/ Published October 05, 2016
The Art of Intelligence: Lessons from a Life in the
CIA’s Clandestine Service by Henry A. Crumpton. Penguin
Books, 2012, 327 pp.
The Art of Intelligence: Lessons from a Life in the CIA’s
Clandestine Service provides Henry Crumpton’s account of
his personal experiences serving the government over a 20-year period.
He uses a chronological approach, beginning with his initial interest
in becoming an agent and concluding with comments about the end of his
career. The style of writing is such that the book is easy to read, is
interesting, and contains one person’s views about the role of
an agent who participated in the agency’s clandestine
activities, not so much as an administrator but as one who actively
participated in basic, daily intelligence operations. Although these
operations varied in types and places, Crumpton indicates that he
seemed to excel in recruiting agents who would provide him with
information passed up the chain of command to high-ranking political
leaders such as the president.
After an initial training period with the CIA and at the age of 25,
Crumpton landed in Africa––where he spent much of his
career—and immediately began spotting, developing, pitching, and
recruiting spies. He notes that this was his life’s mission, and
he knew it. Near the end of his career serving in various parts of the
world, Crumpton had the opportunity to pursue an advanced degree at
Johns Hopkins University in the School of Advanced International
Studies, where he compared his prior intelligence experiences with
various historical theories about the intelligence profession.
The author’s life as a professional intelligence operative
provides us with some basic but important information about the
profession. For example, he notes that those who are recruited as
spies could be influenced to do so by ego, money, ideology, and even
revenge. This could help teach current intelligence agents the
necessity of recognizing motive when recruiting a spy.
Another interesting point is Crumpton’s view of the
characteristics of the best intelligence officers: they are the ones
who have accumulated a broad range of diverse and enlightening
experiences before joining government service. This might
mean that a liberal arts education––having studied a
variety of subjects such as psychology, history, political science,
and sociology––could prove to be a useful academic
background for an intelligence operative, since these courses can
offer important insights about what motivates people. Crumpton
suggests he himself was more successful for having had this type of
educational background as opposed to a more specific area of study
such as mathematics or science.
The Art of Intelligence also offers valuable insights
about how to protect an intelligence agency from being compromised by
another country, namely that there is no better way to catch a hostile
service’s spy than having a penetration of that service. To back
up this observation, he points out that a large percent of Americans
who were working for the enemy were discovered as a result of CIA
sources within the ranks of these enemy or hostile countries. Knowing
this should make our intelligence agencies continue to work hard at
penetrating these foreign intelligence agencies, since they
undoubtedly are some of the best sources of information about who
within our own government is betraying this country.
Crumpton’s comments about differences between the Federal
Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency
(CIA) should prompt those in the intelligence business to acknowledge
those differences, particularly how they affect gathering information
deemed important to the security of this country. Perhaps the
differing information-gathering approaches are natural in government
work because of varied concerns of each agency. Nevertheless, Crumpton
notes them, calling to our attention that the FBI sought greater
relationships with foreign law enforcement representatives than did
the CIA and at times wanted to develop its own sources abroad.
Crumpton shows that American interest in intelligence activities
has varied over time. For example, with the end of the Cold War
between the United States and the Soviet Union, some individuals
seemed to have less concern about the role of intelligence and its
importance. Yet this changed substantially after the 11 September 2001
attacks. This understandably caused a reevaluation in this country of
American intelligence activities and led to an increased concern about
its effectiveness. Hence, today the United States seems more on guard
and certainly more aware of the importance of intelligence operations
because the cost of not doing so could be high.
William E. Kelly, PhD
"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."