Wednesday, August 22, 2012

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

Overview –

A legendary CIA spy and counterterrorism expert tells the spellbinding story of his high-risk, action-packed career while illustrating the growing importance of America's intelligence officers and their secret missions

For a crucial period, Henry Crumpton led the CIA's global covert operations against America's terrorist enemies, including al Qaeda. In the days after 9/11, the CIA tasked Crumpton to organize and lead the Afghanistan campaign. With Crumpton's strategic initiative and bold leadership, from the battlefield to the Oval Office, U.S. and Afghan allies routed al Qaeda and the Taliban in less than ninety days after the Twin Towers fell. At the height of combat against the Taliban in late 2001, there were fewer than five hundred Americans on the ground in Afghanistan, a dynamic blend of CIA and Special Forces. The campaign changed the way America wages war. This book will change the way America views the CIA.
The Art of Intelligence draws from the full arc of Crumpton's espionage and covert action exploits to explain what America's spies do and why their service is more valuable than ever. From his early years in Africa, where he recruited and ran sources, from loathsome criminals to heroic warriors; to his liaison assignment at the FBI, the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, the development of the UAV Predator program, and the Afghanistan war; to his later work running all CIA clandestine operations inside the United States, he employs enthralling storytelling to teach important lessons about national security, but also about duty, honor, and love of country.
No book like The Art of Intelligence has ever been written-not with Crumpton's unique perspective, in a time when America faced such grave and uncertain risk. It is an epic, sure to be a classic in the annals of espionage and war.

Istanbul Passage by Joseph Kanon

Kirkus Reviews –

In 1945 Istanbul, Allied veteran Leon Bauer is running spy missions under the cover of a U.S. tobacco-importing business. With the war over, U.S. operations are closing up shop in the neutral capital, but Leon has one last big job: to take possession of a Romanian defector in possession of important Russian secrets and get him flown to safety. The rub is the defector, Alexei, was involved in a heinous massacre of Jews four years earlier. Kanon (The Good German, 2001, etc.) extends his mastery of the period novel with this coiled tale of foreign intrigue. Though not much happens, plot-wise, in this dialogue-driven book, Leon hardly has a moment to relax, immersed in a world of moral and political upheaval. When he first arrived in Istanbul with his wife Anna, the city was a paradise with its scenic river view, cultural riches and feeling of mystery. Now, badly injured in an accident, Anna lives in a nursing home, awake but uncommunicative, leaving Leon to contend with a circle of friends and associates he can't trust. After shooting rather than getting shot by his duplicitous supervisor in a tense late-night encounter along the river, he can avoid suspicion only so long before the brutal secret police, Emniyet, are onto him and the secretly stashed Alexei. There is little about the novel that is not familiar, but this is comfort fiction of the smartest, most compelling and non-pandering kind. Even as he evokes classics such as Casablanca, The Quiet American and A Perfect Spy, Kanon shows off his gift for morally gripping themes, heart-stopping suspense and compelling characters. With dialogue that can go off like gunfire and a streak of nostalgia that feels timeless, this book takes its place among espionage novels as an instant classic.

Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan by Ahmed Rashid

Kirkus Reviews –

In this grim but insightful sequel to Descent into Chaos (2008), veteran Pakistani journalist Rashid's outlook is perfectly expressed by the title of that earlier overview. Not yet a failed state like Somalia, Pakistan is inching perilously close. The irresponsible elite class pays little taxes to an incompetent government whose citizens, long among Asia's most impoverished, are growing poorer. The army rules; civilian leaders defer to the military, handing over a lion's share of the budget which it devotes to high-tech arms, including a nuclear arsenal, directed at India. Hatred of India is a national obsession. Preparations for the inevitable war require a compliant Afghanistan on its opposite border, so Pakistan has always supported the Taliban, whose fanatic Islam seems more anti-India than the traditional, easygoing Afghan version. No fan of international terrorism, Pakistan happily accepted the avalanche of American money that followed 9/11 and provided valuable aid in tracking down al-Qaeda militants even within its borders. Although no secret, its continued support of the Taliban seemed a mystery to the Bush administration for years, and Pakistan remains impervious to American hectoring and threats to cut off aid. President Obama took office promising to fix matters, but he has proved a disappointment. Supporting the Taliban has brought Pakistan few benefits. Perhaps most disturbingly, a separate Taliban faction has started to unleash a vicious, destabilizing terrorist campaign. Rashid's concluding advice, although reasonable, requires too many leaders to come to their senses, but readers will welcome this insider's lucid, expert account of a disaster in the making.

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