Nine years ago, former FBI agent Robert Levinson disappeared in Iran while on a mission for the CIA. The story of his secret journey to Iran, the CIA cover-up that followed and efforts to rescue the longest-held U.S. hostage.
Last week we learned that the CIA and Saudis infiltrated al-Qaida, foiling a bomb against a U.S.-bound plane. The double agent also provided information on a suspect in the 2000 USS Cole attack. The suspect was killed in a U.S. drone strike. Ambassador Henry Crumpton understands the importance of this kind of infiltration. He recruited agents in his 24 years as an operations officer in the CIA’s clandestine service. He also led the organization’s war against al-Qaida before and after Sept. 11, and pioneered programs like the unmanned predator drones. Diane speaks to Ambassador Henry Crumpton about the art of intelligence.
- Ambassador Henry Crumpton a former operations officer in the CIA’s clandestine service for 24 years, former U.S. coordinator for counterterrorism, chairman and CEO of Crumpton Group LLC, a global business advisor firm.
Read An Excerpt
Excerpt from “The Art of Intelligence: Lessons from a Life in the CIA’s Clandestine Service” by Henry Crumpton. Copyright 2012 by Henry Crumpton. Excerpted here by permission of The Penguin Press HC. All rights reserved
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Ambassador Henry Crumpton spent most of his adult life in the CIA's clandestine service. He later served as the U.S. coordinator for counterterrorism with the rank of ambassador at large. His new book is titled, "The Art of Intelligence: Lessons from a Life in the CIA's Clandestine Service." Ambassador Crumpton joins me in the studio. I'm sure many of you will have questions for him. Join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to email@example.com. Join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning to you, sir, thanks for being here.
AMBASSADOR HENRY CRUMPTONGood morning.
REHMGood to have you here sir. We recently learned about the double agent who infiltrated al Qaida. Should we have learned about this?
CRUMPTONYes, I think that's the job of the CIA and our allied services is to penetrate al-Qaida terrorist's cells and this obviously was a successful operation.
REHMBut should we, the public, have learned about it?
CRUMPTONI'm sorry, I didn't understand. The answer to that is no. I think that this type of operation given the ongoing leads that was provided by this source, this penetration of al-Qaida, those leads may have been cut short because of the public disclosure.
REHMHow did that become public?
CRUMPTONI think that the White House announced it or it may have been a leak. I'm not sure. But in either regard, it puts at risk not only the asset perhaps and officers, but it closes off leads that we may have been pursuing.
REHMWhat's happened to the asset himself?
CRUMPTONI'm not sure. I assume he is in a safe place, but I don't know the answer to that.
REHMAnd of no more use to the CIA counterterrorism?
CRUMPTONThat would be correct. I don't see how he could be used in any type of operation in the future.
REHMSo what were your thoughts as you heard that story?
CRUMPTONWell, I had mixed reactions. One, I was pleased that the CIA working with our allies overseas had been able to penetrate and stop what would've been a horrible attack. But also disappointed that it was now in the public domain and that operation apparently had been cut short.
REHMYou know, you have to begin to wonder, Mr. Ambassador, whether there are any real secrets anymore?
CRUMPTONYes, there's still some secrets, particularly within the ranks of al-Qaida, Hezbollah, Iran, the narco traffickers in Mexico. We have many adversaries and they work hard to keep secrets.
REHMThey work hard to keep them. We work hard to find them out, but we have such intense scrutiny of everything that's going on that it may be harder and harder for an intelligence agency to keep its secrets.
CRUMPTONI agree. The trend, in some respects, is going the wrong way. Although, I was impressed and certainly gratified to know that the U.S. was able to keep secret the attack on bin Laden last year. That was a good example of compartmentation and discipline within the ranks, both of the intelligence community, military and also the policy makers.
REHMTell me what could have happened if we had not infiltrated al-Qaida in this last situation with the double agent at work?
CRUMPTONWell, the worst case scenario would be that al-Qaida may have had another opportunity, another avenue, of approach and we may have never learned about this new device, the technology behind it and they perhaps could have penetrated our airline security and eventually detonated a bomb.
REHMCan you tell me about this new device or what can you tell me?
CRUMPTONWell, I don't know other than what I've read in the press and it appears to have been a device that contained no metal. I did also hear that some experts were confident that it would have been detected, but there's no guarantee.
CRUMPTONI'm not sure. I'm not sure how that technology works, but nevertheless, if you've got an enemy that is continually improving, adapting, changing their tactics, their tools, their weapons, it poses an enduring challenge to the intelligence community and this is another example.
REHMAnd do you think that on our side we are constantly improving our methods of detection so that had the double agent not intervened and had this person gotten onto an airplane or tried to, do you believe he could have been stopped?
CRUMPTONWell, I would hope so, but again, there is no guarantee.
REHMAnd that's what scares people.
REHMAnd, so I'm asking whether you believe our technology is moving quickly enough to keep pace with the development of such weapons?
CRUMPTONI think that our technology is keeping pace to a degree, but what's more important, I believe, is the intelligence collection that enables us to understand the plans, the intentions, the capabilities, including the technical capabilities and the weapons of our adversaries. That's where intelligence provides such a huge advantage, which in turn helps us on the defense. Helps people in the homeland, in particular, protect airports and other public places.
REHMAmbassador Henry Crumpton, his new book is titled, "Lessons from a Life in the CIA's Clandestine Service." It is that -- that is the subtitle. The actual title is, "The Art of Intelligence." I hope you'll join us, 800-433-8850. How old were you when you became part of the CIA and why?
CRUMPTONI joined the CIA at the age of 23 and it had been a boyhood dream. I first wrote to the CIA when I was about 10 or 11 and some kindhearted soul responded with a very polite letter encouraging me to reapply.
REHMWhat did you write?
CRUMPTONI can't remember exactly. It was probably in some scrawl on ruled notebook paper, I guess. But I expressed my interest in employment and I certainly remember the response.
REHMAnd what was the response?
CRUMPTONIt was, thank you for your interest. Please reapply when you're older.
REHMAnd so you did, thinking that you would do what?
CRUMPTONI wanted to become an operations officer. I had read extensively about American history and war and intelligence operations going back to the Revolutionary War through World War II and into Vietnam and I had a rough idea of what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to be involved in espionage overseas.
REHMIn espionage? How long did it take you from the time you got there to actually be involved in espionage?
CRUMPTONWhen I joined, it was about an 18-month period of very intensive training and there was some screening involved there because you had to successfully complete the training to be certified to go overseas and work in these foreign, sometimes hostile, environments as a clandestine service officer. I was one of the first from my class to go overseas. I went to Africa, about 18 month's total.
REHMGive me a sense of what it is to be a clandestine service officer?
CRUMPTONWell, for me, it was a dream come true. It entails many responsibilities, many skills. I think...
CRUMPTONFirst and foremost, self-awareness, understanding who you are. I believe virtue is a key part of this because you're engaged in lying, in cheating and stealing and if you're involved in lethal covert action, sometimes killing the enemy. And I believe it requires a strong character to do that and to keep your reference points, to have a good moral compass.
REHMSeems like kind of an oxymoron.
REHMThat is to have a good, strong, honest character and yet become duplicitous, lying, cheating, be ready to kill someone. How do you justify that morally?
CRUMPTONFor me, it was fairly straight forward because I see the value of intelligence and human intelligence and espionage. And I think it's in the best interest of our nation. Just like it's challenging to engage in combat or for law enforcement officers to use lethal force. That is necessary and I believe espionage is also.
REHMDoes your family go along with that?
CRUMPTONVery fortunate, I have a terrific wife. We've been together for 30 years and she's very strong, very brave. And in most cases, yes, we were overseas working in U.S. government facilities under various covers and my family accompanied me.
REHMCan you give us an example of one of the situations in which you were involved?
CRUMPTONIn terms of espionage recruitment and operations?
REHMIn terms of espionage itself.
CRUMPTONYes, the core of espionage, it really is the recruitment of foreign nationals to spy for America. And the operation involves the recruitment and then the running in a safe, secure manner so these assets can provide intelligence to the United States. And intelligence, it's important we understand what that is. It must be accurate, relevant, timely and actionable.
REHMHenry Crumpton, the book is titled, "The Art of Intelligence." We'll take a short break. Your calls when we come back.
REHMAnd welcome back. Ambassador Henry Crumpton is with me. He spent a lifetime in the CIA's clandestine service. He's now written a book titled "The Art of Intelligence." We do invite your calls, your comments. Join us on email. Send us a Tweet or join us on Facebook. Tell us what you mean by the art of intelligence.
CRUMPTONArt of intelligence is the title I use because I think there is so much involved in the creative aspects of it between the operations officer and the foreign asset. And having an imagination, having a vision and then executing on that vision working with your asset or your network of assets to find ways to obtain, collect intelligence that's valuable to the U.S. So there's a lot of creativity involved.
REHMHow do you learn to spot a potential asset?
CRUMPTONWell, it begins in the training where you are taught that there are many motivations that would drive a foreign national to spy for America.
CRUMPTONWell, money, ideology, compromise, ego, revenge, coercion. And usually it's a jumble of all those in some fashion.
REHMWhat kinds of hints do you, posing as an ordinary U.S. Embassy perhaps officer, get from those kind of potential assets?
CRUMPTONWell, the motivations range from the exalted to the most base. And it can be a common ideology where a particular individual believes that their government needs to change. Their government is a brutal regime. And they would like to see a better government, a better authority for their people all the way down to someone that's just greedy and wants cash for secrets.
REHMBut how do you find them?
CRUMPTONWell, it's about engaging in initial conversations, making an assessment of these people, their strengths and their weaknesses and their values and their aspirations. And what do they want.
REHMHow do you meet them?
CRUMPTONIn a variety of ways. You can meet them at official functions. You can meet them casually. And often there is a very specific list of people that you are trying to meet that you are seeking to recruit.
REHMI want to go back for a moment to the double agent who certainly infiltrated al-Qaida. He also helped in locating and killing the suspect in the bombing of the USS Cole. Did you know about this suspect?
CRUMPTONYes, because I had led the CIA team to Yemen after the Cole was attacked in October, 2000. So I was familiar with the suspects.
REHMAnd tell us about him.
CRUMPTONHe was a relatively young operations type in al-Qaida and was involved in that cell that was responsible for the surveillance, the plotting, the planning and the attack on the Cole in Aden Harbor.
REHMAnd what about the Saudi involvement here?
CRUMPTONI think it's very important and it's a good example of the type of intelligence alliances that we have. And the Saudis have come a long way, particularly since May of '03 when al-Qaida launched a series of attacks within the kingdom. Prior to that the Saudis were less helpful, but after they realized there was an existential threat, a threat within their homeland, they launched a very vigorous counterterrorism campaign and they turned into very good allies.
REHMDoes that mean they're always good allies?
CRUMPTONWell, in counterterrorism, I think they certainly are when we look at al-Qaida. But if you look at some broader issues, as an example political ideology, I think that they offer competition to the west when we look at our liberal values, our liberal ideology compared to the Wahhabi faith, which is also a political ideology. So I think there's political competition in that arena.
REHMAnd you were apparently instrumental in the CIA's use of drones.
REHMAt the time that that began, did you anticipate that they would be used as they're being used today?
CRUMPTONI did not have any idea that they would become so widespread and really a centerpiece of our counterterrorism policy. When we began deploying, the drones in Afghanistan -- this was before 9/11 -- they were unarmed. This was entirely an intelligence collection tool that complimented our human source network in Afghanistan. And the mission was to find bin Laden and that's why we first deployed the drones. It wasn't until later the sense of frustration based on the limited authorities and resources afforded the CIA that we strapped on the Hellfire missiles.
REHMHow concerned are you about the way the drones are being used now?
CRUMPTONI think they're a very effective, very precise weapon. It's a small warhead about 20 pounds. And in those terms, I think it's a very positive development. However, I am concerned that we're becoming perhaps too dependent on them both for the intelligence collection and for the kinetic strike. I don't believe that we can ever replace the human source on the ground.
CRUMPTONThe other aspect of that is that if we have human networks on the ground both for the collection of intelligence and also for the covert action or the special ops or the law enforcement, our chances of apprehending these suspects go up. And I think there's great value in capturing some of these operatives rather than killing them, if we have that choice.
REHMCourse at the time of 9/11, there was a huge uproar after 9/11 that the CIA and the FBI had not been coordinating information that perhaps could have interceded or even prevented the loss of life and what happened afterwards. How would you say the CIA and the Clandestine Service -- how would you describe it before 9/11? How would you describe it after 9/11?
CRUMPTONWell, I think before 9/11, the relationship was far better than many policymakers would acknowledge. Now clearly imperfections -- there's nothing more imperfect than espionage and war, but you had officers from the counterterrorism center that were dedicated to the FBI, working in the FBI. And you had FBI special agents that were assigned to the CIA Counterterrorism Center. In fact, working for me, we had several including those in the bin Laden unit.
CRUMPTONSo there was a deep integration in many aspects of the cooperation, nevertheless imperfect. I think since then it has improved, but still imperfect, particularly in the homeland. I should note, though, that when we look at the intelligence failure of 9/11, I -- in my view -- and I stress this in the book, I think it is in fact even more of a policy failure.
CRUMPTONIf you look at the warnings, if you look at al-Qaida's public statements, if you look at the attacks on our embassies in Tanzania, in Kenya in 1998, the attempted attacks on many targets at the millennium, the turn of the century, the attack on the USS Cole in October, 2000 and really the U.S. offered no serious response to the enemy. And then in the summer of '01 the CIA provided the White House a memorandum that was very specific and talked about al-Qaida's intent to attack the U.S. Not specific enough in terms of the exact target or the timing but the strategic warning was there. The strategic warning had been in place for years.
REHMAnd what happened?
CRUMPTONI think that perhaps the biggest problem was our policymakers, and including some people in the CIA in the military, just could not believe that this small group of non-state actors, al-Qaida resident on the other side of the world in one of the poorest countries in the world could inflict such harm on the homeland.
CRUMPTONAnd the 9/11 commission wrote about the lack of imagination in the intelligence community. Well, from my perspective, there was no lack of imagination. We understood the threat. We worked hard to prevent it. But the policymakers did not heed the warnings and, moreover, did not respond to those attacks on our citizens and on our facilities for years.
REHMWhy do you think that was?
CRUMPTONI think that their concept of war was basically archaic and they just did not believe that al-Qaida could do such a thing.
REHMSo you think that they read these reports and simply put them aside thinking of them as too imaginative, more imaginative than reality?
CRUMPTONI think that they believed the reports and, moreover, all you had to do was look at those successful al-Qaida attacks against our embassies, against a warship. And why we did not respond more vigorously before 9/11, particularly in Afghanistan, I have no easy answer other than they just thought the enemy was not as strong or as capable as it was.
REHMTell me about your particular work now as an ambassador.
CRUMPTONWell, I transferred to the State Department at the request of Secretary Rice and I worked for her and for President Bush for 18 months. And then I retired from the government in 2007. So I have not been in government service now for five years and I'm currently in the private sector.
REHMAnd what was your position as you worked with the State Department? What was your assignment?
CRUMPTONFor those 18 months, from '05 to '07, I was the representative of the Secretary of State and President Bush on all matters related to counterterrorism policy. And I was now a consumer of intelligence working on the policy side. And I spent most of that time, Diane, overseas working with our ambassadors, our combatant commanders, our foreign allies trying to put together more effective policies that would thwart al-Qaida and other terrorist adversaries.
REHMHow much cooperation did you have?
CRUMPTONIt was good. If you look at this transnational threat and the deep intelligence alliances and the policy cooperation, I think it's really unprecedented where we've got relationships now that are exceedingly deep and effective.
REHMAll right. Here's a website comment from Kathleen who says, "I've been amazed by how many former CIA analysts came out before the invasion of Iraq questioning the validity of the prewar intelligence. Have you ever known so many former CIA intelligence analysts coming out and sharing their well informed opinions about U.S. foreign policy with the American public?"
CRUMPTONWell, I agree there've been a number of books and commentaries about the intelligence of Iraq. And there are two parts in my view. One is the failure regarding weapons of mass destruction. There's no other way to describe it. But the other is the success in predicting what would turn into a horrible insurgency and the general rejection by some policymakers that this was happening.
REHMSo why would so many former CIA people come out and really be critical of decisions made?
CRUMPTONWell, I think they are motivated by a sense of responsibility, would be my guess.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Here's a posting on Facebook, "How does your guest feel about CIA clandestine operations as they affect the American people?"
CRUMPTONI think that the CIA's operations, first and foremost, were designed and focused on protecting the American people and protecting American interests. That's always first and foremost in mind of a CIA operations officer overseas. Any time American lives are at risk that takes the operation to a new level. And that's the motivation for most of those -- I think all of those officers.
REHMAs I was growing up here in Washington my understanding was always that the FBI operated within this country. The CIA never operated within this country. How is that changing?
CRUMPTONWell, the CIA has always operated in the U.S. and it goes back to the origins of the OSS. And what is so important is the role of local, state and federal law enforcement and the relationship with the intelligence community, the CIA. That's a big part of these operations where the CIA can help law enforcement here in the homeland by providing intelligence, where the law enforcement can help the CIA understand problems that may extend overseas.
CRUMPTONThe other part of it, the role of the private sector, they cooperate with the clandestine service -- the CIA's clandestine service to provide a range of services from cover to introductions to foreign nationals, to intelligence, to technical assistance. They are integral to our intelligence efforts.
REHMSo you're saying that there is now CIA spying going on within this country.
CRUMPTONFocused exclusively on the collection of foreign intelligence. That's what's important. The CIA inside the U.S. working with local, state, federal law enforcement, sometimes working with private sector seek to obtain foreign intelligence. Sometimes that can even mean recruiting foreign nationals here inside the United States.
REHMBut suppose you have a U.S. citizen involved? Does that change the picture?
CRUMPTONAbsolutely. There is a very hard line about the CIA engaging against not only U.S. citizens but U.S. persons, legal residents of the United States.
REHMBut suppose that legal resident is somehow involved with that foreign national who may be in some way implicated?
CRUMPTONWell, then you get to issues of crime and that's why the relationship with law enforcement, particularly the FBI, is so very important.
REHMHenry Crumpton. His new book is titled "The Art of Intelligence: Lessons From a Life in the CIA's Clandestine Service." When we come back, we'll open the phones. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. If you've just joined us, Henry Crumpton is with me. He spent a lifetime wanting to work for the CIA and at age 23 finally beginning to realize this dream. He's written a new book all about his experience. It's titled "The Art of Intelligence." We're going to go to the phones now, 800-433-8850. First to Nevtalli in Valdosta, Ga. Good morning to you.
NEVTALLIGood morning to you, Diane. You know, I have a question about the book itself. Does it pose a threat or a challenge to, you know, U.S. intelligence gathering experts, you know, to have such a book that describes in such detail the techniques and the manner in which our intelligence folks, you know, the way they work with -- is there -- doesn't it pose a threat to, you know, for our enemies to study this book and recognize patterns of intelligence gathering? You know, that's my question.
CRUMPTONThank you. Good question. I wrote the book with the sense of responsibility particularly to protect sources and methods. And moreover, the book was cleared, vetted by the CIA's publication review board. And they deemed it not a problem to U.S. interests and not giving advantage to our adversaries. And our felt that it was important that the American people have a better understanding of intelligence as long as I was able to protect those sources and methods.
REHMAll right. Then to Inverness, Fla. Good morning, Pete.
PETEGood morning. This is a really privilege. Thank you. You mentioned that it's important to recruit foreign nationals. And I can imagine that would be extraordinarily difficult in a place like Afghanistan. But on the other hand, I can imagine that an enemy operating in this country would have a big advantage because we have people living here from different backgrounds, Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia. And I just wanted our guest to maybe talk about that a little bit and I'll listen on the air. Thank you very much.
REHMAll right, sir. Thank you.
CRUMPTONThank you. It can be hard to recruit assets, not just in Afghanistan, but all types of places. But there are also a lot of foreign nationals that admire America, that want to cooperate and want to bring a better life to their people in parts of the world. Regarding your second question, immigrants here in the U.S., that's what makes us strong. And I think that we need to keep that first and foremost in mind. And if I look at some of the best CIA operatives, they have come from these immigrant communities first to second generation. And when I look at threats, I don't look at recent immigrants here as threats, just the opposite. I think that's the fabric that makes us America.
REHMHere's a Tweet. What is your opinion of the Valerie Plame affair, especially the exposure of the CIA front brass plate company?
CRUMPTONWell, I think that the exposure of Valerie Plame was outrageous. I have written about it in the book expressing my views fairly clearly I believe.
REHMTell us more about your views.
CRUMPTONI think that policymakers will often use and sometimes abuse intelligence for their own political advantage. And that's not the purpose of intelligence. Intelligence is to protect the nation and to serve policymakers and other consumers, but it should never be used as a tool for specific selfish political goals.
REHMSo how fairly do you think Valerie Plame was treated?
CRUMPTONI think she was treated unfairly. Her career was undermined and some of the sources that she had been working with undercover, in some cases using an alias, I think those sources may have been placed at risk.
REHMAnd her career was not only ruined, but it was as though she was made to be the person at fault.
CRUMPTONYes. And that was not only unfair, unjust, but I think despicable.
REHMAnd what do you think should have happened to the people who made that happen?
CRUMPTONI think they should've been held accountable and there was...
CRUMPTON...there was an investigation and one official was found guilty of obstruction of justice I believe or lying to the FBI. But the investigation was not able to progress further than that. But I don't know the further extent, you know, of that.
REHMWhat do you make of the notion that there are great many people in this country who see the CIA as subversive, as going against the very principles of honesty and openness and truthfulness that this country stands for?
CRUMPTONWell, I think the CIA can be subversive. That's part of the CIA's job as long as it's focused on foreign enemies. However, every CIA officer, including myself, swears an oath to the constitution. And we must protect the constitution and the American people. And that means protecting the American people from subversion, from threats of all kinds, so I don't see any contradiction there, although obviously some here in the U.S. might.
REHMAnd Valerie Plame was certainly undermined, subverted, not necessarily by a CIA officer, but another individual in a very high place in this government.
CRUMPTONOne of the themes in my book, it's about the tension, if you will, of the relationship between policymakers, the consumers of intelligence and those professionals in the intelligence business, both the collectors and the analyst. And one of the motivations for writing this text was to help educate policymakers to understand what intelligence is, why is it valuable and to give them a better idea of who intelligence officers are and the loyalty, the focus on the constitution and how intelligence officers seek to serve the nation and serve policymakers.
REHMSo your concern is that policymakers don't always get it.
CRUMPTONOh, I don't think that many policymakers understand the full scope of intelligence, both the capabilities and the limitations.
REHMNor do they necessarily respect it.
CRUMPTONYes. I think that to be polite would be very -- I would describe it as uneven.
REHMHere's an email, a question, about the coal bombing in Yemen and John O'Neill, the decision not to allow John O'Neil back -- of the FBI back into Yemen after the bombing of the Cole. What was the real reason for that and do you acknowledge it was a mistake?
CRUMPTONJohn O'Neill was a dear friend and a hero. He was a senior FBI special agent in New York. He was the lead investigator at the Cole bombing. I worked closely with him when I was at the CIA and he was at the FBI. I should note that he died on 9/11 racing back into the World Trade Center to save people. But he was not allowed back in Yemen because Ambassador Bodine at the time imposed really a ban on him.
CRUMPTONAnd I counseled John at the time that the ambassador really was not only an employee of the Department of State, but the president's representative, and that all of us, the CIA, FBI, the military, we felt under her authority and really under her command ultimately. And there was great tension between John and the ambassador. And the ambassador won and John was not allowed back in, which I think hurt the investigation.
CRUMPTONWell, I think ultimately most, the overwhelming majority, of those al-Qaida operatives that were involved in the Cole bombing had been captured or killed. And so I think ultimately the investigation that was married very closely to our intelligence collection had overall been successful, but I think we could've probably done more earlier if John had been back in country.
REHMAre there CIA operations you disagreed with?
CRUMPTONYes. There were a couple, only a couple that I can think of. And one was based on -- and I'm sure I can't go into details, but one was I thought too limited in terms of what we could do. And it was a specific operation not related to Afghanistan. And I could talk about the limitations on Afghanistan separately. The other one was I thought a risk that we should not be taking for what I believe was minimal gain. But in both those cases I proceeded as ordered.
REHMTo Jim in Fort Worth, Texas. You're on the air.
JIMYeah, thank you, Ambassador. First of all, I'll have to give you sort of a compliment, your responses are so well measured that sometimes I wish you were screaming at the top of your lungs on some of the craziness that we've been listening about. But I was thinking about Valerie Plame and then moving on to this double agent who's been outed, so to speak. And I wondered if it's practice in a circumstance like that or the White House, for example, to go to the CIA and ask them before seeking the political capital from the success, to measure the continued value of an asset to see if it's really worth grabbing the political capital in exchange for making that asset virtually worthless from this point on. And I'll hang up and listen on the air.
CRUMPTONThanks. Good question. I have never been involved in that situation where the White House came to the CIA asking about really the sacrifice of an agent for political gain. I find that distasteful to be polite. There have been occasions, of course, where assets have lost their lives because of enormous risk they were taking. We saw this in Africa. We saw this in Afghanistan. And it can be heartbreaking, but that's the risk. That's part of the espionage business.
REHMAmbassador Crumpton, I want to go back to something you said earlier. You disagreed with a couple of decisions that were made, but in the one case you described very generally you said you proceeded as ordered. My question to you is should you have?
CRUMPTONYes. I think that when you take the oath to the constitution and you join the CIA, you're joining an organization that requires sacrifice. And in both those cases that I describe, it was not an issue of moral disagreement. And I think for each individual if you ever got to that point, you'd have to make a bigger decision. Do you continue to work in the CIA or resign?
REHMYou're saying it was a tactical.
CRUMPTONYes. It was my disagreement in terms of the tactics, the operation itself, risk versus gain. And in those two cases I mentioned, I went forward.
REHMI understand that your oath is to the constitution, taking on that job with the CIA. When does the oath to the constitution also take in the oath to the American people and when might that separate?
CRUMPTONWell, I see the constitution being the touchstone really for all of us as U.S. citizens. And I believe that is really the guide, not only for CIA officers, but for military, law enforcement, for all those who serve the nation. And we must keep in that mind because we are a nation of laws and those laws are rooted in the constitution. And if we ever lose that, that's when we become weaker.
REHMTo Davison, Mich. Good morning, you're on the air. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Hi there, Bob.
BOBGood morning, Diane, and thank you for taking my call.
BOBMy comment is to thank the men and women that go through this undercover work. I think that for most of us it would be a pretty scary lifestyle and somebody standing up for us all. And thank you very much.
CRUMPTONWell, thank you for the call and for your gratitude. And I hope all the men and women that serve our nation, particularly those in the clandestine service or special operations community, law enforcement, diplomacy hear that because they deserve our gratitude.
REHMHow scary is it to work for the CIA?
CRUMPTONThere are moments of great fear.
REHMDo you remember the most scary moment?
CRUMPTONThere were so many it'd be hard to pick out one in particular.
REHMOh, go ahead.
CRUMPTONI think that some of the moments in Africa as a singleton unilateral officer when you're completely alone and you're out at night and you're engaged in espionage and you encounter road blocks or you encounter criminals, you encounter all type of unexpected variables, and those are the moments that stick foremost in my mind.
REHMAnd then contrast that with trying to live a normal life.
CRUMPTONWell, again, I'm blessed with a wonderful, very strong wife. And with that support I think we've led a life as normal as we could. We raised...
REHMBut it's a double life.
CRUMPTONYes, yes, it is. Have three grown children now and they were with us in most of our tours overseas. And they...
REHMDid they know you were CIA at the time?
CRUMPTONNot until they were in their adolescence. And the youngest knew a little bit earlier because of 9/11. We were overseas when 9/11 happened. And Cofer Black, the chief at the counterterrorism center, he requested that I return, organize and lead the CIA campaign into Afghanistan after 9/11. And at that point we -- all three of the children knew. It was pretty obvious.
REHMAnd did you leave them here at home when you went to Afghanistan?
CRUMPTONYes. We moved back to the U.S. And most of my work during the Afghan campaign of '01-'02 I was here in Washington in the CIA headquarters. I would travel to Afghanistan for days, see my man, then come back to Washington.
REHMWell, Ambassador Henry Crumpton, I hope your life from here on, little more peaceful, little more calm, little more tension lessening. Good luck to you.
CRUMPTONYeah, thank you.
REHMAmbassador Henry Crumpton, the book is titled "The Art of Intelligence." Thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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