Commentary

August 23, 2012

The Art of Intelligence:

Lessons from a Life in the CIA’s Clandestine Service

Cpl. Aaron Diamant
Desert Warrior Staff

I’m not a fan of fiction novels, and books like this one are a prime example of why real life is so much better.

Henry A. Crumpton’s memoir is an account of his 24 years as one of our country’s frontline clandestine warriors, from his beginnings recruiting operatives and collecting intelligence throughout Africa, to leading the Central Intelligence Agency’s initial push in Afghanistan, days after the attacks 9/ 11.

While you may think this is a “look at me, look what I did, I’m so cool” sort of a book, I assure you it is not. It is a rare look inside one of America’s most secret of societies, one of our most vital assets in today’s War on Terror. The CIA is an agency that’s business necessitates working in the shadows and avoiding the limelight while conducting their life saving and life altering deeds.

The vast majority of us will never comprehend how many times the CIA has saved American lives, including many in the CIA. It’s all compartmentalized for security reasons. This is one man’s story of how he and his team shaped the conflict in Afghanistan and pioneered the use of armed unmanned aerial vehicles.

In January 2000, the National Security Council directed the CIA to locate and track Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. In the risk-averse world before 9/11, neither the Pentagon nor the CIA’s leadership could fathom allowing even limited forces in northern Afghanistan or neighboring countries to carry out the directive. At the time, Crumpton and a small group of other CIA officials pushed “a reluctant and even suspicious interagency bureaucracy” toward the position that unmanned aerial vehicles could provide a viable solution.

The CIA found a Predator drone, which had seen some service over Bosnia, gathering dust at an Air Force base and moved it to a base in Uzbekistan. After a human source revealed bin Laden’s location near Kandahar, in a now-famous incident the Predator’s cameras zoomed in on a ‘tall man dressed in white.’ (Bin Laden was pretty tall, if that gives you a hint.) “Holy Mother of God,” said one of the operatives watching the video-stream, realizing who he was looking at. But this was before Predator was armed. It would take six hours for cruise missiles fired from the Indian Ocean to hit the target, and the Clinton White House balked.

That failure to strike led to a renewed fight over arming the Predator, and as Crumpton writes, “Many were resistant to the notion that the CIA should have such lethal capability and authority.”  As we now know, the Predator was eventually armed.

Crumpton admits that he often worked against the terrorists in a “barely bounded rage,” but who can blame him. He was working against Al-Qaeda before it was a household name.

The very title of the book is an homage to Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” and former CIA director Allan Dulles’ “The Craft of Intelligence.” As Crumpton writes in the book’s forward, his purpose is to educate the public on the importance of intelligence in today’s unsure world, rife with threats from non-state terrorists. With current budget frustrations throughout the government, Crumpton makes a justifiable stand and valid point: We need intelligence.

This book is a worthwhile read to say the least, and will help readers better understand and appreciate America’s shadow warriors.




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