74 of 76 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2012
This book should be added to any serious reader's espionage bookshelf. It is not a memoir, per se, but a readable study in what motivates people to spy for the United States, and how the CIA's operations officers get them to do it. It is illustrated with stories from Crumpton's career and those of his friends an colleagues. It is entertaining, funny, illuminating, and educational.
Some previously un- or under-told stories include: 1) how the Predator program was created because of the determination of enterprising young operations officers and military details 2) how CIA's National Resources division quietly does its work in the domestic theater, with the help of patriots in the private sector and 3) the critical role of liaison with foreign intelligence services and how that works.
The best part of this book is that it not only describes how operations officers do their work, but how analysts, technicians, support staff, all work together to provide the best intelligence they can for the country. Whether policymakers use it or not is another matter, addressed in this book in a factual, non-strident way.
It is a fast read. Crumpton's writing style is simple, direct and clear and you have no questions about where he stands on matters of opinion.
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2012
I have been an active citizen and lawyer for 40 years, and I have always wondered what a spy does, how the CIA operates in and outside the US, and what is the interplay between the CIA and politicos. This book went a long way to explain much of that. While reading this book, I was consistently surprised how the book offers clear and insightful education to an average citizen like myself, and, yet, will probably be a textbook in spy training for years. Do I agree with everything Crumpton believes? No. Am I grateful Crumpton lays out his experiences and views? Absolutely.
116 of 137 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2012
Crumpton's expertise and dedication cannot be questioned. The subtitle, though, is more descriptive of the book than the main title. This is not a treatise on The Art of Intelligence. It is, however, about the experience of one CIA officer and team leader, at least to the extent he can discuss his experiences.
What I found most interesting was Chapter 7, about the differences between the approaches and limitations of the CIA versus the FBI. Crumpton is impatient with political leaders who demand more solid proof than his team would need to take drastic action. He is impatient with those who collect evidence instead of "intelligence," which is often a lower standard. He is impatient with the need to justify and to obtain permission when the mission is clear and the available intelligence seems to point to a resolution clear to the CIA.
One thing bothers me about Crumpton's conclusions, in which he seems to be surprised a "how ambivalent, cynical, or ignorant the U.S. public and many policy makers are about intelligence." Really? With an organization that is essentially a secret, with a fairly large budget that is just as largely unaccounted for; with the "I can't tell you where I work or what I do" and "the CIA is necessary, but we can't tell you how or why" constraints (some of which are clearly necessary), it seems not very surprising to me. People - whether members of Congress or the public - tend to distrust what they do not understand, and what will not be explained to them. To suggest that ambivalence, cynicism and ignorance are incredible, is massively naive.
I would rather that the book lived up to its main title - a more in-depth description of the hows and whys of intelligence - instead of "Henry Crumpton's Experience with the CIA." As for historical context, Crumpton could have spent more time on how the CIA was used, despite its actual advice, to help justify the Iraq war, for example.
Still, an interesting book which answers, at least in part, some of the essential questions and discusses the seemingly insurmountable problems and the ways in which the CIA is trying to adapt and to overcome those obstacles.
103 of 125 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 2012
THE ART OF INTELLIGENCE: LESSONS FROM A LIFE IN THE CIA'S CLANDESTINE SERVICE by Henry Crumpton dives into the belly of espionage and counter-terrorism. The author was Deputy Director of the CIA's Counter-Terrorism Center who, after 911, directed his team to find al Qaeda and kill them.
In this fascinating book, Crumpton tells how he learned about insurgencies in his early years from African rebels, and about al Qaeda terrorists and the enemy agents from North Korea who he recruited as spies by supplying money and pornography.
We've all watched movies and read fictional books about the CIA, but this book takes you behind the scenes of real life operatives and covert operations both stateside and on foreign soil. It's an amazing glimpse into the world of one of the most fascinating agencies in the world, the CIA. High recommended and well written.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on May 25, 2012
This book was a phenomenal read. Henry Crumpton describes through personal anecdote the lessons he learned regarding the value of good Intelligence and how good intelligence should be used to form policy. This book should not be treated as a textbook that will outline the step by step process of gathering Intelligence. Rather it provides a glimpse into the workings of the CIA and shed's light on the "murky" world of espionage. In short Crumpton has made spies human again.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2012
For us commoners, Crumpton does a good job of informing the reader about life of a CIA agent. His largest chapter, which seems like half the book, is devoted to his organization of the CIA's invasion into Afghanistan following 9/11.
The breadth of his experience is quite large, as attested by his short bio on the inside sleeve. He went from runaway teenager to CIA agent, to eventually leader of said invasion. Likewise, the amount of methods and operations done is vast, from bugging to recruiter of inside agents. A lot of an agent's job seems to be data-sifting, whether it be detecting lies from liaison agents, sifting through mounds of paper, or now on computer.
He is quite blunt in some of his criticisms of government/bureaucracy (both Clinton and Bush), but stays away from criticizing most people, instead simply acknowledging here and there that someone wasn't so helpful to him. While honorable, a negative dose occasionally would have helped keep the book away from the rah-rah life-is-awesome zone, which it certainly infringes upon. If he was that type of person naturally, that would be understandable, but right up front in the book he explains himself as more of a rebel than a saint growing up. I think he could have translated a little of that energy into the book, giving it more levity. (Not to make it a profane book, but rather add the touch of humor that reflects reality. Like when complaining about bureaucracy.)
My biggest pet peeve of the book involves his recreation of conversations. You can tell if he doesn't remember exactly how it went, because the scripting seems to come from a straight-to-cable movie. (and not HBO, mind you.) And he does it often. He obviously didn't expect in life to be writing a quasi-biography, so forgetting conversations are fine. The implanting of dry, generic conversation when it should just be summarized rather than quoted is the not-so fine part.
Overall, even though my negatives have more words than the positives, it is worth the read. The content is unique, and helps your understanding of the CIA and the war in Afghanistan immensely.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on May 19, 2012
The CIA victory in Afghanistan was a rare and welcome example of the US government intelligence agency combining information and action in a swift and decisive campaign. The new book, by one of the architects and commanders of that campaign is a useful insight into the special conditions, urgency, and power that allowed our country to retaliate so effectively in the months following 9/11.
From a career "in the trenches" of covert operations in Africa, the author was in the right place at the right time, to assemble and coordinate CIA and Military resources in order to strike back at Al Qaeda. He gives a good overview of the strategy and teams that coordinated the local Afghan rebels in the early months of the war. The natural limitations of this kind of first person history are evident in this book. There is a significant lack of detail, an emphasis on what was successful and not the failures, and a very subjective view of conflict between the military, the CIA, and the politicians. Certain actors who have taken great credit in public (Donald Rumsfeld, Tommy Franks) come in for strong criticism.
Throughout the book, several themes are emphasized. The rapid changes which have taken place in the collection and analysis of intelligence information are described, but the descriptions are temptingly superficial. Just how deep and widespread the use of digital data has become is only hinted at. Similarly, the use of Human Intelligence (humint, or spies on the ground) is strongly defended. The failure of the CIA to prepare for global changes in the source of threats is treated as a problem external to the agency, caused by budgetary or policy reasons.
There is a very strong message that, however distasteful or abhorrent, the necessity of meeting unconventional enemies with unconventional (covert) forces is essential. It is hard to argue with the success of the the global surveillance network, passive and active, which has been implemented using UAVs such as the Predator and others. The failure of military responses in Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq are further nails in the coffin of "massive military response" to non-state terrorists. The Art of Intelligence examines the recent history of these conflicts, and draws useful conclusions from the recent past.
There appears to be a trend in our government towards lethal interventions in foreign countries to prevent attacks on the US. There is a good argument that such interventions, their rationale, and their success should be better publicized. This book is a good step in that direction.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on May 24, 2012
No doubt Henry Crumpton was in a unique position to grasp the knowledge and experience that shaped his professional career and service for his country. The book looks more like an autobiography or account of experiences the author lived through. I guess "lessons from a life in the CIA" works as an appropriate title, not much "the art.".
There is a lot of irrelevant details such as who cares he used a white board with color markers to give a presentation when there is no reasonable explanation or conclusion about the benefits or contribution to "the art" by using one color or other.
I have an utmost respect for people like him that serve as he did and not only the personal sacrifice and of his family to support such a job.
Writing about an organization when you are embedded so deep makes it difficult to show some objectivity, but he is very clear about the challenges and territorial fights of a democratic government, where there are so many interests at play.
Good read, not very exciting, somehow informative, and for moments a little bit boring.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
I write this as a former clandestine case officer who spent 30 years across all of the functions of intelligence less MASINT, and went on to write, edit, and publish nine non-fiction books on the craft of intelligence.
The author's first book, Jawbreaker: The Attack on Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda: A Personal Account by the CIA's Key Field Commander, remains a classic in the field of CIA Special Operations at its best. This book, an approved book by an insider who sees the world through the very narrow lens of the CIA bureaucracy that shuts out everything it does not understand (which is to say, 80% of reality), is certainly one that should join the two standard works I recommend, Allen Dulles' The Craft of Intelligence: America's Legendary Spy Master on the Fundamentals of Intelligence Gathering for a Free World and Miles Copeland Without Cloak or Dagger: The Truth About the New Espionage, but the title misrepresents the book.
The book is vastly superior to any of the tripe from wanna-bees that flunk out of training or fail in their first couple of tours and leave the CIA as disgrunted former employees. It is slightly better than some of the non-official cover officer memoirs but not as good as The Human Factor: Inside the CIA's Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture or Beyond Repair: The Decline and Fall of the CIA. It is not quite the equal of some of the deeper works, such as Milt Bearden's The Main Enemy: The Inside Story of the CIA's Final Showdown with the KGB or Steven Coll's Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001.
Where this book excels, no doubt due in some measure to the author's having the opportunity to reflect for a full year while earning a Master's degree and enjoying the course by Dr. Jennifer Sims, whose edited work Transforming U.S. Intelligence the author contributes to, is as an approved insider view of the world through CIA's deeply tinted glasses of the blind.
This is a good author, a good book, "as good as it gets" from inside the wire, but divorced from reality. Just as there was nothing transformative about the Sims et al book, just as the author fails to appreciate the wisdom of Milt Bearden et al on Russia, he is simply without a clue of the larger craft of intelligence, which is about decision-support -- the OUTPUTS -- not not not about the INPUTS and certainly not about secrecy.
I am loading just one image above from a chapter (available at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog as a pre-print), "The Craft of Intelligence," commissioned for the forthcoming Routledge Companion to Intelligence Studies edited by Robert Dover, Michael S. Goodman and Claudia Hillebrand. In the illustration above, the author is mired at the lower left of that field.
In this book there is insufficent appreciation for how broken the US secret intelligence collection system is, for how shallow the US secret processing system is, for how immature the US secret analytic world is, and for how broken the US secret clandestine human intelligence is, and for how non-existent to psycho-pathetic US secret counter-intelligence mob is.
I value the author. I respect what he has done and I heartily recommend this book, but in no way, shape or form is this book about the craft of intelligence writ large. It is a memoir from an officer who was fortunate enough to play in the Africa league where GS-12's could be station chiefs and lots of black people could be killed with impunity, and to then graduate to Afghanistan where circumstances, not CIA's wisdom, finally led to some glorious moments. For an alternative understanding on Africa Division, see In Search Of Enemies.
My master list of non-fiction books on the craft of intelligence that I have reviewed can be found by searching for the below:
Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Intelligence (Most)
All of those reviews lead back to the Amazon page for each book being reviewed.
The one lesson the author did not learn from his life in clandestine (secret) intelligence is this: everything is connected, everything matters. What CIA does in isolation, while much less expensive than what NSA and others do at outrageous expense, is at best irrelevant (ignored by policy) and at worst a travesty that disgraces the Republic (2000 people running drones that kill people without due process). I pray that one day we might have an honest government in the USA, one that appreciates the FACT that the only way to eliminate the 50% of the taxpayer dollar that is now fraud, waste, and abuse, is through the full integration of intelligence as decision support, across Whole of Government. Until then, the US secret intelligence community is an $80 billion dollar a year self-licking ice cream cone and sucking chest wound that produces, as General Tony Zinni, USMC is on record as stating, just four percent of what a major commander needs to know (and nothing for everyone else--on this, see "Intelligence for the President--AND Everyone Else" as published in Counterpunch.
This is a great book and worthy of reading. it is one man's memoir, not a comprehensive nor even a structured guide to the craft of intelligence, for that, one must go elsewhere....and also achieve considerable changes in mind-set and method.
Robert David STEELE Vivas
THE OPEN SOURCE EVERYTHING MANIFESTO: Transparency, Truth & Trust
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 2012
While overall an interesting book, I was a little disappointed with it. The first half of the book talks in very general terms about the craft of intelligence and spymanship. While I understand the need of not disclosing those still working, much of this early reading in the book could have been made more engaging with better and more realistic case stuides. The book;s strenght is when the author goes into detail with the current Middle East situation. He is more engaged and the characters come to life.