Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Art of Intelligence: Lessons from a Life in the CIA's Clandestine Service - Henry A. Crumpton (Audio)

Every now and again, my brain needs real facts, real stories and something to learn.  I'd had this audio on my iPod for some time (thanks to Penguin Audio!) and was just waiting for the right time to listen.  I guess what finally tipped the scales was the inspiration of seeing both "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Argo", and witnessing the challenges and risks taken by CIA agents, and decided that now what the time to hear what Henry (Hank) Crumpton had to say about his 24 year career in the CIA.  

Synopsis:  Hank had wanted to be a spy since he was a child, and once he graduated from college, these dreams were realized (more from sheer tenacity than skill).  He was assigned to the Clandestine Service and was stationed in Africa, and soon specialized in the recruiting of informants.  Hank takes us through his varied roles over the years...his interaction with slime balls and the courageous, his growing awareness of the threat of al Qaeda long before 9/11 and strategic maneuvers in attempt to shut them down, and his cooperation with the FBI.  After 9/11 however, everything changed.  Crumpton was assigned to the Counterterrorism initiative, schemed side-by-side with the Bush Administration, and worked tirelessly to stop another attack on the US.  

Told from the unique perspective of a man who rose from the ground up and has seen every angle of the CIA, prepare for an action-packed education of what these agents are required to do, the risks they take, and their unflinching dedication to serving their country.  

My thoughts:  Going into this audio, I will admit that I knew very little about the CIA, except for what I saw at the movies.  I'll admit, I had the impression that they were partially to blame for 9/11, and that it was an organization mired with bureaucracy.  So this was an eye-opening read.  Yes of course there is red tape, but generally seems like a fluid, cut-through-all-the-bullshit-to-get-things-done group of people.  I'm still not sure who dropped the ball on 9/11, but the CIA definitely saw it coming.  

Granted, this story is told by a CIA apostle, so I'm sure I might hear a different story if told by someone in, let's say, the FBI.  Still. 

There was quite a bit of detail on these discs that went right over my head, but for the most part, this was an exciting memoir to listen to.  These men and women have an incredible job, never a dull moment, and requiring intelligence way beyond what my tiny pea-brain can even imagine.  Skills in language, tactical maneuvering, and charting the human terrain of a country.  To say that I learned something is an understatement.

A few words about the audio production:  Our narrator, David Colacci, is a new voice for me (how many hundreds of audios do I say this about?  crazy) but did a fine job in the narration.  He had the swagger that I imagine is possessed by our author, but delivered the story in a direct manner that was neither dry nor over-dramatic.  

Audiobook length:  13 hours (352 pages)

4 out of 5 stars


bermudaonion said...

My mother wanted to be a spy when she was growing up, so I'll have to tell her about this memoir. I bet she'd love it in print.

Literary Feline said...

I want to read (or listen to this!). Argo was what really pushed me over the edge into wanting to know about the CIA--besides just the fictional stories I'd read and loved before that. I am glad you liked this one, Sandy!

Zibilee said...

I also really liked Argo, and would love to listen to this one. It seems very rare that a CIA agent would tell everything, so that is really one of the biggest draws for me. It sounds fascinating.

JoAnn said...

Although I know next to nothing about it, I have a strange fascination with the CIA... will have to check this out.

Alice said...

I'm very interested to read thi sone. As JoAnn has said, I have a strange fascination with the CIA too.

The Relentless Reader said...

This sounds beyond interesting! I love books that teach me things, that's the best part about reading. Great review :)

Julie P. said...

I bet my dad would be fascinated with this one!

Anonymous said...

I'm intrigued by this one and think my husband would love it. Off to see if our library has it.

Jenners said...

Mr. Jenners loves books like this … but no way he'd listen to an audio no matter how much I try to sell him on it!