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Good Hunting: An American Spymaster's Story Hardcover – June 3, 2014
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month, June 2014: Meet Jack Devine. Something of a real-life George Smiley, he is a 30-year veteran of the CIA who, among a lot of things, ran Charlie Wilson's war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, knew a thing or two about the Iran-Contra affair long before the rest of us did (including the president?), and tangled with some of the agency's most notorious double-agents. In Good Hunting: An American Spymaster’s Story, Devine has written a fascinating memoir of his time overseeing the agency’s spying operations, while also critiquing its policies and direction--arguing that covert ops (i.e. actual undercover operatives on the ground) is the best, most effective use of the CIA’s talents, rather than its increasingly paramilitaristic role during a decade of war. Devine has managed an unlikely accomplishment: enhancing the aura of the agency while stripping away some of its myths, in the process producing a clear-eyed and forthright account from an intelligence insider. --Jon Foro
Now-retired CIA officer Devine built a career (1967–98) in which he ascended from entry-level employee to the top echelon of the organization’s clandestine service. Amid candid reflections on his experiences, Devine advances opinions about the worth of covert operations, which he supports in general. Commenting on them specifically via his own involvement, Devine defends the CIA’s 1973 role in Chile and its 1980s arming of anti-Soviet Afghan rebels. But he critiques the CIA’s entanglement in the Iran-Contra scandal of the mid-1980s. Devine’s colorful anecdotes convey a lively sense of how a CIA officer works as a street-level case officer, a chief of station, and an executive managing the entire Directorate of Operations, all roles that Devine fulfilled and in which he takes palpable pride. The exception to success that Devine confronts is Aldrich Ames, the Russian mole whose betrayal cost many CIA agents their lives. An occasional supervisor of Ames, Devine puzzles over Ames’ motivations as he describes how the case dealt a blow to CIA morale. A vivid insider’s view, Devine’s is an engaging account for the espionage set. --Gilbert Taylor
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Top customer reviews
It has been suggested that this is not a book for the average reader. While I cannot be the judge of that, I do think it is a good book for the average voter. Many comments that I have read about this book express emotion and a political opinion. When a citizen chooses to vote, they vote not only for an individual but for the policies, that individual supports. Understanding how the CIA functions helps us understand how these policies are carried out. While it was not discussed in this book, a reader might, for instance, come away from reading it contemplating how different the outcome would have been for the interest of the United States if the CIA had carried out the operations in Benghazi, Libya in place of Ambassador Stevens, who was killed. The ambassador was a high profile and high value target and his killing was a major success for our enemies. It also had huge political implications in this country. I think that reading this book will help the average person better understand our involvement in other countries.
WARNING! This book does have an agenda. I find it to be an excellent example of CIA tradecraft. As Mr. Devine explains in his book, much of the work of a covert agent is to sell others, individuals and whole populations, on a worldview that enhances the interest of the United States. He also worked in covert operations and supports the use of covert actions to bring about regime change in foreign countries. Mr. Devine was stationed in Chile when Allende was overthrown. When he states that “we did not promote the military coup that overthrew President Salvador Allende in 1973” he is apparently choosing his words carefully and referring specifically to the CIA. He was good at his job and he still is. This book markets Mr. Devine, the CIA, and covert actions well. That said, it is both a fascinating and informative volume.
During my years in the Middle East and in the Foreign Service (Congo & Chile), I have met and worked with (and against) dozens of CIA professionals. I find Devine an exceptional professional and individual, with a breadth and integrity that makes me proud that he represented the United states in many trouble spots for over three decades. This is as close to a 'tell all' book that CIA would ever clear for publication.
Devine provided detailed descriptions of some past CIA operations that often correct the general public's misinformed perceptions. In Chile (where I served from 1966 to 1969), for example, I find credible his account that CIA was not directly involved in the Pinochet coup against the Allende government in 1973. However, I was surprised, given his apparent frankness, that he spoke of CIA's resounding success in reinstating the Iranian shah in Iran and in assuring a Christian Democratic victory in Italy in 1948, when other studies have minimized the role of CIA.
Devine wrote with specifics and self-deprecating humor about his role as a covert agent. He was staccato in stressing the importance of a professional covert corps. He steadfastly insisted that all covert activities should adhere to specific U. S. objectives, as determined at the highest levels. He stated that CIA has been apolitical, although the government, on occasion, had ordered CIA to engage in operations for political rather than strategic-interest reasons. His examples included activities related to Iraq, in which CIA bore the brunt from a misconceived, White-House-directed operation.
What I found most valuable were the many situations in which covert operations were integral to clearly defined U. S. strategic objectives. Covert operations, by its nature, are a vexing business. How does one train people to recruit individuals to work against their government? How does seeking out seamy people affect those who are the seekers? What is the cumulative impact on an organization whose raison d'etre is to subvert others and to work within a veil of secrecy?
For me, Devine demonstrated that CIA covert personnel could conduct their 'dirty work' and also maintain their individual integrity. Of course there can be 'rogues' in any organization. Also, there were moles, such as CIA's Aldrich Ames and the FBI's Robert Hanssen. I found Devine's profiles of numerous colleagues persuasive evidence that the professionalism of CIA's covert personnel is something of which they and I can be proud.
Devine makes a strong case that extensive covert operations are an essential component of the American military, diplomatic, and economic arsenal. His description of how he managed the arming of the mujahideen with Stinger missiles against the Soviets in Afghanistan detailed an extraordinarily complex and successful operation that was trivialized in the movie CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR.
We outsiders will never fully be able to appreciate the accomplishments of CIA's covert operations. All too often the failures make headline news, while the successes remain buried in the halls of Langley. For those who find 'distasteful' that the United States engages in cover activities, it is important to remember that, during CIA's infancy, presidents Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy authorized major, massive covert activities. In our post-Cold War era, recent presidents have continued to utilize this covert arsenal, with such efforts as seeking to deter Ira's nuclear program an ongoing priority.
Devine made a strong case for the primacy of CIA in the covert field. He acknowledged that, in a major military operation, the military should have primacy. He often favored CIA-military cooperation in which military personnel would be attached to CIA paramilitary groups.
Devine highlighted distinctions between intelligence and operational perspectives. I appreciate this from my years in the State Department Office of Intelligence & Research. Not infrequently the analysis by me and my colleagues conflicted with assessments by the geographic departments My sense is that this was even a greater problem within CIA. Devine, on various occasions, sought to integrate intelligence and operations staff.I applaud his initiatives, but doubt that there is any perfect solution in combining these distinct functions.
Devine was highly critical of post- 9/11 efforts to create a new superstructure for intelligence management. He wrote with distain of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, created in 2005. He expressed concern with the increasingly important role given to the military within the national intelligence community.
I share Devine's concern with the over-bureaucratization of the intelligence process. I recall, during the 1964 Congo foreign hostage crisis, how I could work directly and professionally with my CIA counterpart and how we both dismissed the Defense Intelligence Agency as irrelevant. Timeliness and professionalism are essential in intelligence. As the 'least worst alternative,' I tend to favor Devine's arguments that the Central Intelligence Agency should be America's central intelligence organization.
Devine concluded with an incisive tour d'horizon of likely hot spots and the role that covert operations should play. He foresaw few major U. S. military involvements. His ongoing priority problem list included: terrorism, a Middle East religious cockpit, a Pakistan that could ooze into 'failed state' status,and such flash points as Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, and China, as well as the global drug trade.These are all ingredients of a U. S. policy bouillabaisse that, in Devine's view, will require heavy reliance on sustained cover activities.
Both for his personal insights into the 'business' of CIA's covert activities and his shrewd insights on what America might anticipate in the coming years, I consider Devine's book a must read for anyone interested in the formulation, the implementation, or the assessing of U. S. foreign policy.
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I thought it was me ... but I agree with the other one-star reviewers.