Veteran CIA covert operative Devine highlights his career foiling trouble from Chile to Afghanistan. The book was co-authored by Houston Chronicle managing editor Loeb (King's Counsel: A Memoir of War, Espionage, and Diplomacy in the Middle East, 2011, etc.).
Devine, now founding partner of the Arkin Group, which specializes in international crisis management, retired from the CIA as acting director of operations in 1998. He is intensely proud of his 32-year career at the agency and of its original noble intent, inherited from Bill Donovan’s Office of Strategic Services, to protect the nation’s national security. Refreshingly, Devine, a blue-collar native of suburban Philadelphia who began to ascend the CIA ranks in the late 1960s, does not sugarcoat the various failed schemes directed by U.S. presidents from Nixon to Bush or the enormously damaging, long-running infiltration by moles like Aldrich Ames. Although Devine’s tenure began after the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion and ended before 9/11, absolving him from much of the criticism that the CIA attracted then, his first tour was in Chile just when the unrest against democratically elected president Salvador Allende got underway in 1973. Although Devine claims the CIA was not involved in the military coup, he admits to a series of destabilizing measures introduced to bring down the socialist-minded regime, at Nixon’s insistence. The author spends a great deal of space discussing his erstwhile colleague Ames, once a friend, who was well into his downward spiral selling secrets to the Soviets in Rome, where Devine was also stationed—as his superior, in fact. Yet when Ames’ perfidy was discovered in 1994, Devine escaped censure and was instead promoted. Working thematically rather than chronologically, Devine explores his stints of glory, namely funneling guns with Charlie Wilson to Afghanistan’s mujahedeen in order to defeat the Soviets and sustaining important relationships with changing directors.
Devine’s attention to detail translates into a finely delineated memoir of his selective undercover tradecraft.