former CIA operative said.

Copyright © 2002 United Press International

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By Mark Murphy (mareko) on Tuesday, July 30, 2002 - 9:02 am: Edit Post

I agree what this guy did was a disgrace to the PC and America, but there is nothing wrong with wanting to continue to serve your country with "the company", NSA, armed forces or anything like that. Being a PCV doesn't mean you are a gay, liberal, or pacifist.

By judith whitney on Tuesday, July 30, 2002 - 9:51 am: Edit Post

I don't think anyone's right to work, anywhere, should be restricted. It was up to the CIA in their pre-hiring interviews to detect that Edward Howard was not a good candidate for a position with the CIA. It is rare for a person to "suddenly" become a "commie", there must have been some predelection on Mr. Howard's part towards an alternative form of government. Perhaps his serving in Peace Corps might have been a red flag for the CIA, but that certainly in no way indicates that all RPCV's are turncoats. On the contrary, I believe most PCV's are volunteers in the first place because they believe in their country and want to serve in productive and meaningful ways.

By luisa rich fels on Tuesday, July 30, 2002 - 11:46 am: Edit Post

we all knew, signing up for peace corps, that we would not be eligible for the CIA. that seemed reasonable at the time and it seems even more reasonable today. i was sickened to realize that that understanding has been breached. but i am sickened by many more aspects of our government today than i was back then, even as we were getting involved in military action in viet nam. i now see an insideous role peace corps plays in foisting american good will on countries it might easily destroy with bombs in the future--maybe in the name of revenge or self-protection but more obliquely for political advancement of the decision makers--Hello host country! Beware. I seem like a friend but anything I learn from you I may turn against you. speaking of betrayals!

By Jim Bradley on Tuesday, July 30, 2002 - 12:34 pm: Edit Post

While I'm primarily an academic now, I did spend 18 months working for State Dept. in Washington recently, primarily in the arms control area. As such, I had a lot of contact with the intelligence community. That community is essential in achieving two important roles RPCVs may not be aware of - it monitors compliance with arms control treaties and, by providing data on armament capabilities and intentions in other countries, reduces uncertainty, thereby reducing pressure for arms buildups in various sectors on the US military. These functions are critical for working toward objectives Peace Corps volunteers typically care deeply about. So I don't think the judgment that working for the CIA is inconsistent with being an RPCV is a sound one.

By Jaime on Tuesday, July 30, 2002 - 4:07 pm: Edit Post

I find the editorial on Edward Howard to be an irresponsible piece of journalism. In my opinion, the wording of the editorial clearly adds to the stereotypical misconceptions of individuals who serve in the CIA and/or Peace Corps.

Readers should not be led to draw conclusions about the cause of Edward Howard’s defection to the Soviet Union. It is all to easy to assume from this editorial piece that Howard’s political orientation and Peace Corps service some how led to him becoming a traitor. Likewise, it is a clear continuation of the CIA stereotype to imply that he was only recruited because he was fundamentally amoral, a swashbuckler, an adventurer, and a high roller. These implied stereotypes only further to grow the misunderstandings of these two organizations. Ironically, both of these organizations work very hard to make the world a better place.

As both an RPCV and a person born into a family full of CIA officers, I can assure you that there are individuals in both organizations who serve our country at the highest level. I can also assure you that there are bad apples in both the Peace Corps and the CIA. It is a weak argument to assert that a 5 year rule would have some how prevented the actions of Edward Howard, or that the entire elimination of RPCVs from CIA service would keep the Peace Corps safe from their own bad apples.

By Barbara Sallettes on Tuesday, July 30, 2002 - 10:10 pm: Edit Post

I don't think that returned Peace Corps volunteers should ever be eligible to work for the CIA. If host country nationals learned that a former Peace Corps volunteer was a member of the CIA, wouldn't they suspect that the volunteer may have been a member of the CIA while in their country? Wouldn't this place current volunteers under suspician?

By Steve Menefee on Monday, August 05, 2002 - 2:33 pm: Edit Post

The CIA has for many years recruited ex PCVs as they have proven that they can go into a foreign country learn the language and get along with and live among the local people.
The % of ex PCVs in the CIA is high. I have no doubt that host country officials involved with Peace Corps are fully aware of the relationship, these people are not stupid. If they thought it was a problem the would not accept Peace Corps into their country.
The 5 year rule pertains only to the country of service, You can go straight from PC to CIA as long as you don’t go to your PC host country as a CIA agent for 5 years. Upon joining the PC I signed a document stating among other things that I understood that. Again … don’t like that don’t join… easy
Banning PCVs from ever joining the CIA would harm both originations. 1) It would discourage people for joining the Peace Corps, I know it would have discouraged me. 2) It would deprive the CIA of a source of many fine agents that have already passed a very important test. (the can you cut it test)
The Edward Howard case has no bearing on this question.

By Mark Spevack (maspev) on Tuesday, August 06, 2002 - 2:34 pm: Edit Post

If you think an "intelligence" position either before or after service as a volunteer does not affect relations within the host country, you are sadly mistaken. And no, except maybe for the highest officials, the host country is NOT "fully aware of the relationship." But they sure do have suspicions, and that can impede and imperil a volunteer.

By Terry Adcock on Monday, August 12, 2002 - 5:49 am: Edit Post

I consider Edward Howard's story tragic. I was surprised that he was not released from the Peace Corps before he could complete his service. Surely the characteristics that caused him to be fired from the CIA were already there while he was in the Peace Corps.

Nevertheless, I appreciate having the article and the comments posted. I found them informative and instructive.

I thought the 5-year ban on joining the CIA was universal, not country-specific. That cleared up a misunderstanding I had.

When I was serving in 1961-63, connection with the CIA was an anathema to most Volunteers because of the possible reaction of those we served to a "double purpose" for our service.

Certain elements of the host country (usually the dissidents) would play on the possible misunderstanding of our mission. When I arrived in Colombia, the local communist newspaper printed a cartoon with the Body Politic shown as a dead donkey and the Peace Corps shown as a formation of vultures closing in, spelling out the letters C.I.A. (a play on the words "Corps" and "body or corpse" being the same in Spanish).

It was helpful to be able to explain to those we served that two different parts of our government could have two separte missions. "Separate" was the operative word. To me, keeping them separate will help keep the "three faces of America" actually THREE, not one. (See "The Three Faces America shows the World: the Peace Corps, the Multinationals, and the Military" under the Headlines section.)

The fact that those seeking democracy in their countries consider the Peace Corps as a balance to the Multinationals and the Military (which would include the CIA) is very encouraging. I would like to see it stay that way.

By Mark Spevack (maspev) on Tuesday, August 13, 2002 - 12:06 am: Edit Post

Actually John Kennedy's first Executive Order, even before he was inaugurated on Jan. 1, 1961, was to prohibit any cross-service whatsoever. As I recall the episode being traced by the former Committee of Returned Volunteers, it was Lyndon Johnson who reversed that.

By Mark Spevack (maspev) on Tuesday, August 13, 2002 - 12:10 am: Edit Post

John Kennedy's first Executive Order, even before he was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 1961, was to prohibit any cross-service, extending to DIA, MI and simliar entities. That was clearly described in the historical and authoritative "The Invisible Government" by David Wise. It was Lyndon Johnson, I recall, who reversed that, with the episode being tracked by the old Committee of Returned Volunteers.

By Trevor Harmon (vocaro) on Sunday, April 13, 2003 - 11:48 am: Edit Post

>It is all too easy to assume from this editorial
>piece that Howard’s political orientation and
>Peace Corps service some how led to him becoming
>a traitor.
>Being a PCV doesn't mean you are a gay, liberal,
>or pacifist.

Note that the article says he was "a political conservative".

By Red Flag on Tuesday, September 30, 2003 - 5:10 pm: Edit Post


Please see the resignation.

By Anonymous (host-153.nbc.netcom.ca - on Sunday, October 05, 2003 - 3:52 pm: Edit Post


RPCVs are working in the Arms Control Area and were assigned CIA operations officers.

Why would a PCV care about the operations of the United Nations and (how they) allowing the proliferation of nuclear and other WMDs?

PCVs are not allowed to have operations officers assigned to them, unless the rules where changed.

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