Book Review: Ethics and Methodology of Spying

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 21, 2012 | Go to article overview

Book Review: Ethics and Methodology of Spying


Byline: Joseph C. Goulden, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

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. …

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