Peace Corps Writers
Do you have some inside information about the Peace Corps? Send it to A Closer Look
The Spy Who Was A PCV
Many copies of The Spy Who Got Away are available at at prices from $2 to $30.

Earlier in
"A Closer Look"

Was Al Gores Sister A Peace Corps Volunteer?

LEE HOWARD WAS A CIA AGENT who revealed his country’s secrets and fled the U.S. in 1985 and turned up in Moscow in 1986. He is the first CIA defector to the Soviet Union. Before that, he served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic and then in Colombia (1972–74).
     Lee Howard’s life is told by David Wise, author of the 1988 book, The Spy Who Got Away: Edward Lee Howard, the CIA Agent Who Betrayed His Country’s Secrets and Escaped to Moscow. He interviewed Howard in Budapest on Margaret Island in the middle of the Danube in 1987.
     It was at these meetings that Howard told Wise about his Peace Corps connection. “I had talked to a CIA recruiter while at the University of Texas at Austin. Just looking for a job. I was told I was too young. Some Peace Corps recruiter grabbed me between classes, just like the agency, and I applied. They sent a telegram asking, ‘Do you accept?’” He said he joined the Peace Cops more for adventure than out of a sense of idealism. “Sure, I wanted to help people, but it was more that I wanted to see the world.” While assigned to Cali, in the south of Colombia, Howard admitted that he used cocaine, marijuana, and other drugs.
     There is no reason to believe that Howard was already working for the Central Intelligence Agency when he served in the Peace Corps, according to Wise. After his tour in Colombia he worked for several months as a Peace Corps recruiter out of Dallas. Later he worked for the Peace Corps in the same capacity in St. Paul and in November, 1974, he married Mary Cedarleaf, another PCV from Colombia.
     His next job with the Agency for International Development in Lima, Peru. Again there is no evidence that Howard had any intelligence role while he was with AID. After that overseas tour, he left AID, went to work in the Midwest, and in 1980 had his first screening interview with the CIA.
     While it is well publicized that the Peace Corps will not knowingly hire-ex-CIA officers, it is not generally understood that the agreement is two-way: The CIA can hire former Peace Corps Volunteers only after a five-year waiting period. Even then the pertinent CIA regulation requires that the employment of any former member of the Peace Corps “must have the specific prior approval of the deputy director concerned.”
     From there, Howard was trained by the CIA to be a spy in Moscow, then fired him when he failed a lie detector test. Howard next sold the agency’s most sensitive information, the secrets of the CIA’s Moscow operation, to the KGB and slipped through the net drawn around him by the FBI. He vanished into the New Mexico desert in September 1985 and surfaced a year later in the Soviet Union.
     To the best of our knowledge he has never returned home from Moscow, where he was granted asylum by the Russians. Also, we are quite sure he never came home for a reunion of Colombia RPCVs. But who really knows.

John Coyne

Home | Back Issues | Resources | Archives | Site Index | Search | About us | To contact us

Bibliography of Peace Corps Writers | PC writers by country of service

E-mail the with comments
or to be added to the new-issue notice list.
Copyright © 2008, (formerly RPCV Writers & Readers)
All rights reserved.