SpyCast 5.17.22
Ep 539 | 5.17.22

“Peter Earnest Memorial: Spook, CIA Spokesman, Spy Museum Director – [from the vault]

Show Notes


Peter Earnest spent 35 years in the CIA as a case officer and retired as its chief spokesman. He was the founding Executive Director of the International Spy Museum.

What You’ll Learn


  • Losing a friend in the line of duty vs. betrayal by a colleague 
  • Using affability to your advantage
  • Thoughts on the shift from classic espionage to counterterrorism for the CIA 
  • The relationship between the CIA, the press and the public


  • The origins of the International Spy Museum
  • The role museums can play in fostering a sense of collective identity & esprit de corps 

And much, much more…

Episode Notes

May 21st, 2022. The date of the Memorial Service at the International Spy Museum for Peter Earnest, the founding Executive Director of the museum and a 35-year veteran of the CIA and. In honor of him, his week’s episode is an exit-interview he recorded with my predecessor, Vince Houghton, not long after Peter announced his retirement from the museum.

Peter was a case officer at CIA for 25 years, largely in Europe and the Middle East, recruiting and running agents, and getting involved in covert actions, counterespionage, and double agent operations. He later went on to work in the Inspector General’s office and as the CIA’s Senate liaison, concluding his career as the CIA’s chief spokesman. 

What is it like being a nice guy in the murky world of intelligence? How does a tight-lipped case officer make the transition to chief spokesman? How did a museum on espionage and intelligence end up in Washington D.C.?

Peter Earnest died on February 13, 2022. He will be sorely missed.


Peter wrote the foreword for a 2011 edition of Boy Scout founder Robert Baden-Powell’s classic book, My Adventures as a Spy, featuring chapters such as “Commercial Spying,” “Traitorous Spying,” and “How Spies Disguise Themselves.” The only CIA officer who came through the ranks to become Director, Robert Gates, was an Eagle Scout, as was the only Director of both the CIA and the FBI, Judge William Webster.

Quote of the Week

"There's a broad respect from museums by the American public they're distrustful of almost everything else, but the trust in museums is high, and so I think it's a place that some of those senior professionals refer to. If they've come down, they feel, it's, doing good work." – Peter Earnest


Headline Resource




  • The Real Spy’s Guide to Becoming a Spy, P. Earnest (Harper, 2009)
  • Business Confidential: Lessons for Corporate Success from Inside the CIA, P. Earnest & M. Karinch (AMACOM, 2010) 
  • Harry Potter and the Art of Spying, P. Earnest & S. Harper (Wise Ink, 2014)

Primary Sources

*Wildcard Resource*