Indifferently written but nonetheless fascinating glimpse into the CIA’s most secret—and secretive—department.
Crumpton’s quarter-century career with Clandestine Services, he writes, began as a childhood reverie: “As a young boy, I dreamed of becoming a spy.” It took some doing to get recruited, he recounts (“I had no military service, no foreign language, no graduate degree, no technical skill, and no professional pedigree”), but once in, he excelled at the tough physical work required of a CIA agent in the field, adopting the enthusiasm for the mission that long periods spent under difficult circumstances requires. Some of what Crumpton describes is mundane—e.g., the daily administrative affairs that surround spy work, particularly the politics of intelligence. Only when the agency is threatened does he become piqued enough to go beyond colorless descriptions, as when he writes indignantly of the outing of Valerie Plame (a “horrible breach of trust” on the part of the Bush administration). In fairness, the author is also hard on the current administration (“When President Obama assumed office in January 2009, his Justice Department threatened CIA officers with jail—because they had carried out lawful orders under the previous administration”). His narrative is more vivid, if full of expected turns, when he discusses his time in the field as a commander of operations in Afghanistan, battling Taliban and al-Qaida fighters while trying to smoke Osama Bin Laden out of hiding. Of particular interest is his account of the prison uprising that led to the killing of CIA operative Mike Spann in 2001.
Even though heavily vetted, if without the black blocks of many other CIA-related texts, a useful inside look at what goes on behind closed doors—and iron curtains.