Ex-CIA Field Agent On Counter-Terror Spy Thriller ‘A Most Wanted Man’

Rachel Stoltzfoos | Managing Editor, The Daily Caller News Foundation

If this amazing review doesn’t convince you to go see “A Most Wanted Man,” maybe an ex-CIA operative, who has actually lived the sort of scenario set up in the film, will convince you.

The Daily Caller talked to Peter Earnest, a former operations officer who spent 36 years in the field for the CIA, to get his perspective on the film. Earnest is now executive director of the International Spy Museum.

He said “A Most Wanted Man” is a very realistic portrayal of intelligence operations, especially in source development and source handling. “Most movies are like the Bourne Identity or something,” he said. “Either somebody in the CIA has betrayed the agency or there’s a lot of shooting and explosions. This was closer to what more real operations might be like.”

“I think it’s just extremely well done, and [Philip Seymour] Hoffman is just outstanding,” he added.

Hoffman plays a German intelligence officer in the film, who is working with closely developed sources, alongside the German and American governments, to figure out exactly what a suspected jihadi who crossed the border into Hamburg illegally is up to.

“It’s like a puzzle,” Earnest said. “Who’s this guy and what is he about?” To figure that out, intelligence officers have to work with sources — who are rarely volunteers and usually have mixed motives — using a combination of pressure and motivation, and all this in cooperation with agencies who have mixed motives. “Case officers are dealing with this sort of thing all the time,” he said.

You’ve got the “street guys” versus the “suits” or “high muckety mucks, who are not in the street, if they ever were,” Earnest said. Hoffman plays the street guy who’s in a “very sophisticated” long game, as opposed to the suits, who are looking for a shortcut or the easy way out. “That’s very real,” Earnest said.

“The challenge for any intelligence officer serving in another country,” he said, “is finding people who have access to the information you’re after and determining if they’re willing to cooperate with you. … Who can you talk to? Who can you trust?”

He believes the CIA might pick up the film to use in classrooms to introduce recruits to the world they would be entering. “If you want to see a movie that comes close to reality, see this film,” he said.

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