Death of a CIA Agent–No, He Wasn't in the Peace Corps

All of the recent talk about inappropriate emails from General John Allen and the end of CIA Director David Petraeus’s career because of his affair with Paula Broadwell brought back to mind a short item I read recently in the back pages of the Washington Post, there was an obit on Eric H. Biddle, Jr. noting that he was a CIA during the early Cold War days who later became an outspoken critic of the discrimination he said he faced in later employment because of his espionage career. He died at the age of 84.

Briddle was with the CIA from 1952-60, specializing in Soviet intelligence.peacecorp-logo

In 1960, he became involved with a Greek woman while working in Greece, but CIA employees are prohibited from marrying foreign nationals, and while he did not marry the woman, he quit the agency. He returned to the U.S. and thought about joining the Peace Corps, but because of his CIA history, they said no.

In 1965, he became an inspector with the Office of Economic Opportunity, and later with the Office of Voluntary Action and was involved with developing the new umbrella agency ACTION that would, of course, for a few years include Peace Corps.

Now what he was doing became directly linked with the Peace Corps because the agency was under the ACTION umbrella.  He said he began to endure a pattern of workplace discrimination due to his CIA past. H said superiors relieved him of certain responsibilities, isolated him from daily operations and encouraged him to find another job. By 1974, he was demoted in rank.

So he sued the government. And in 1979, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that his civil right had not been violated and that the procedures followed had been legal.

He decided to become a lawyer.

While overseas, we have all been accused of being agents of the CIA. This is not a new story. I am not sure what the current rule it within the agency, but as best as I can recall, a person had to be ‘out of intelligence’ for at least 7 years’ before they could serve as a PCV.

There is only one story that I know of that tell of an RPCV who became a spy, and that was Edward Lee Howard. He joined the CIA after his tour, and that I thought was no possible for an RPCV, and then betrayed his country and escaped to Moscow. It is written up in the book by David Wise entitled, The Spy Who Got Away published in 1988 by Random House. Howard was a PCV in Colombia from 1972-74.  He then worked for the Peace Corps as a recruiter in Dallas before returning to graduate at American University  in 1975. Howard went to work for the CIA in January 1981. He escaped to Russia in 1985. On July 12, 2002 Edward Lee Howard would die in Russia.


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  • You need to read John Perkins books, “Confessions of an economic hit man.” He went into the Peace Corps, knowing that he would be hired afterwards by the spooks.

    Having RPCVs become spooks only fuels the suspicion the foreigners already harbor about PCVs. It should be banned.

  • I wrote a letter to the CIA as I was preparing to leave Ethiopia in 1964 asking it to reopen my application from when I was offfered a job there in 1962. I asked our Assistant PC Director if I should send this letter by government channels. He said no, send it via the local mail. Well all hell broke loose and later he called me into his office and berated me for sending the letter by open mail. I reminded him that he had told me to do it that way. I’m sure he covered his ass by telling his superiors that it was my mistake and said nothing about his instruction to me. I also learned then that while I was in PC service JFK issued an execuitive order banning hiring PCVs by intelligence outfits and PC hiring former intelligence officers.

  • Leo:

    I heard about the JFK “CIA order” as well. Did you hear about the JFK order for PCV’s not to have affairs with the HCN’s?

  • John,

    Did you get the e-mail I sent you about PC and the CIA the day before you posted about PC and the CIA?

    So what ageny do you think the woman (quoted in In the Shadow of the Moon) was talking about when she said her late husband (my country director) had had other government jobs while they were incountry, but she didn’t ask what they were? What government jobs would they have been? And was it just a coincidence that he’d been recruited from a government job in Langley and had no prior experience at all related to PC before being sent to Thailand? And what about that popular think tank spokesman of today (and RPCV from Thailand) who left Peace Corps and immediately started doing research on rural development for the American government in Thailand? Who do you suppose he might have been working for? And why do you suppose Newsweek posted their Sincerely Your Local CIA Agent sidebar article about the ploy in Sakohn Nakorn Thailand two months after the volunteers from Sakohn Nakohn Thaland had told me I needed to leave Thailand because I was “dragging everybody else down”.. Am I to believe all of this was coincidencal? And why did my Country Director come all the way to Denver to tell me not to go back right after I tried to call him in Bangkok?

    You know why I had so many questions instead of answers? I had so many questions instead of answers because PC people who knew what was going on were cowtowing to the CIA. If they knew anything at all, they wouldn’t talk, and they’re hardly talking today.

    And people like me? Well, your book reviewer called my research convoluted. You e-mailed me that that was her opinion not yours, and I believed you which was why I emailed you on November 12th about the things I’ve learned since I ;published my book. (I was also thinking CIA after Patreaus was busted.) So what happens? On November 13th you post the story of Edward Lee Hunter as if that’s the closest cross-pollination (as Stanley Miesler called it) there ever has been between Peace Corps and the CIA. And Hunter didn’t join the CIA until more than five years after his Peace Corps days were over. So what? You think I’m out to lunch.

    That’s a shame, you know, especially because my wife says the very same thing whenever I deal with these these things which still is way too much.

    But I still think PC ought to get real. There’s probably more covert CIA agents out there today than there are “very visible” volunteers, and some of those volunteers are probably as complicit with CIA stategies (probably still via USAID).as they were back in the day. In any case, there’s surely interaction between PC and the CIA whether the volunteers know it or not, and, like in the day, the volunteers, for the most part, don’t know who the CIA is. To say it’s not so only serves the CIA.

    I mean maybe I’m naive, but I really think Americans cand handle the truth and that Peace Corps can survive the truth. And I also think you care about the truth. Which would mean you think I’m out to lunch.

    Oh well, Things are things. Jim Jouppi PC Community Development Thailand 71-73 .

  • What I mean is……..if you believe what you wrote, adn I believe you do, and if you had read what I wrote you the previous day, then you would think I’m out to lunch, because my version and yours are pretty much mutually exclusive..

  • Lawrence,

    I did read your book about taking care (in one’s Peace Corps memoir) not to say anything which might be offensive to anyone else, but I’d already written my memoir several times by then, and anyway, how could I have avioded being disagreeable and still have said what I wanted to say?

    In the version reviewed on the Peace Corps Writers site, I recounted the story of Edward Lee Hunter in the intro and explained how I’d hoped that Stanley Meisler, author of the 2011 PC history book, would contact a very specific RPCV (Thailand mid 60s) who’d posted, in the summer of 2005, about being harrassed by the CIA on the Peace Corps Online website. I provided Mr. Meisler with specific contact info, because this particular RPCV had stopped communicating after making his post, this after writing in capital letters that he wanted to talk.

    In any case, as I learned in graduate school in England in 1993, the Pakistanis believed our CIA ahd been controlling lthe politics of their country, as well as their nuclear program, and that their elected president (prime minister? Bhutto I think) hadn’t even been in the loop as far as national security issues. I also remember when my father, who should have known better, wrote to the economic attache of every embassy in the world, in the 80s or early 90s, to offer his financial research sevices and/or to try to make connections. Although unusual, it was the ltype of thing my father would do, but he didn’t know, at the time, that the economic attaches of our embassies are often Intelligence men. He learned only belatedly that he’d crossed the invisible line, and, of course, he stopped expansive project..

    Nor did I know I was crossing some invisible line when I was in Peace Corp and that that’s why I kept getting directives to abandon my work on Thai government sanctioned CD projects. I thought I was suppposed to work on these CD projects. That’s what we’d been told, but I was very naive at the time. Surely, when the foreign serviice guy told us over the crank phone at the government office that our personal safety was not the issue, that should have set off red flags, but it wasn’t until after I was already out of Peace Corps that our Country Director came to Denver and told me, probably by accident becasue he was very angry, that I’d been in all the wrong places ever since arriving in Thailand. In fact, it was only several years after that encounter that they I learned there was even supposed to be a Wall of Separation between Peace Corps and the CIA.

    Still, I believe that Peace Corps does serves a purpose,albeit a different purpose than what Kennedy had in mind. I think Kennedy believed that PC and our soldiers were on the same team. At least Nixon’s CIA seemed to believe that should be the case.

    I didn’t really want to make waves. If I’d wanted to make waves, I would have acted far differently than I did when I was in PC, and this stuff wouldn’t have stayed inside me for forty years. I used to believe I was helping other people just by trying to get at the truth, but now i feel like a relic or someting. . .

    . .

    . .

  • Thank you for the expansive reply! I suppose we are all relics but our experiences are worth saving in print. As far as my literary advice goes, the book also mentions that I am no writing icon and anyone is free to ignore me. Why not? My wife of 32 years does constantly.

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