The transcript from this week’s MiB: Jack Devine of the CIA is below.
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ANNOUNCER: This is Masters in Business with Barry Ritholtz on Bloomberg Radio.
BARRY RITHOLTZ, HOST, MASTERS IN BUSINESS: This weekend on the podcast, I have a fascinating guest, his name is Jack Devine and he is the former operations director of the Central Intelligence Agency. When you hear people say the line, this guy knows where all the bodies are buried, this guy literally knows where all the bodies are buried.
If you are at all interested in spy craft, relationships with Russians and other foreign agencies, counter narcotics intelligence, and just the role of intelligence agencies on the global stage, this is the conversation for you.
So with no further ado, my conversation with Jack Devine.
I’m Barry Ritholtz, you are listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio, this week on the show, we have an extra special guest, his name is Jack Devine. He is a 32-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency where he served as both acting director and chief of the Latin American Division, as well as running the CIA’s counter-narcotics center.
He has received numerous awards from the agency, including the meritorious officer award, the distinguished intelligence medal, and other recognitions from the Central Intelligence Agency, he is also a founding partner and president of the Arkin Group, which specializes in strategic intelligence, and he is the author of Good Hunting: An American Spymaster’s Story.
Jack Devine, welcome to Bloomberg.
JACK DEVINE, FOUNDING PARTNER AND PRESIDENT, ARKIN GROUP: Great to be here.
RITHOLTZ: Your timing could not be a better. We will get to some of the current events that are taking place, but let’s start at the beginning, how did you find your way to the CIA?
DEVINE: After graduate school, I taught American history in suburban Philadelphia and for my birthday or anniversary, I don’t recall, my wife Pat gave me a copy of the David Wise’s book, The Invisible Government, which is at the time was sort of a scandalous book about CIA and the military complex and how it was controlling the world.
And I found that fascinating and actually had a different reaction than the author probably intended, and that is I thought, what an amazing place to be setting aside the fact that there isn’t such a conspiracy but I wrote a letter with, you know, we used to have Bic pens and pre-computers and cell phones, et cetera and the letter went off to CIA and within a few weeks, I got a letter telling me to go to 12th and Chestnut and thus began the process.
RITHOLTZ: So you actually reached out to them they didn’t recruit you?
DEVINE: That’s correct, the British system had a tradition of professors tapping people on the shoulder and the early — very early days of the OSS and in the early days the CIA that was not an uncommon way to be brought into the CIA, very clubby.
RITHOLTZ: What are they looking for when they reach out and tap somebody? What — is it a certain moral flexibility or is it —
DEVINE: Good looks.
Well again, they didn’t reach out to me so I lack whatever it was I had to go through the process. And today, let me just do reverse engineering, today instead of writing a letter, you have to go online and this much more impersonal which I think we lose some really good people because of that, but the numbers require it.
I think historically what the CIA’s looking for people who are — almost everybody that joined CIA is sort of within a range of IQ education, they work hard to get the extremes out, people that have no fantasies of being James Bond, so that the psychiatrists have tests, they interview, there is all types of souped-up SAT tests, personality tests, there are interviews, physical that — you need to be physically fit, mentally sound, they do polygraphs, they make sure that your integrity level that you are not involved in any type of theft that would you know, since there is no control many times when you are delivering money so it’s across that broad-spectrum.
But I would say fundamentally at the core, setting all these what I would consider fairly standard requirements, they are looking for people that have a sense of mission that they feel they want to serve their government and they want to serve it in a particular way.
It’s not a place where you apply just to get a job because you have a degree in political science or speak Japanese. So I think that’s one of the key indicators.
RITHOLTZ: They didn’t recruit you and you approached them, what sort of training did they put you through?
DEVINE: We all went through the same training and everybody and they stopped doing the tapping on the shoulder probably in their 50s, so everybody in my class, they called this career training class which is sort of the premier class where they develop the future leaders of the agency and the training is about nine months, half of it is in the learning how to be a spy, surveilling, how to develop people, how to assess people, how to write reports, how to take pictures at night and so on.
And the second part is what they call paramilitary training, which is it’s a bit like boot camp where you learn how to use every weapon under the sun not because you’re going to use them as much is going to be dealing with people that are, jump training, demolitions training, so it has a heavy military overtone to it. And at the end of that nine months, then you are assigned to an area of the CIA and its operational region.
The analyst go through a much shorter training because this is not necessary to be an analyst, a good scholar coming out of the major universities with orientation and some basic training about the analytical process, they are good to go, the operational training is much more intensive including jungle training back in those days.
RITHOLTZ: Did friends and family have any idea what you are doing or was this completely sequestered from your personal life?
DEVINE: Well you are instructed early on in the process do not share this with the outside people other than your spouse if you’re married and your parents, and the so I did and I told my father and he was very thrilled to have a son in the CIA, and I explained that whatever you do, do not discuss it, so not too long after I did that, I went to a wedding, family wedding, and I’m dancing with my aunt, and she’s grabbing me around the hips and my head is getting a little off the reservation and I said, “what are you doing?” She said, “Well I am looking for your gun.”
RITHOLTZ: So dad couldn’t keep a secret.
DEVINE: Now, there is a rumor in the family which I never bothered to validate, the rumor was that the article appeared in the Delaware County Times newspaper announcing my assignment so when I was polygraphed I could say in a straight face, they said, “did you tell anybody about your employment with CIA?” And I could say without batting an eye, “Absolutely not.”
They did not ask me “Did your father tell anybody?”
RITHOLTZ: And that would have been the —
DEVINE: Probably the end of my budding career.
RITHOLTZ: Amazing, you wrote a memoir about your time with the CIA, Good Hunting, An American Spymaster Story.
I assume you can’t just publish that without the agency putting you through some sort of a vetting process. Did you get the manuscript back with these long black markers through it or with a pretty reasonable?
DEVINE: When you join the agency you have to sign an agreement that basically says anything that you write has to be presented to the CIA, through its publication review board where it is reviewed by analysts and supervised by a lawyer so that they are cognizant of any legal implications.
So when I went through the process I felt comfortable most people in CIA cannot write about their experiences because they’re not in the public domain, my career is interesting in that half of it was in the James Bond, excuse me the George Smiley le Carre clandestine meetings of betrayal espionage and that’s the part you really can’t talk about very much, although I happen to know Rick Ames quite well, worked with him and I can talk about Rick Ames, the KGB mole inside of CIA.
So there are some espionage things but where I became publicly identified was in the action part the James Bond part of running the Afghan task where we drive the Russians out of Afghanistan. I was in Chile when Allende was overthrown, I was in the middle the Iran Contra affair, it was a whole series of things that eventually became public. I didn’t realize at the time when I was doing it they become public.
As a result of that, once it’s in the public domain in an official capacity, in other words, the government has the information out there, it’s not enough that it’s just out in some newspaper, it has to be officially out there, but all this materials out there, so I can address and I do address in the book, this is a book about largely about the action part of CIA.
They did do a vigorous and painful scrub. Now and I would tell you it wasn’t about a source or method which is the key question that you can’t mention any sources or any methods, but we seem to be hung up in the process about you can’t say you are in this country firmly, it would shock your audience if I told you which countries we can’t say there because since you’re in the fifth grade, you probably assumed that we had people there, but it was about geography and I was a bit more obstinate.
And I’m working on the second book now, and I’m not as obstinate, I’m not going to waste my time on the issue of can I say was there permanently or can I just say that I bopped into town?
RITHOLTZ: And when you say that, I’m assuming Russia China Iran places like not necessarily those places but places like that.
DEVINE: No, not really because that I got a right out of the starting gate that I wouldn’t touch any of those. No these are these are places where I don’t give any clues but let’s say you would be comfortable going there tomorrow and be happy to go there for a weekend.
RITHOLTZ: Really that very interesting? Let’s jump right into some of the more interesting places where you headed up some missions you were ahead of the CIA’s Afghan task force in the mid-80s, what was the goals of the task force and how much of those were accomplished?
DEVINE: When I look back over my career, it’s probably the point where I felt I had the most direct role part in a major historical event world changing one, and that was driving the Russians out of Afghanistan. When the Russians invaded in the late 70s, 79, the administration, it was the Carter administration at that time and the world in general reacted very negatively and understandably so to the Russians invading.
And at that point we actually began to help, but it was a modest effort using antiquated weapons to support the mujahedin, but each year more and more support was given and the Russians increased their presence there subtly as well. And it became battleground, a key battleground in Cold War and the Russians departure in 89 I think was one of the three major factors in the collapse of the Soviet Union. And I can elaborate on it.
You know, the Russians did leave and one of the major parts of the factors in that first I would say had people in the ground who wanted to fight that was a mujahedin, you had support from the Pakistani government, and the huge US material support in terms of weapons and machinery transportation, and eventually during the time I was involved in the operation, the introduction of the Stinger missile which I believe is one of the few times in history we can see an individual specific weapon change the course of history.
RITHOLTZ: I have a very vivid recollection of I want us it was 60 minutes doing a story on the Afghan war and showing the Stingers bringing down Russian helicopters, it was a real significant game changer for that conflict.
DEVINE: Absolutely, we — when I say we, I mean the Western world and particularly the CIA and the US really ran into a brick wall in ’85 and that was we were able to amass a large amount of weapons but we couldn’t get them across the border and into Afghanistan because the Russians were using the HIND helicopter, a very sophisticated one, not unlike our Blackhawks. And they just pin down all transportation.
RITHOLTZ: So this is night vision and heavily armed.
DEVINE: Speed, and back in its day, the Blackhawk was the super jet of the of the helicopter world and was easy to suppress forces on the ground.
It had great firepower.
RITHOLTZ: The Blackhawk or the —
DEVINE: Both, but at the time we were, we — the CIA was looking for we’re only putting in Soviet bloc weapons, when you run an insurgency one of the theories and it’s a good one is that on the ground you want to have interchangeable weapons, by that I mean if you’re fighting the Russians you want to be able to give your troops AK-47 so that they can capture and use it.
RITHOLTZ: Capture ammo from —
DEVINE: Exactly, so capture weapons and you can use them and you are used to using those weapons, so we had to find enough weapon trade to support 120,000 mujahedin fighters, you can do the math on how much ammunition AK-47s are needed but none of it could move because it just couldn’t move across the border. So we were looking for anti-air weapons that could be fired in the field and bring down these helicopters and everything we tried in the foreign setting didn’t work.
But it so happens in 86 the US government was just manufacturing the Stinger missile which is heat-seeking that means you know you fire it far to the left of a of a helicopter and the heat from the helicopter steers that missile right into it.
So the effectiveness at the time, General Dynamics thought the Stinger might have a 25 percent success rate. It exceeded 75 percent. And one point that I make, Barry, that’s what a lot of people don’t understand is not just shooting down helicopters. What happened on September 26, 1986 is when the first shot was fired and the helicopter came down, I should say first shot because the first one bounced across the ground and the people on the ground said Jack Devine sent us another piece and I’ll leave the blank out of equipment, but the next three took out three consecutive helicopters single shots.
But what happened that day was the helicopters thereafter flew above the trajectory of the Stinger missile, so it meant that they were neutralized they just weren’t able to suppress anything on the ground and that consequently were able to just pour weapons across the border. So wasn’t just shooting down the top of the first few helicopters and several number of them quite a few, after that, it was the fact that the strategy moved the helicopters above effective range.
And what it also did which is terribly important is back in Moscow it was like the last straw, you know they have been slugging it out, thought they could neutralize and what we do now, we have to up the ante, are we going to — how longer are we going to stay there and frankly it became a policy decision to start the withdrawal and that was as early as 86 that they — once that Stinger missile was fired, the process of getting out began.
And I think the leaving of Afghanistan was a great blow to the morale of the Kremlin and I think it eventually along with the being so overpowered by the economic strength the United States and to some degrees Pres. Reagan’s Star Wars initiative which the Russians believed, I was agnostic about they believe that we really have to change your game plan and they did.
DEVINE: — so the wall came down.
RITHOLTZ: So they made a movie about this, Charlie Wilson’s war, how accurate were the broad strokes and when you watch these fictionalization’s of actual events are they remotely close to the idea or is it just you know goofy —
DEVINE: It’s a really good question, actually a series of questions, Barry, so I was here in New York and was having the late lunch in St. Regis Hotel which has sentimental reason for me from my CIA training, we will leave that aside for now, and Seymour Hoffman was there. And I really leave actors alone and never approach them and in fact, my wife was furious once in London because I came down the elevator with Anthony Hopkins and she said well, what did talk about? I said I didn’t say a thing, I pretended that I didn’t know him, she was livid.
So I don’t make a habit of in a going over the celebrities, but I couldn’t resist so I went over to Hoffman who was a real Gentleman, I said Mr. Hoffman, my wife loves you as an actor and thought you did a great job in the movie Charlie Wilson’s War, but you know Mr. Hoffman, I just have to tell you that just isn’t the way it came down.
So I think he looked up and thought, here is another one of these New York crazy people, and he said, listen, thank you for your service but I’m sure he felt that I was — he was being put upon but even before that Charlie Wilson and I had dinner in Sparks here in New York, your audience may not be aware of Sparks is where —
RITHOLTZ: Legendary steakhouse.
DEVINE: Paul Castellano was assassinated at the doorstep which appealed to Charlie, Charlie have a sense of romance and the he was with his wife at the time and I was with mine and we sat down and he said, Jack, I know you didn’t like the book, you’re really going to hate the movie. And here’s the reason, let me be, Charlie was a great character, someone that we all should be — happy to have known he was a patriot and he was much more substantive than the people have recorded.
But it wasn’t Charlie Wilson’s war but in order to make a movie you have to have a central person so you have Tom Hanks and you have Julia Roberts and you know you have this drama and the truth of the matter is these programs, no Congressman with a somewhat wild as portrayed by the movies CIA operator and a socialite from Texas are going to change and run a war, that is not how it is done, it’s a major logistical effort done by the way governments do things with chain of command and it’s all within house.
I think it would surprise people to know that Charlie Wilson’s War, I was responsible for him in late 85 onward to well into 87 and I never saw their version of Julia Roberts, Charlie Wilson had a stinger hanging over his office, one of my colleagues gave him an expended tube, but Charlie in fairness in his books said I had nothing to do with the Stinger which he didn’t but knows most people don’t focus on — Charlie and I traveled a couple times to South — to Pakistan and to the border area of Afghanistan and it was almost like a diplomatic trip but I would say over my tenure with Charlie, we probably had five at most substantive discussions about it, no impact on how the war was being run he called me once and said, well, “Jack, I understand you shifted the supplies from 60 percent Egyptian made and 40 percent Chinese to 60 percent Chinese and 40 percent Pakistani. What’s up?”
He had to close his relationship — oh excuse me, Egyptians, he had a close relationship with the Egyptians and I said “Listen, Charlie, it’s very simple, the weapons will get there faster, cheaper and they are better made.” He said “Okay, got it.”
So Charlie’s influence in the details of the war and the running of the war is just not very realistic, he was important because he brought attention to it early in the in the early 80s and I think that’s important and he kept the pressure on I once asked him “How did you get involved in it?”
And Charlie is a West Point Annapolis graduate and he said “Well I’ll tell you, Speaker of the House Jim Wright came to me and said Charlie, I went to the stay on this, I want you to stay on Afghanistan, that is your job.” So that is how he actually got involved in I noticed on one of these TV shows that you mentioned, they have them in a hot tub with a couple of beautiful women which was when he was a bachelor sort of his style and is watching a video of — or a TV show with Dan Rather talking about Afghanistan and in the movie he suddenly becomes enamored with the battle.
The real truth was that the Congressman Wright told him to get on it. The other thing about the hot tub as I got a number of calls the next day and quite interesting they wanted to know not about the stinger, not about — they want to know was I in the hot tub with Charlie?
And I was annoyed because a professional isn’t going to be caught in that sort of situation so I could tell when I answered the call and said look I wasn’t in the hot with him, they were disappointed, it was well, Jack is kind of bland, he really doesn’t belong in Hollywood, but by the third call I finally wised up and I said I don’t want to talk about it, so I wasn’t going to mislead them but I left the impression or maybe I was a little more flamboyant than the legend would have it.
RITHOLTZ: Plausible deniability after the facts, looks back at Afghanistan that have said, well the subsequent blowback from once the Russians left and the United States says okay we have no more need to be here is that it created a power vacuum into which rises the Taliban, how accurate is that depiction of that part of the world?
DEVINE: Well, Charlie Wilson and I did have a discussion at the time and both of us were the view that we should have kept pushing funds into the Afghan for — the experts and people that studied for years and the policymakers were of the view look, we wanted to drive them out, we completed our mission, you have to know when to end and with hindsight when I look back on it and I would say 20 years later or whatever when I sat was able to see the longer arc of history, I really believe I was wrong and Charlie was wrong, and that is we could have thrown as much money, you can throw as much money as you want into Afghanistan and is not going to make a material difference —
RITHOLTZ: It’s a black hole, that’s it.
DEVINE: Well I’m not a big fan of the nation building, I have come over the years to believe nations must decide on they must have the grit and will and desire to create their nation. We can’t force-feed them, we can maintain things as — we can keep things at bay if that’s desirable from a foreign policy point of view, but to think we can go into at that time civilization that would’ve been more familiar in the 16th century and think that you can fast-forward into a democratic country and with all the wherewithal is a fool’s mission.
So I’m opposed to it, I think I might have been more charged up at the time about the battle and with candor and hindsight I think this is a bad argument but you know and you the second part of that argument is — and you created the Taliban —
RITHOLTZ: You created a vacuum into which —
DEVINE: I think yours is better stated the vacuum part which I accept, but you know, what people don’t focus on this even after the Russians pulled out the communist puppet state, Najibullah stayed in power for three years, so there wasn’t an immediate vacuum because we pulled out and the Taliban didn’t exist then, and so — and the Taliban is not a remake of the mujahedin that we supported.
So you know it’s convenient sometimes for people to draw lines and I just think that an honest look will lead to better conclusions than those.
RITHOLTZ: Let’s talk a little about your most recent venture, the Arkin Group and how you came to cofound them from the CIA, you are at the agency for 30 years, what motivated the exit?
DEVINE: Well I think there’s a certain point, it is usually in your late 50s of that people exit the agency and they wanted to have a flow-through so that leadership is still relatively young and the early days, they wanted people out at 50 which was unrealistic frankly because most people are just hitting their stride as senior executives. So it sort of was pushed back to 60. Most federal employees can’t retire until they are 65, but in CIA at 55 with five years of experience abroad you can leave early.
In my particular case I had the job as the chief of worldwide operations such as about as far as you can go in the system. So staying around unless they decided to make me the director which I would gladly have accepted.
RITHOLTZ: That is a political appointment, right?
DEVINE: That is a political appointment, yes.
So it was it was time and there is a time to move on, I did what I wanted to do I got as far as my aspirations wished so I felt it was a good time to leave and if you go into the private sector market, you are better going in at your late 50s than you early 60s. So I love the agency and I would have stayed there forever if there was still opportunities but you can’t go back and do the same top job, it’s not a question of not being fair but I think you get too ingrained in the system.
RITHOLTZ: So what was the transition like from government work to the private sector?
DEVINE: Well, I didn’t have — I would like to say I had a career plan, a mission when I left I thought well you know maybe I’ll go back to teaching or whatever but there was a former acting director of the FBI, a fine fellow named Larry Potts, and he called me and said look, there is an investigative company up in New York and how would like to come up and run our office for a year, which I did, and the reason I was interested to move is I always found New York to be an exciting city and I wanted to — the idea of coming here, well this was a foreign assignment coming to New York, you know, two years, it would be great, you can enjoy New York and the see the big lights.
RITHOLTZ: So two years, it takes two years to find an apt.
DEVINE: Well, I didn’t know that at the time.
As I said, and right, when I was abroad you had the infrastructure of an embassy to help you find a place but —
RITHOLTZ: Not in New York, how long have you been here for?
DEVINE: I have been here 17 years so no another 17 I’ll be in New York.
RITHOLTZ: That’s right.
DEVINE: I’m working on it but you know I spent a lot of time in living in suburbia Washington and never quite clicked for me then I began to think about I was born in the Philadelphia area and I lived in capitals around the world, I was a city person so the thought of going back and living in the suburbs just didn’t have the appeal so this is an opportunity and after I got here and spent several months or almost a year doing this, I ran into my partner — current partner, Stanley Arkin who is a very prominent lawyer, known nationally actually tried the first case before the Supreme Court on insider trading the defense and won the case, and they changed the law accordingly.
But and he — what people didn’t realize was so and he was asked by the director of CIA if he would come down and defend one of the senior CIA people caught up in the Iran Contra affair, so I remember I didn’t meet him but I remember him coming down and that the officer standing was able to cut a deal for him and I thought how smart — what a smart operator he was. Now other CIA weren’t too happy because Stanley — his only mission at the request of the director was to cut a deal for this fellow and he did.
So when we ran into each other, we had fairly limited contact and then one day Stanley said well look, the company you are with, you know, too cheap to buy lunch and Stephanie doesn’t need a free lunch, I would assure you but I said look Stanley I’ll buy you lunch so we went to Maloney and Porcelli over in 50th Street, Stanley doesn’t even sit down, he is still standing and says “Jack, I think we should go into business together.”
So I said, “Why don’t you sit down and we will talk about it?”
So the basic concept the was interviewed a very rich Rolodex of contacts and had been in the business of using information in support of his big cases and he felt that I had the know-how on how to produce that information and it appealed to me because I am an information junkie, I mean I’m an intelligence junkie, when I first left I went out and interviewed and I won’t name the company but it was a furniture company out in Grand Rapids and I thought, oh my god, how am I going to do this?
I’m not sure I’m going to be a convincing salesman and the fortunately I ended up as a said in something I like you know and that’s collecting information and collecting information internationally, you know, we do about a third of the work here in the States but much of the distinguishing work because it is so much harder for companies is in the space — collect internationally and I think over the past 17 years, Stanley and I are proud of the network we’ve build up and I think it’s very, very robust.
But it’s information collection that no one — the Justice Department is not going to authorize me to help overthrow governments or counters invasions anywhere. So we’re strictly in the information business and helping clients to navigate abroad.
RITHOLTZ: Let’s talk a little bit about what’s going on in the headlines. The infamous House Intelligence Committee memo was authorized to be released, it raises the question how independent are intelligence and law enforcement agencies like the CIA or the NSA or the FBI?
DEVINE: So I think professionals in both law enforcement — and we will talk about the FBI or in the intelligence world, CIA although there are other law enforcement agencies and there is also other agencies involved in intelligence collection like NSA and military intelligence and so on, the professionals in this field really don’t want to see a intersection between politics and intelligence.
It is really — and I don’t know if you’ve ever had an opportunity to go into the CIA headquarters but —
RITHOLTZ: No, but I’ll take you up on that offer for sure.
DEVINE: Well, you’re going to have to get on the payroll first.
DEVINE: So when you it’s a — from my view from, a study point of view, what I’d like more in the past than now was the this aesthetic dimension to when you walk-in, there’s a certain amount of simplicity to it, on the left is a quote from the Bible and it says “You shall know the truth and then it will set you free.”
Now someone gave that thought when they were thinking of what would go on the wall of the CIA, that is the mantra, in other words, your job is to get the facts, the truth and as Jack Webb used to say nothing but the facts and that should be depoliticized. I would note, on the other side of the wall, the symmetry of the stars where the fallen officers of CIA are recognized and there is over 120 stars, when I joined it was probably 50.
So the ultimate price the officers have paid over the years for standing by that, I can’t tell you the political orientation of most of the people that I worked with. I mean there are a few that I suspected but it was unprofessional to bring into the workplace domestic politics, it just wasn’t professional.
And he CIA’s blessed and compared with State Department, and men which for whom I have great respect and the important role they play, but CIA when the directors come in, they come in with only a couple of people, usually it’s the general counsel and maybe an assistant or two but none of them hold command positions, it’s free of the political appointees other than the Director and Deputy Director.
The State Department there are so many jobs that are open to the political arena, assistant secretary of this ambassador all ambassadors resign at the end of the administration, so they can be politicized more than the law enforcement agency. The FBI director has a 10 year tenure and there’s been —
RITHOLTZ: Designed to make sure it carries over and before any single or two-term presidency.
DEVINE: That’s correct. So I’m a strong advocate of keeping both of those institutions and again I will leave state aside and other government agencies but two that are very much in the headlines, out of politics.
And I think the leaders of agencies that dabble in politics do a great disservice to the core mission and to the institution. So it takes discipline not to become part of the when you’re in the administration, not to become part of the politics and if anyone were listening on this issue is going to be director, I would encourage them to depoliticize.
RITHOLTZ: So what are we to make of this recent attempt at painting agencies like the CIA, but these days, the FBI as corrupt biased one-sided institutions that are working to thwart a candidate or president? Is this just partisan —
DEVINE: Let me start with the CIA, the one I know best, I don’t think that’s a good description of what’s taking place. I think people sort of miss the fact that the very first official visit that President Trump made was out to the CIA headquarters. And my own sense is day in and day out the relationship with the CIA Director Pompeo and the administration is probably very solid.
And the workforce itself tries to be supportive of the executive branch but my guess today that if you walk through CIA, it would be not much different than when I walk through it, half the population would be Democrats and the other half Republicans, may be shifting within 2 percent you know, on a given year and I don’t think they are politicized and I don’t think that’s what’s challenged here.
I do think when the directors go out and they should revisit this and feel like a spokesman for policy, political policy that it paints a picture that the institution is so– people underestimate the power of bureaucracies and you know, bureaucracy is a bad word, but over time bureaucracies really mold the governments themselves and I’m optimistic that the — and I believe this is happening that the longer the Trump administration goes on, the more the bureaucracy begins to create policies and things that are more recognizable in a more traditional sense.
The FBI by contrast right now is in a firestorm and you know the FBI’s post conference during the investigations and the crimes and kidnapping and so on, when and counterintelligence, they do a great job in weeding out spies and they are a terribly important agency for our government but when you get involved and sometimes you are necessarily involved in the political part then the institution is its own — some jeopardy so these are really difficult times for the FBI and I think the sooner the investigation is concluded and people can get back to doing the other things that they do so well, I think it would be healthier for the institution.
So I do feel that the FBI is in a really difficult period. The CIA has been in difficult periods in the past, I don’t think today is one of them.
How do you think this plays out with the FBI? Is this the sort of thing that could lead to a Saturday Night massacre where a bunch of people get fired or you had a finger on the pulse of politics in DC, you know what sort of what’s going on there, what’s your best guess as to how the capital deals with all these crazy crosscurrents?
DEVINE: I bet on the bureaucracies over the long term because they’re so needed and the Congressmen down on the Hill know that, they really do, I mean you will have speeches but at the end of the day I don’t think there’s any sensible congressman that’s thinking that somehow we don’t need the FBI or that they are not doing a very good job.
So when this is done mean this is the problem this is been elongated bloody match but it’s a major overhaul and is probably not what I would think would come down the road. Now it depends on how this plays out but certainly some people will self elect to leave, probably good for everybody but I would expect the FBI to very quickly stabilize return to its rightful place in our national security arena but it’s good to be hard sliding until the investigations are completed and we move away from the politics of the Russian meddling in the election and get on with the more strategic issues in the international arena.
RITHOLTZ: So it appears that just about every intelligence organization in DC has come out and said with a fairly high degree of certitude, yes, the Russians have meddled in our elections, they’ve meddled in elections around the world, they have a very effective online presence, there seems to be some reluctance to accept that as true amongst both parts of this administration and certain congressmen, Devon Nunez probably most specifically — how does other agencies looking at this from afar so we don’t obviously know what people in the FBI are thinking, but when the NSA or the CIA or other agencies are watching this, what’s the internal discussion like, saying is it okay thank this is not us or they looking at it as if they could go after the FBI, they could go after us, what does this mean going forward?
DEVINE: I’m not sure I would be surprised if people in other agencies are internalizing it, I think they see it pretty accurately for what it is, and I just don’t see other agencies going through anywhere near the pain that the FBI is going through. When we talk about 17 agencies, I mean you have to go back and look at the list they’re not all like to be the Indian affairs has a branch of collection or whatever, so I mean you really only have a handful and the premier collectors would be the NSA and the CIA and the FBI when I think of collections and the military collects a great deal of information and also the satellite agency that collects satellite data.
So when you get around to the word meddling, it’s really a good word and trying to understand this, I think there is really very few people today that don’t realize and accept that the Russians are meddling — meddled in the 2016 presidential elections, but what’s — what does meddling mean?
And from my view, you know I know what big covert action operations look like and if Putin really wanted to have a field day in our election, you don’t spend 200,000 and you don’t dabble this is dabbling dimension to this that I think should give people pause that if I were to — and I want to be clear, this is not inside information, this is years of looking at it, if I were to analyze it, I think they wanted to be a nuisance and they didn’t anticipate the Donald Trump would become president and they didn’t foresee the unintended consequences that they were trying to destabilize the West, that would mean that they never read Western history and what happens when Europe is destabilized, you know that you end up with the Hitlers of this world and World War I or World War Intellia.
So destabilizing the West, if they wanted to do that, this is very small potatoes but they meddled and that there has to be a resetting of it and so it is beyond the question of doubt and I take some hope as you know the three top Russian intelligence officers visited the United States recently, my hope, not based on, not asking, my hope is that it’s a sit down and say way wait a minute, we have to go back and re-examine where are we here, is this the way we’re going to play the new world we live in or are we going to stick by the old Moscow rules in which we didn’t interfere in each other’s elections?
So I’m hopeful it’s the only way this gets resolved because if it continues then we will have to respond, and very few people are giving — there is nothing in the public discourse about what we do but we’re not going to sit here and let the Russians meddle and then we’ll meddle there and we will be back to the old Cold War program.
So I think it’s a good time to cap this off and have frank discussions and put some markers down on what we will and will not do. So if there is any silver lining maybe that’s it.
RITHOLTZ: So you raise a really interesting point if we decide that hey you want to play that way, Ivan, we could do something similar, what can we do to respond to the Russian participation in Facebook and Twitter and it is it’s not so much that they are coming on to our physical lands and wreaking havoc, they’re just creating some confusion in the online space which really causes a lot of people some discomfort.
DEVINE: We live in a new age of the intelligence, if you ask me what’s the biggest change over my lifetime, it isn’t how you go about getting human sources that’s as old as prehistoric time, so the — it isn’t that, it’s the technology, the speed with which we can move information across boundaries. I mean you just can imagine the type of struggle I had to go through to collect information to today — you are a click, one click away from getting 50 times than that I would work for days to collect.
And the second thing is my ability to mobilize people, I mean you had to go out and hire a group and pain science, and today you know with a good Twitter account you can really stir up a lot of trouble. So it’s a leveling tool because you don’t have to be a powerful nation to meddle. So I still believe, strongly believe based on again the arc of history that America still is your most sophisticated intelligence operation and in the technical area we certainly can respond anywhere in the world with things that are not seen by the naked eye today.
So we can make life very difficult in the cyber world the question is to what end, I mean we really don’t want that to happen, that doesn’t — there’s no win-win and that so but if unchecked, you are lead there, you will be led down that path. So I think it’s in the interests and having been an adversary of the Russians have a lot of respect for them in a different category that they’re not unmindful of what’s about — what’s taking place here.
They need to re-correct because they were dabbling and didn’t realize it would have the impact, they never dreamed that it was going to turn around, leave the sanctions, isolate them in the West and the I think they’re probably trying to find a way out, pull a rabbit out of the hat on their end.
RITHOLTZ: We have been speaking with Jack Devine, former acting director of operations for the Central intelligence agency. If you enjoy this sort of conversation, stick around for the podcast extras where we keep the tape rolling and continue to discuss all things intelligence. Be sure and check out my daily column on BloombergView.com, you can follow me on twitter @Ritholtz, I’m Barry Ritholtz, you’re listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio.
Welcome to the podcast. Jack, thank you so much for doing this, didn’t really get to talk about Edward Snowden and the NSA and mass surveillance, what are your thoughts on that?
DEVINE: Well, on Snowden actually, when Greenwald’s book came out about Snowden, I was called by Politico and asked for a few comments about it because they wanted to be balanced between Greenwald’s version of a Saint Snowden and as I said earlier in the program, I knew Rick Ames, he was a the American CIA officer who volunteered to the KGB.
RITHOLTZ: Isn’t that sort of a bizarre thing? I mean you only — right?
DEVINE: Well, one of the problems in finding Rick Ames and I think the same problem recently with Jerry Lee and the Chinese following that in the newspaper but is that the CIA had a really hard time accepting the fact that one of their own was working for the Russians, so it looked for all other explanations of why we were losing agents.
And I have made it a habit of when I talked to a number the directors over the past several years to make the point that there is a mole inside the institution so you need to make sure that you get briefed by the counterintelligence people and they track him because it is part of the business is what I’m saying.
RITHOLTZ: You just assume that some —
DEVINE: We have had spies inside the Russian system, they’ve come out, they are public. So no surprise. Why we would think we would be immune from a this is a tad naïve for —
RITHOLTZ: Because we are the good guys, right?
DEVINE: For our group of people that are so hard-nosed but it is true we think of ourselves as the light on the hill than the that we — as I said earlier, you join because of a sense of mission, who could possibly betray it?
And I can talk about some of the behavioral things, I wanted to talk about Ames for one second just to overlay it on Snowden.
RITHOLTZ: No, it is fascinating.
DEVINE: So when you find — when you look at Rick Ames, he was a very well read person, he was enthusiastic about the CIA in the counterintelligence and hunting down spies but he had a self-importance he thought why he was not very materialistic at this point in his life, he thought he was smarter than he was. But he had a habit and it’s a very dangerous one for and anybody in business and in the bureaucracy and that is he was lazy, so he would do things well, if he didn’t like to do it, he wouldn’t do it at all.
So it’s very safe to project over career trajectory that people that are lazy eventually fall behind. So when you get in the middle of your career you think you’re smarter than everybody but now you’re find that you are a major and your — people that went through your training with you are now Colonels and One-star Generals, so the bitterness of and the gap between your narcissism and that’s where the anger is, it’s very rarely that people betray their country on some big philosophical issue, it’s about that personal thing.
You look at Snowden, now Snowden, I think it’s a fairly bright fellow but he wasn’t good student in school and why, if you start to look at Snowden, you will see he was sort of a lazy guy, did what he wanted, didn’t do it, was a very junior officer and I think the same tendency was that he thought he was should be somewhere else in life and smarter and this revenge sets in.
I don’t believe he was a spy, if so the Russians had upped their game that you could find a Snowden where in his position find him and recruit him is better than my understanding of our success rate. So I think he was a disgruntled guy but the minute he ended up in Russia, I just there’s no you know doesn’t take much imagination to realize that Snowden everything that he does is controlled by the state, in this case, the KGB and he FSB and that is his meals, his job, who he meets, who he sees, what he can say public and not say publicly are all controlled by the system.
So after a while you become wittingly or unwittingly an agent of the system. So while that may not have been as designed, that may not have been his motivation, he is a pawn in the system, and over time almost all defectors leave very, very unhappy lives. And I would — that would be my forecast for me will be as he ages, and he’s got a long way the age he will become a terribly depressed person.
RITHOLTZ: Ever coming back to the United States.
DEVINE: if he wants to go to jail he will be prosecuted and convicted.
RITHOLTZ: And that’s that.
Let’s talk a little about counter narcotics because you headed that division, you worked on the Pablo Escobar case helping to bring him down, tell us a little bit about that, what was that like in and what were the goals of the counter narcotics division?
DEVINE: A number of your listeners may not recall that in the early 80s, counter narcotics was the number three — narcotics was number three concern of the American public, they wanted their government to do something about it because drugs had moved into suburbia and moved into the countryside, it was pervasive and big business.
So there was a huge push in all the government agencies to enter into counter narcotics, CIA and the FBI was not enthused about it and one of the reasons was they were reluctant to get in the business that concerned that they might get too close to the business themselves and the temptation and corruption would be an issue. So there wasn’t a lot of enthusiasm and the FBI wanted to do crime busting and we wanted to do catching spies and running spies. So they actually created DEA, it had another name at the time but the data be made up and people drawn from other agencies because no one wanted to do it.
But then as it got more and more money, next to you know the Navy was using ships to go run down a little tobacco boat running through the Caribbean. So money draw — so little by little became a big business in the CIA as well and we created a center, we brought in people from other agencies and from others disciplines in CIA that what I got out of that center which the way you do business.
Normally in the agency, it is stovepipe, analyst, operator, scientists, in fact, we have elevators that were color-coded when I walked into the building and you would never dream of going up the green — a scientist elevator and nobody would ever rub the spy elevator, they just weren’t a spy, so as creatures of habit, the beauty of the counter narcotics program, a counterterrorism when they changed the discipline and that all these groups had to work together, we brought them together and we started to develop new capabilities, linkage analysis which we take for granted now and that is how you use software to tie different conversations and technology became a huge part of it.
And on the ground, we invest a lot of time in integrating capabilities and I know this will get boring for your readers but I’m just saying the counter narcotics targeting became a model for the future of how the agency was going to do business and the drug business is an ugly, ugly business, Pablo Escobar for sure was a high figure in Colombia, has his own zoo, blew up an aircraft, I mean he was a really vicious and dangerous guy and — but the more dangerous group was the Cali Cartel which have a lower profile but they had more — they were really moving more drugs and more money, but because of Escobar’s fighting with the government, he had a higher profile, more easily identified, so from an agency point of view and working with other agencies, the mission was to identify where he was and then to have a well-trained unit be able to take action.
The Colombians and we felt that if you took a policeman and put them on the street after training, within a day or two he’s met by a drug traffickers same welcome either going to give you hundred dollars, and you’ll have to do a thing, just don’t do a thing, do nothing and if you don’t if you try to be active, you know, we are going to shoot you. And so it is a question between you know the expression in Spanish was the wall between lead and money, so it’s very tempting for people, so you couldn’t put police to — so we developed special units and then if you watch the Escobar movies or whatever you you’ll see that at the end he was located on a cell phone talking to his son.
So that the technology the world we live in made it easier to identify him and he met his demise as a result of that.
RITHOLTZ: What do you think of the war on drugs that took place domestically and how does that contrast today where I believe it’s a not just the majority but a substantial majority of Americans favor either the decriminalization or legalization of things like marijuana.
DEVINE: Well, it’s a tricky subject, one of the things, I was on what I would call the supply side or how did you stop the supply and stopping the supply is an important thing, if you don’t do it, if you’re getting let’s say, 500 kilos a day going into the United States you’ll end up with 1,000 if you don’t have it but that isn’t —
RITHOLTZ: In college I was on the demand side so I was on the other side of that —
DEVINE: I heard that, your file indicates that but the problem is as long as there’s a demand the matter what you’re doing on the supply side the price will go up but people are going to find those drugs and deliver them. So if I had $10 I’d put three dollars in — if I were in the desire, I would put three dollars into the supply and seven into demand, the problem with the demand side is you know, we talked health and certainly we should do everything we can but the rate of success in dealing with from a health point of it was really dismal.
So how do you prevent the consumer from taking drugs so law enforcement is going to go in and do what it can but it doesn’t impact on the consumer and to some degree, and why people giggle at it, I don’t, Nancy Reagan, Just say no, well it’s not as simple as that but there you have to do something that makes people feel that it isn’t good to do this, that they decide that becomes not fashionable what would be my point why did everyone on TV three or four years ago wear purple shirts and purple ties? I have no idea, I don’t know who started the trend and what did happen, but there are trends in history, there are trends in foreign policy and if I look at ISIS today, were seeing a downward trend.
But when you looked at narcotics where was there in history that the drug, the cocaine heroin dropped, now it is back but why did it drop? It became uncool. Hollywood did so much in terms of playing that you know why might’ve been cool for many circle I would care to be in, but here in New York you know, to put cocaine on the table and have a party there was a point, there was a point where you didn’t look too good if you are doing that so there that the point is you have to spend time in what I would call social and engineering but be careful how we do about the you have to get the consumer the American people to stop thinking that taking drugs is a good thing.
RITHOLTZ: I kind of like the idea of making the price so cheap that there’s no profit margin for the bad guys which is what seems to be happening with marijuana wherever they legalize it and now they are talking about Canada becoming the first G-7 country to make it completely legal.
DEVINE: Well, remember not too many years ago, four or five years ago sitting down with the head of the police in Mexico City, we’re talking about narcotics and he said look, you’re legalizing it state-by-state and was ahead of his time in identifying the use of marijuana, I do think your point is right on target as it relates to the huge downside of it being a criminal offense is that you foster criminal organizations, they’re taking the money, it is not only out of the system but you have people that influence the political arena and can do horrible things if you legitimize it, that would go.
I however on the other hand am dubious that we actually would be effective in managing it because too often you start with were going to control it and the control turns out not to be there. So — I want to be careful that we don’t have a doped up society, so there is some balance in this and I think in the criminal system and I’m not an expert on the statistics but I think most of the people that are in jail are not users, they are sellers.
So the question so the legitimization of marijuana, I mean I don’t want to get in trouble with all of my former colleagues who worked so hard on it but there is something here that try and get organized crime out of it but I have yet to see a program that would make me comfortable that we would have the self-discipline to manage a program where we wouldn’t end up being a very weak populace.
RITHOLTZ: And I have some libertarian friends who think everything should be legalized, I think beer and wine and weed are one thing, and the opioids and heroin all that stuff an entirely different set of issues and problems and risks for society at large.
DEVINE: And I think, you know, no matter how we look at it, we have to deal with it, the drug problem is back and it is back big time. The heroine is really quite amazing because it is so addictive and yet it’s worked its way into everyone but in the school system is where it caused the flashback in the 80s and people — heroin use now down in the low teens this is quite large and the number of overdoses are stunning.
RITHOLTZ: Stunning so I have to get to my favorite question. I’m just to do the lightning round on a couple of quick things because I can’t miss them before our standard questions.
So really quickly, US drone program, effective ineffective, what do you think of it?
DEVINE: You didn’t ask me but I’m staunchly opposed to enhanced interrogations, okay?
RITHOLTZ: That’s the next question on my list, torture —
DEVINE: I want to take them side-by-side so somehow you don’t think I’ve become wimpy over the years.
RITHOLTZ: So torture, does it work and should we do it?
DEVINE: Let me answer your drone. So I want to say I’m opposed to the enhanced interrogation, on the drone I feel quite differently, to me it’s like the new stinger I actually had my hands on what I believe is the first drone that was going to be used in combat in 1986, we were going to use it in Afghanistan and was looking at I t– it looked like a souped-up toy plane but it was about 6 foot wide and I got a call, the lawyers called, and said, no Jack, you can’t use that, that’s assassination, okay.
So I said right, I guess we won’t use it so instead we get these big mortars and fired the mortars with GPS now this is where your business clients will want to take me with a grain of salt because they realize that they don’t have a keen business interest in this area. I actually had the first — we had, the GPS was introduced to me, we put it with the mortar, first time ever used in combat in Afghanistan, and to me it was a weapon system. If I had a business sense, I should have — wait a minute this is GPS we can —
RITHOLTZ: We can put this in cars.
DEVINE: We can make this thing really hot, well as you can say I’m about here in the Armani suit because I just didn’t remember to do that. So I’m an advocate of it, I think it’s a powerful thing, it was used originally for surveillance and then someone said we need to put hellfire missiles on them and frankly I get the no time for the terrorist and — but it has to be handled you know smartly, I believe we have the capacity and have been using them smartly.
RITHOLTZ: So pro drone, anti-torture, let’s talk about WMDs in Iraq, what the heck happened there? And who do you blame for that? Was that the CIA, was that the shadow agency that the vice president’s office created?
DEVINE: Well I think there are several aspects of the weapons of mass destruction issue and again this is where there’s a polarity with me, I was for going into Afghanistan immediately after 9/11, finding Bin Laden and taking down the Taliban. Unequivocal and I had no compunctions about it. We did as a CIA, special forces went in, took down the Taliban using some of the folks that we worked with back in the old days, I had no compunctions about that, I wouldn’t, I would’ve, my view is not to hang around I wrote an article some years later in 2010 in the Wall Street Journal saying you know you want to keep using the CIA and special forces in low prio, you don’t want to go in and build the nationbuilding.
But leave that aside, Iraq, I never understood in the sense, well the weapons, because you know, we talk weapons of mass destruction he deftly had weapons of mass destruction, inspectors went and this is before the crisis and we know they destroyed only half of them at the time so whatever happened to the other have, so it was not an unreasonable position to believe that there were weapons of mass destruction and I mean Saddam Hussein fooled his own cabinet, in other words, everyone else thought well he has it hidden somewhere else, okay? And you know he never denied it publicly.
But my problem is there was nothing that I saw have yet to see to this day anything that indicated that even if he had them, that he was going to use them, use them against us, and that there was an imminent threat and we needed to deal with it immediately. So I think it’s going to prove to be one of the great —
RITHOLTZ: Military blunders, is that a good way to —
DEVINE: Well it is more than military because I think it’s really a geopolitical mistake.
RITHOLTZ: Allowed Iran to lose a counterbalance, they really expanded dramatically —
DEVINE: And we’ve opened up a huge instability vacuum in today that we’re living with so conventional wisdom and no, we’re not talking about North Korea and Iran today but I was reading today in the newspaper about giving somebody — you know, giving them a bloody nose.
RITHOLTZ: North Korea strategy, right.
DEVINE: And having options going in and preemptive strike and I’m thinking gosh don’t we ever learn? I mean what are the unintended consequences play back your tapes from when we went into Iraq or you know the oil was going to pay for the war I mean our ability very smart people to deceive ourselves when we’re spun up, so I think the Iraq is the most unfortunate development in our modern history and getting out and this is a problem when you do preemptive anything, it’s easy to get in and we are the most powerful force in the world bar none, so we don’t have trouble getting in, it’s how do you get out and what are the consequences have you foreseen all the consequences?
RITHOLTZ: Clearly an issue in and for the record I will add nobody who actually could do basic math imagine that the oil would pay for the Iraq war, that line might’ve affected the innumerate but the rest of us knew that was nonsense.
I only have you for another eight minutes, let me jump to my favorite questions, tell us about some of your early mentors.
DEVINE: As I think back over my career and that’s why Good Hunting, it was helpful writing a because you have to go back and say oh my goodness I really — did I think that person enough and I started making calls because when I interview people and there was a — it was fascinating, I remember calling one fellow that was my deputy on the Iran program and how we tried to avert getting into the Iran Contra affair.
He was out and I was somewhere on a tractor and I called and I can hear his wife getting him and he got on the phone and said this is Jack Devine and I heard, a big sigh, and I thought I don’t know that sigh, that is sign is oh, what did he get me into? And I said look Claude what I wanted I want to do is tell you how grateful I am on you know which I didn’t appreciate enough at the time.
I did, because of the book, get to talk to some of my mentors and a few of them have died in the last few years and it’s a great thing to go back and to talk to them so I talk to a fellow who was my chief in my first assignment abroad and when you look back, was it a pain to deal with me, you know, too much hubris in all of this, I learned so much from him and that he was helpful to me as his group advanced, he was helpful to me, Tom Polder was the last chief off of the roof in Vietnam and was the chief out there who wrote that famous message about “You need to learn from history.” So I called Tom on the phone he said look, Tom, I wrote this article, he said yeah, that’s good but I a couple I want you to read. So he hadn’t changed one bit.
So I had a whole series of that we couldn’t go through them but I felt I was helped, you know, they call the business a trade, tradecraft and, you know I am the son of a plumber and you know, and I worked, I was chortled that’s why I had to become a spy.
But you know it’s you learn that you’re an apprentice at the elbow of a master and I think the best thing that can happen to an officer in CIA is to work for someone who’s a real craftsman and has an interest to develop so I think I’ve been extraordinarily lucky in that regard.
RITHOLTZ: Let’s talk about books this is everybody’s favorite question, tell us about some of your favorite books whether they are related to intelligence or not, fiction or nonfiction.
DEVINE: Well I think, well, first of all I would mention a book that I read a little bit every day and I whether you re secular in your beliefs or not, but I read two verses of the Bible every day because I find it leaving the religious connotation aside, about life and frankly even the language in which we speak it’s interesting and Abraham Lincoln you know most people back in those days the fundamental book that they work for was the Bible, they didn’t have other books, so Lincoln, when he talks about the know the house divided can’t stand I mean where is he drawing this so I find some inspiration in it but right now I’m reading a book about Grant by Ron Chrunow.
RITHOLTZ: Everybody’s told me they loved that book.
DEVINE: The book it can be read on several, look just leaving the battle of Vicksburg, I’m not a military expert, I mean I had been involved but the reason I was involved was because I was surrounded by people who really knew what they were doing but it’s the person granted so interesting that he would absolutely have been a failure, and it was failure in just about everything else, he was an unassuming character.
But there is a great deal to read and to reflect on things about the Civil War that I had missed the role the of ex-slaves in the Army, I mean the real roles for them, so it’s a it’s a read and I’m enjoying it, I like history so you know, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals, you know, how does a government function the dynamic around that, I read one on the CIA last year, it was called The Brothers and it was Allen Dulles the head of CIA —
RITHOLTZ: What did you think of it?
DEVINE: I learned a lot because even though I was in the business, the dynamic of the two of them, and I’m a student not only of the bigger history but of CIA history, so it was interesting to me, the broader readership probably not — not so much, I don’t want you to think, well I did read John McCrea’s latest book but I don’t read spy books, I’ve never read one of Ian Fleming’s, but I did read his first three books which I thought were superb in understanding the psychology of people in the business.
And I just read his the last book Legacy of Spies and I wish he hadn’t written it, and it just sort of diminishes, I mean I just read and it’s like —
RITHOLTZ: The first three are the ones to read.
DEVINE: The first three were really pieces of art.
RITHOLTZ: And my last two questions if somebody a recent graduate or a millennial came up you and said I’m interested in the intelligence field, what sort of advice — what sort of career advice might you give them?
DEVINE: Well, I think there is a couple things that they need to realize, they have to go online so and then you are going to get an interview, you need to know the business enough to talk articulately about it so I would recommend you read books, Good Hunting certainly is a good start. But there’s a number of really good books.
When I was looking for books to read there was hardly anything, Allen Dulles, Craft of Intelligence, David Wise, today there is a lot of really good books but then have to decide what you want to be, where do you want to be, and then you have to think about the life that you are going to live. Do want to be in Washington as a an analyst or are you going to travel around the world, what’s that going to mean with your spouse?
So there’s a lot of life issues that go into it almost any degree as long as you do well on it and almost any respectable school is going to get you there assuming you have it on — an IQ that somewhere between 121 140, you don’t have 170 because then you are dysfunctional inside the bureaucracy; we can’t have too many geniuses.
You really need the question of integrity, and it may be counterintuitive to the movies but you have to have a sense of mission, you want to be there, and they’re going to be looking to make sure that you are a person they can trust and as I said earlier, that you are not a person who is engaged in petty theft because we’re worried that petty theft will lead to big time theft inside.
So these are the types of things that people need to think about.
RITHOLTZ: And our final question, what is it that you know about spy craft and intelligence gathering today that you wish you knew 35 years or so ago when you started?
DEVINE: There’s a great quote by former Secretary of State’s Schultz, the quote is “No bad idea dies in Washington” and the point is that early in my career, I thought this is such a dumb idea that it will not go anywhere so you don’t have to stand up and be counted, right? And that helped me well because virtually all the bad ideas did die but the one that didn’t die was the Iran Contra affair like I do think I stood up but I think I should have gotten on top of the building and screamed at the top of my voice that it was a bad idea.
So I would say that people in key positions in the bureaucracies, you know, when you see a bad idea stand up and I would say to young people and people that are seasoned, it is important, it’s critical, it’s a responsibility at a certain level and in all institutions to speak truth to power.
And for those people that are worried about their career and I would tell you it helps your career, now you have to be careful how you phrase it so you don’t annoy the unduly — the recipient of it but it is so important in the public sphere, and I believe in corporations as well to speak truth to power. And I think there are some of the lessons that you reflect back on that is key, the things that you learn, it’s not just how to put down the dead drop in the middle of the park so no one sees it.
RITHOLTZ: We have been speaking to Jack Devine, former director of operations at the Central Intelligence Agency and author of this CIA Memoir Good Hunting, if you enjoyed this conversation, be sure look up an inch or down an inch at any of the other 180 or so such conversations that we’ve had.
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I’m Barry Ritholtz, you’ve been listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio.