Peter Earnest

Peter Earnest is the founding executive director of the International Spy Museum and a 35 year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

He served 25 years as a case officer in its Clandestine Service, primarily in Europe and the Middle East. He ran a wide range of intelligence collection and covert action operations including counterintelligence and double agent operations working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and military intelligence. Assigned to the Office of the Director of Central Intelligence, he served as an Inspector with the Inspector General, liaison with the U.S. Senate, and director of media relations and spokesman. A member of the Senior Intelligence Service, he received the CIA’s Medal of Merit and Career Intelligence Medal. He is Chairman of the Board of the Association for Intelligence Officers (AFIO). As Museum director, he has played a leading role in its extraordinary success as a Washington attraction and he has frequently been interviewed by the major media in radio, TV, and the press on current intelligence issues.

Presentation Topics

Spies Under Glass

Looking at some of the most famous and infamous spy cases of the Cold War and drawing on his own experience, Earnest provides insights into their recruitment, motivation, and espionage tradecraft. How ideology, greed, and egotism stoked the ambitions and treachery of spies on both sides of the Iron Curtain, and why we view some as true patriots and others as traitors. He describes the daunting challenges of counterintelligence and bringing spies to trial. Taking you behind the scenes of the agent recruitment process and the strategies that drive and sustain it, he also shares his first hand knowledge of the life of an intelligence officer working under cover abroad and discusses operations in the Cold War and against today’s terrorists.

Spies Behind Glass

Why a spy museum? The founding executive director tells how the International Spy Museum became a reality in the face of government disinterest and after earlier private efforts failed. In presentation or on tour, and drawing on the Museum collection, he invites the audience to broaden its understanding of intelligence in history and in today’s world with its new challenges to our national security. Based on his personal experience, he shows how some of the spy gadgets displayed worked and how shrewd intelligence officers managed to use them under the most adverse circumstances. He also tells the story of how the intelligence process has changed through time and what that portends for the future.

Have a Glass with a Spy

Sit down with a career spy for a wide-ranging, open-ended discussion on his experiences during the Cold War, what it takes to be a spy, why some spies go bad, how spying really works, and what to make of 9/11 and its aftermath. How does the so-called intelligence community reorganization look to a professional intelligence officer and what keeps him awake at night? Hear firsthand from the CIA officer who headed the task force charged with responsibility for the highest ranking Soviet official to defect to the U.S. Hear spy stories ranging from his account of supervising one of America’s worst betrayers, Aldrich Ames, to advising Harrison Ford on his role as a case officer in “Patriot Games.” Finally, hear how serving as director of the Spy Museum has given him even deeper insight into the role of espionage in protecting our national security.