Ethics and method­ol­ogy of spy­ing

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. -

It is only a slight ex­ag­ger­a­tion to de­pict Henry A. “Hank” Crump­ton as a man who re­shaped mod­ern war­fare by mak­ing un­manned drone air­craft a deadly “weapon of choice” in the bat­tle against ter­ror­ism.

The drone was a weapon born of frus­tra­tion. A se­ries of ter­ror­ist bomb­ings — of U.S. em­bassies in Africa, the Kho­bar Tow­ers and other sites — alerted the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity that our coun­try was in grave dan­ger of di­rect at­tack by Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda fol­low­ers. In Jan­uary 2000, the Na­tional Security Coun­cil tasked the CIA “to find a means to lo­cate, iden­tify and doc­u­ment” bin Laden. As Mr. Crump­ton, a CIA Clan­des­tine Ser­vice of­fi­cer as­signed to the Coun­tert­er­ror­ism Cen­ter (CTC) writes, “This in­tel­li­gence would be de­signed to sup­port a lethal mil­i­tary strike.” The dead­line was nine months.

There were snags. The De­fense Depart­ment “re­fused to put boots on the ground.” CIA su­pe­ri­ors re­jected Mr. Crump­ton’s pro­posal to send in op­er­a­tives on deep re­con­nais­sance mis­sions. “They viewed such an op­er­a­tion as too dan­ger­ous and too ex­pen­sive.”

So Mr. Crump­ton and col­leagues iden­ti­fied only as “Rich” and “Alec” con­sid­ered a range of pos­si­bil­i­ties, in­clud­ing even bal­loons. Even­tu­ally they hit upon the Preda­tor, an un­manned aerial ve­hi­cle (UAV), which had per­formed re­con­nais­sance in the Balkans. They found such a craft “col­lect­ing dust in a hangar” on an Air Force base. The craft, 27 feet long with a wing­span of 55 feet, could loi­ter at 25,000 feet for 40 hours, and send back live video feeds.

Mon­i­tor­ing known al Qaeda com­pounds, the Preda­tor picked up a “tall man, dressed in white,” ex­it­ing a truck. As he walked into a court­yard, “sev­eral sup­pli­cants scur­ried to greet him. . . . The sky was clear, the im­age ex­cel­lent. No women or chil­dren. We had him.”

But launch­ing a Navy cruise mis­sile would take up to six hours, and the White House “de­cided that was too long.” Per­mis­sion de­nied.

So the task be­came fit­ting a UAV with a mis­sile that could be fired im­me­di­ately. The Crump­ton team found an en­gi­neer at the Army’s Red­stone Arse­nal named Chuck “Boom Boom” Ves­sels, whose oft-re­peated mantra was, “I have never faced a prob­lem that could not be solved with an ap­pro­pri­ate amount of ex­plo­sives.” Thus, a new gen­er­a­tion of Preda­tors was born, which, as Mr. Crump­ton writes, has been pro­claimed “the most ac­cu­rate weapon in the his­tory of war.”

The rules of en­gage­ment for UAVs were to evolve slowly over the years. There were per­haps half a dozen other “de­cent op­por­tu­ni­ties” to take out bin Laden,” but no ab­so­lute verifications.”

The cen­ter­piece of Mr. Crump­ton’s book is the de­vel­op­ment of the UAVs, but the art of in­tel­li­gence, as the ti­tle sug­gests, is far more than an ac­count of his role in the post-Sept. 11 world. His book, which I rec­om­mend as a must-read for cur­rent and aspir­ing in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers, delves heav­ily into the ethics and method­ol­ogy of spy­ing.

His back­ground be­lies the false rep­u­ta­tion of the CIA as be­ing an elit­ist en­clave. Born in ru­ral Ge­or­gia, Mr. Crump­ton left home at age 16 to work nights in a car­pet fac­tory and earn his way through high school. Af­ter col­lege in New Mex­ico, he spent a year roam­ing the world, some­how es­cap­ing pros­e­cu­tion for smug­gling, “vi­o­lent pub­lic dis­or­der, and other mis­deeds.” He then joined the CIA.

Mr. Crump­ton spent his early ca­reer in African posts — con­sid­ered by many of­fi­cers dead-end as­sign­ments —but his down­home per­sona gave him a knack for re­cruit­ing agents in un­friendly diplo­matic cir­cles. He ex­plores the ba­sic in­gre­di­ents of re­cruit­ing — MICE, for money, ide­ol­ogy, com­pro­mise and ego — and gives ex­am­ples of how each was used. The hope was that lowlevel agents re­cruited even­tu­ally will reach higher of­fices.

Con­gres­sional blue noses might be ap­palled to read that a CIA sta­tion (in an “iso­lated, stress­ful”) coun­try main­tained a box of porno mag­a­zines “as emer­gency re­serves.” Why? Mr. Crump­ton ex­plains, “I never met a North Korean diplo­mat who did not want porn, ei­ther for per­sonal use or re­sale. U.S. tax dol­lars for the sex­ual tit­il­la­tion of North Kore­ans? No prob­lem, if one North Korean source helps the CIA un­der­stand their nu­clear threat.”

Joseph Goulden is the au­thor of “The Dic­tionary of Es­pi­onage: Spys­peak Into English”.

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