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The Art of Intelligence: Lessons from a Life in the CIA's Clandestine Service [Hardcover]

Henry A. Crumpton
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Book Description

May 15 2012

A legendary CIA spy and counterterrorism expert tells the spellbinding story of his high-risk, action-packed career while illustrating the growing importance of America's intelligence officers and their secret missions

For a crucial period, Henry Crumpton led the CIA's global covert operations against America's terrorist enemies, including al Qaeda. In the days after 9/11, the CIA tasked Crumpton to organize and lead the Afghanistan campaign. With Crumpton's strategic initiative and bold leadership, from the battlefield to the Oval Office, U.S. and Afghan allies routed al Qaeda and the Taliban in less than ninety days after the Twin Towers fell. At the height of combat against the Taliban in late 2001, there were fewer than five hundred Americans on the ground in Afghanistan, a dynamic blend of CIA and Special Forces. The campaign changed the way America wages war. This book will change the way America views the CIA.

The Art of Intelligence draws from the full arc of Crumpton's espionage and covert action exploits to explain what America's spies do and why their service is more valuable than ever. From his early years in Africa, where he recruited and ran sources, from loathsome criminals to heroic warriors; to his liaison assignment at the FBI, the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, the development of the UAV Predator program, and the Afghanistan war; to his later work running all CIA clandestine operations inside the United States, he employs enthralling storytelling to teach important lessons about national security, but also about duty, honor, and love of country.

No book like The Art of Intelligence has ever been written-not with Crumpton's unique perspective, in a time when America faced such grave and uncertain risk. It is an epic, sure to be a classic in the annals of espionage and war.

Frequently Bought Together

The Art of Intelligence: Lessons from a Life in the CIA's Clandestine Service + Silent Warfare: Understanding the World of Intelligence, 3d Edition + Inside Canadian Intelligence: Exposing the New Realities of Espionage and International Terrorism, 2nd Edition
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From the Author

The Art of Intelligence: Lessons from a Life in the CIA's Clandestine Service

Speaking with Henry A. Crumpton

Why did you choose Africa as the place to begin your espionage work?

Although having no experience or substantive knowledge of Africa, I had a brief training assignment in CIA headquarters Africa Division. I soon learned that Africa Division afforded rookie officers great opportunity to engage in a wide range of operations against many targets, including the Warsaw Bloc, Libyans, North Koreans, Chinese, and Iranians. In addition, the U.S. waged many of the hot, proxy battles of the Cold War in Africa and this offered unique espionage access, plus gave Africa Division officers a chance to advance policy makers’ understanding in this important arena. I was attracted to the independent, entrepreneurial, unconventional, iconoclastic, and bold CIA officers working in Africa. It was a “fluid, unstructured, and churning environment” where operational creativity was prized – and had a huge influence on my leadership decisions years later in Afghanistan.

You describe the important lessons you learned from African insurgent leaders. What were those lessons? What is and should be the CIA’s role in so-called unconventional wars – civil wars, guerilla wars, insurgencies?

Insurgents in Africa taught me many lessons about war, from the tactical to the strategic, but most of all they impressed upon me that war is ultimately about people, fought by people among the people, all with their own values and aspirations. They taught me that understanding and charting the human terrain is an intelligence imperative, especially in unconventional war. I learned first hand the importance of pride, prestige, and honor in war. Why men fight will determine how they fight. The CIA will continue to play a leading role in intelligence and covert action where needed in irregular wars. Without understanding this human terrain, there is no victory for the U.S. or our local allies.

After 9/11, why did the CIA have the lead role in Afghanistan? You had no military experience. Why were you selected to run this campaign? How did the U.S. overthrow the Taliban and cripple al Qaeda in just 90 days, with fewer than 500 Americans on the ground?

The CIA’s Counterterrorism Center (CTC) first established an office working exclusively against al Qaeda in 1996 and, after I joined CTC in 1999, we deployed CIA teams into Afghanistan to work with our Afghan allies against this terrorist target. The CIA knew far more about this enemy and Afghanistan than any U.S. government entity. During the summer of 2001, the CIA repeatedly warned the White House about an imminent al Qaeda attack against the U.S. In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attack, President Bush asked his national security team for a plan. CIA Director George Tenet and CTC Chief Cofer Black immediately responded with a clear and compelling argument for CIA leadership. The Department of Defense had no plan. President Bush, therefore, assigned unprecedented authorities to the CIA.

Cofer Black selected me to lead the CIA campaign because for the previous two years, while serving as his Deputy in charge of all CIA global counterterrorist operations, I had advocated for a stronger role in Afghanistan. Moreover, I had run many high risk operations in many harsh environments, demonstrated strategic thought and planning capabilities, and exercised strong leadership skills.

The quick defeat of the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan was a result of the CIA’s robust intelligence networks and Afghan alliances built over the previous two years, reinforced by unique technical collection platforms such as the UAV Predator and superb precision bombing. This intelligence based strategy, executed by an extraordinary network of CIA team leaders on the ground, placed covert action and U.S. special operations in the forefront – and ultimately rallied Afghan tribes to our side against the Taliban and their foreign interloper allies, al Qaeda.

What are the key military lessons learned during and after the successful 2001-02 Afghanistan campaign? Why, more than 10 years later, are we still fighting in Afghanistan?

The campaign underscored the value of intelligence, integration of multiple U.S. government entities, empathetic understanding and support to local partners, application of technology driven by specific needs (not vice-versa), a bias to the field, flat and networked organizations, speed and precision in force projection, and leadership.

The United States, distracted with Iraq, and international community failed to secure the 01-02 Afghanistan victory with non-military power and did not address the growing enemy safe haven in Pakistan. Moreover, the U.S. struggles with accepting the changing nature of war, wherever it might be.

You ran the CIA's clandestine operations inside the U.S. Why are CIA officers engaged in operations inside the U.S.? Does this pose a conflict with the FBI? What about the issues of civil liberties? What are the roles of U.S. citizens, universities, and companies in helping the CIA's Clandestine Service?

The CIA’s Clandestine Service relies on other government organizations and the U.S. private sector to achieve collection of foreign intelligence, both in the homeland and abroad. U.S. citizens may have direct access to this foreign intelligence or indirect through their foreign contacts. Sometimes there is a conflict with the FBI, although areas of cooperation are common and often deep. The CIA’s relationship with the U.S. private sector is completely voluntary and confidential; U.S. citizens have the right and responsibility to cooperate with the CIA – which is not a law enforcement organization. Concern about civil liberties rests more with expanded law enforcement authorities, with the overlapping powers of arrest and intelligence collection.

The CIA has become more and more a paramilitary force, in some respects. Where is the line between intelligence and unconventional warfare?

The line is increasingly blurred, which underscores the growing value of intelligence in not only war, but with all areas of statecraft. The CIA’s Clandestine Service, first and foremost, should be about espionage, the clandestine collection of intelligence. This intelligence can determine and drive covert action, paramilitary or otherwise, but that should always be subordinated to and complementary of a robust foreign policy. Covert action should never be a substitute for foreign policy.

You have criticized the post-9/11 bureaucracy that has put a supervising authority, a National Intelligence Director, above the CIA, is that working any better, or does it continue to make us less effective and thus less safe?

The growing intelligence bureaucracy, including the DNI, is not effective. The entire effort is expensive, duplicative, Washington-centric, and burdened by an irrational Congressional oversight system. And, there are still major weaknesses in U.S. homeland intelligence collection and analysis. Paradoxically, the old pre-9/11 system outside the U.S. worked to a larger degree than policy makers?who failed to heed the CIA’s warnings about al Qaeda?care to admit. The emphasis for intelligence improvement should be more about education, training, policies, and practices rather than more agencies in Washington DC.

You lived and worked undercover in the foreign field for 14 years, mostly in Africa, accompanied by your wife and three young sons. What are the challenges on a CIA Clandestine Service officer with a family, especially when living abroad under cover? What is the spouse's role?

The challenges are many, such as employing falsehoods for operational reasons and sometimes enduring prolonged absences from home, but for us the rewards far exceeded any burdens. We loved living overseas, and our children learned so much in these fascinating environments. We endeavored to create learning adventures for our boys, from exploring castles in Europe to backpacking in Africa. My spouse played an essential role in operations. Although unpaid and unrecognized for her brave duty, she participated in many of my operations, including the assessment/development of foreign agents, the smuggling of communications gear, and countersurveillance runs. She never waivered. She is my hero.

What motivates a foreigner to spy for America, for the CIA?

There are many motivations, including money, ideology, compromise, ego, revenge, and coercion. In most cases there is a blend of motivations. The best agents, in my experience, are those driven by a higher purpose. They are some of the bravest people imaginable. The prospective foreign agent, of course, must also have confidence and trust in the recruiting CIA operations officer who will be responsible for his security.

Why did the CIA develop the UAV Predator program? Why not the Department of Defense?

The CIA developed the UAV Predator program as a means to complement human intelligence reporting against al Qaeda in Afghanistan. U.S. policy makers lacked confidence in our human intelligence reporting as a basis for covert action. In response to this, the CIA’s CTC built a network across the intelligence and defense community to imagine and construct a unique and highly effective surveillance system. Eventually, again in response to policymakers’ reluctance to take action against al Qaeda, this same CTC team figured out how to arm the UAV with Hellfire missiles. It was an extraordinary feat: the CIA cobbling together this intelligence/weapons system, by strapping an Army weapon on an Air Force vehicle, in only a few months. It would revolutionize warfare.

There are several detailed accounts of you briefing and advising President George W. Bush and his leadership team at Camp David, the Situation Room, and the Oval Office during 2001-02. Usually accompanied by CIA Director George Tenet, you were sometimes in opposition to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and the Pentagon's view of the war. What were the differences? How was this managed?

The differences centered on authorities and control. In retrospect, I believe that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld wanted complete control, at the expense of the CIA. The management of this was relatively straightforward, however, because we had great partnerships with Central Command and Special Ops Command, along with the US Army Special Forces and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). Moreover, it was a campaign driven by intelligence and relationships with our Afghan allies, built up over the years, and the CIA’s CTC had the de facto lead, no matter what Secretary Rumsfeld wanted. In other words, to the extent possible, I ignored Rumsfeld and did my job.

Why was your relationship with General Tommy Franks and the Special Operations leadership so important

The key to success was integrating our intelligence and covert action into our military’s superb capabilities, and forging networked, interdisciplinary teams suited for any mission. Thanks to General Franks and other military leaders, such as US Army Special Forces Colonel John Mulholland, we were able to do so. I also depended on key military advisors in my shop, such as US Army SF Colonel Ben Clark and JSOC operatives from Delta Force and the Navy SEALS.

Was 9/11 an intelligence failure or more a policy failure? Why did the 9/11 Commission only address the intelligence aspects of this terrorist attack, not U.S. counter-terrorism policy?

The 9/11 attack was primarily the result of prolonged U.S. policy failure during both the Clinton and the Bush Administrations. The 9/11 Commission, however, focused on the intelligence shortcomings, because the policy makers who established the Commission wanted to deflect any blame.

About the Author

Henry A. Crumpton is chairman and CEO of Crumpton Group LLC, a strategic international advisory and business development firm. With the rank of ambassador at large, he served as the coordinator for counterterrorism at the U.S. Department of State from August 2005 until February 2007. Crumpton joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1981 and spent most of his twenty-four-year career working undercover in the foreign field. He is the recipient of the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the CIA's highest award for achievement. Crumpton received a B.A. from the University of New Mexico and a master's, with honors, from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Art is Subjective Aug. 28 2012
By Jeffrey Swystun TOP 50 REVIEWER
Without a doubt Henry A. Crumpton had an amazing career in the CIA including being head of it's global counter-terrorism operations. He was witness to and involved in many of the key intelligence decisions for the US in the last decade. His memoir and guide from a twenty-four year career in the shadows is lively, at times humorous, and a clearing of the air. There have been many similar efforts since 9/11 with roughly the same agenda. They attempt to post-rationalize and explain why intelligence is not full proof. Crumpton's book title says it all by emphasizing that art underpins espionage.

Crumpton identifies two keys issues in the profession: "the gaps among intelligence collection, intelligence analysis, and policy implementation" and "uniformed and sometimes unreasonable expectations, low and high." The latter speaks to the intelligence community wanting its cake and eating it too. They cultivate an omnipotence and all-knowing personae but are quick to proclaim their fallibility when they make the wrong call.

One interesting insight is that communication is a crucial but mundane aspect of espionage. Think how many times a report has been massaged from raw information into the President's briefing! Communications' skills include the ability "to discern fact-based intelligence from inference, speculation, and opinion." As one would expect, the book is well laid out (like an intelligence briefing). It offers up evidence and is coy but steers you to a certain conclusion (like an intelligence briefing). And it hedges its bets (like an intelligence briefing).

The actionable parts deal with Al Qaeda and Afghanistan but the book feels distinctly Cold War which is telling.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Insight into the world of Intelligence June 16 2012
By GMat
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
'Hank' pens an engrossing and timely discussion around the past, more recent and future place for the trade craft of intelligence in the world community. Hank's overview of the intelligence space, its culture and his unique perspective on the Afghan conflict had me hanging on every word. Given the structure of the book, it was easy to finish a chapter and then easily make the connections to the next. I particularly enjoyed the evolution of Hank's career and what the future still holds for him and his craft. This is a must read, and delightfully is not chock full of conspiracy theories or political rhetoric. Thanks for putting pen to paper on this Hank.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  164 reviews
70 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Primer on Intelligence Tradecraft May 17 2012
By Nickolas B. - Published on
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.
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book was an education June 4 2012
By David Benjamin - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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.
101 of 122 people found the following review helpful
By RJPP - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
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.
97 of 118 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit disappointing May 22 2012
By Chipper - Published on
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.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It seems that spies are human as well. May 25 2012
By Richard C Pearce - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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.
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