by Gamal Hennessy
I try to read real word accounts of intelligence and espionage to inspire my writing so I was looking forward to reading Art of Intelligence. As I started reading it, I thought it was excellent. The more I read, the less I loved it but it is still a very good book.
The book is basically an autobiography of the author’s life in the CIA. It also is a personal account of the history of espionage from the Cold War to the beginning of the Iraq War. It’s a four part story. In the first part, Crumpton recounts his motivations for joining the CIA and his training. The second part discusses his work as a case officer and recruiter of spies in Africa and Europe. This is the most impressive part of the book. The author does a very good job of describing tradecraft and telling compelling stories without ever revealing where he was, who he met or what he was doing. If he only told stories like this for the rest of the book, I would have given it five stars.
The third portion of the book focuses on his years in the counter terrorism and the leadership role he had in the Afghan War. While this section was well done, I found myself incredulous as I read it. I felt like he took credit for every success in that conflict and predicted every eventual outcome. I felt like he pinned every failure and miscalculation on someone else. While that might be what actually happened, I find it hard to believe. Even spymasters get it wrong sometimes.
The last part of the book talks about his work in the State Department and as an academic. This was the weakest part of the book and read like a sermon from Captain America, but that doesn’t make his conclusions any less valid. Crumpton has a unique and authoritative view of espionage and the Art of Intelligence is one of the better books on the subject that I have ever read.