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Departures Podcast with Douglas London, author of ‘The Recruiter: Spying and the Lost Art of American Intelligence’

Many of us have wondered what it would be like to be a real spy. Not necessarily the James Bond-esque car chases and shootouts, but the real practice of exercising tradecraft in the field, recruiting and handling assets, and maintaining such a complex web of relationships between your colleagues, family, and sources.

There could possibly be no better book to take us deep into this world than the latest release by Douglas London, titled “The Recruiter: Spying and the Lost Art of American Intelligence.”

London, who was a 34-year veteran of the CIA, shares highly personal and courageous details in this memoir, which makes for such a fascinating read. London takes us from his earlier Cold War days up through 9/11 and the dawn of the war on terror, which saw an unfortunate shift within the intelligence community toward more militaristic covert action and paramilitary operations that undermined traditional espionage. And with this shift, also came a decreasing level of accountability for who is responsible when things go wrong, something London wrestles with clear moral clarity and no excuses for the mismanagement he witnessed.

Along with this memoir comes a series of clear-eyed recommendations that should be taken very seriously to reform and recover the reputation of the clandestine service.

If you enjoyed this episode, you wish to revisit past Departures episodes with former spies such as Jack Devine and David Omand.