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Good Hunting: An American Spymaster's Story

3.37  ·  Rating Details ·  366 Ratings  ·  49 Reviews
"A sophisticated, deeply informed account of real life in the real CIA that adds immeasurably to the public understanding of the espionage culture—the good and the bad." —Bob Woodward

Jack Devine ran Charlie Wilson's War in Afghanistan. It was the largest covert action of the Cold War, and it was Devine who put the brand-new Stinger missile into the hands of the mujahideen
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published June 3rd 2014 by Sarah Crichton Books (first published June 4th 2013)
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May 31, 2014 Martin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jack Devine has written a memoir of service in Washington that is refreshingly free of score settling and politics. The CIA tends to be a Rorschach test in American politics today; however Good Hunting is a reminder that the best government employees are apolitical. Good Hunting is also a very honest book, both of successes of the CIA as well as it's failures. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in American history of the 70's through today.
Tom Tabasco
Apr 10, 2015 Tom Tabasco rated it really liked it
"A spy who funneled Stingers to the mujahedeen, helped hunt drug lord Pablo Escobar, and managed the turncoat Aldrich Ames", The WSJ.

Fascinating book, with great historic value, and written in a straight-shooter no bs tone that perfectly resonates with me, especially after having read "The brothers" by Kinzer, about the Dulles brothers, a book that provides a very different perspective on the CIA's history and modus operandi.

Jack Devine covered many crucial CIA leadership roles over 32 years,
Dec 09, 2014 Bosh rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Devine has some interesting anecdotes and insights into how the CIA does and does not function. His writing style is overly stilted, but the more fatal flaw here is the lack of real depth of analysis or criticism of the CIA. In Devine's world, the CIA is inherently good, and the bad things it has done are the result of a few bad apples or interference from other government agencies. His discussion of some issues sometimes seems disingenuous and shows a tribal loyalty to the CIA - in discussing t ...more
Jan 05, 2017 Kathryn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Devine would have readers believe that hardly any of the Stinger missiles went astray, but according to Steve Coll's Ghost Wars, thousands ended up on the market in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, and the US spent as much money buying them back from throughout the region as they did on foreign aid to Afghanistan.

I know this is hardly a review, but it's just something that sticks in my mind as a wide discrepancy.
Sep 30, 2016 Alicia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There were so many times where I didn't know where he was going with the book. He repeated over and over again that the CIA should be "less militarized operations and more espionage", which I am not against. But it wasn't clear how that should be done and I didn't feel he explained himself very well as to why (though I have opinions as to why, I wanted to hear his). How do you make that transition in the worlds current state? I would have been more apt to say, "Hey, this guy has an idea!" Instea ...more
Jul 06, 2014 Karla rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jack Devine spent the majority of his career in the CIA, mostly in leadership roles. This is his memoir of those experiences. One of my criticisms of this book is that the writing is similar to those first two sentences; very straightforward, crisp and ‘telling’. Memoirs are likely harder to ‘show’, but it makes for a drier, more boring story. Mr. Devine has information and insights about several key CIA actions during the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. He claims responsibility for bringing the Stin ...more
Aug 07, 2016 Graham rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was also good. The world projects of the CIA are not ones I would endorse, but the stories and strategies of conduct in enacting the political missions of the the covert operations are of interest to one inclined to read such things. The stories are interesting too, another perspective on global events, giving some backdrop to things I had only previously read about briefly (e.g. wars in Afghanistan, Iran Contra, the Bay of Pigs, etc.). I think this book would be good for a person who ...more
Sep 21, 2014 Terric853 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I normally don't read non-fiction, but this was a book club selection. I loved it! Jack Devine, the author, served in the CIA for 32 years and rose through the ranks from station chief to Deputy Director of Operations. His tales of working against the Allende administration in Chile, fighting the Colombian drug cartels, helping Charlie Wilson supply the Afghans in their war against Russia (think of the movie "Charlie Wilson's War", although Jack says the CIA directed the operation, not Charlie)a ...more
Oct 28, 2015 Amy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
I am not sure I can imagine why with book was published. I am not sure what it was even about. I got the sense it was a veiled attempted to support the validity of the CIA generally and its funding and then specifically focused on supporting CIA operations in Afghanistan as the United States begins to withdraw. Either Devine's CIA career was painfully unremarkable, or he kept all the juicy details for his death bed confessional and gave us 336 pages of vague, mildly interesting history of CIA sc ...more
Almost worth 4 stars. Interesting memoir of a guy who worked his way up to number 3 in the CIA hierarchy and then created his own private intelligence firm. Lots of perspective on the wise use of covert action authority. Lots of war stories from his 32 year career. Not so much of a CIA supremacist that the book was unreadable, and, actually, it seemed rather balanced--failures and successes are noted. One of the better CIA memoirs out there, by my reading. If this is the kind of book you read, g ...more
Mar 06, 2015 Erwin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
Reminds me of the Robert Gates book Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War... Yet another middle man functionary that never did anything noteworthy, but did make enough friends to build a successful consultancy for his life after public service.

If you want a truly fascinating tale, I highly recommend Pete Early's Confessions of a Spy about double agent Aldrich Ames. Very well written and much more interesting.
Rudolph T. Gordon
Mar 18, 2015 Rudolph T. Gordon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not just war stories

This book avoids the"gee whiz" aspects of spying and emphasizes the rationale for spying. This is both a strength and a weakness. I, for one, enjoy learning about the personalities of those who become traitors to their country. This book doesn't cover the psychology of the traitor in much detail. On the other hand,the author goes into great detail about the structure of the CIA and the administration of the agency. It was well written with an extensive bibliography. I just wi
Jun 10, 2015 Marilyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like books about spying, not just novels, but the craft of spying. Things have changed so much since the Middle East has become a bigger focus. This book heralded back to more of the Cold War days, when there was a certain way that assets were recruited and handled. The writing was a bit formal, but the author had an old-fashioned sense of integrity that frowned on the way Iran-Contra was handled and the use of enhanced interrogation. He believed the agency should serve the President's foreign ...more
Kent Hinckley
Nov 25, 2015 Kent Hinckley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author, Jack Devine, spent many years with the CIA in key positions to include director of operations. He provides insights to the inner workings and how it has benefitted our country. I enjoyed the stories especially hearing the truth about various episodes which differ from press coverage. A great read and I appreciate his comments about the problems with our involvement in Iraq and Afghistan and his conclusions about going forward: rather than use large-scale military assets to implement ...more
This was a fun read after my visit to the International Spy Museum last weekend. Jack Devine had a fascinating CIA career which saw him in the thick of various international crises, from Pinochet's Chile to spearheading Charlie Wilson's war in Afghanistan. My only complaint is that the book slowed significantly in the final two chapters, about his post-CIA corporate intelligence work and an oddly didactic chapter about lessons learned and where the CIA should go from here. Skip those two chapter ...more
Dan Solomon
Neat factoids and anecdotes scattered among a dull lionization of American covert intelligence operations. Devine isn't particularly thoughtful or contemplative when discussing his operations, but he seemed to enjoy himself. It's not compulsively readable or particularly crackling, but the flashes of "huh, didn't know they did it like that" are occasionally fun to read. Still, you'd be better off waiting till Hollywood lifts he interesting bits and puts 'em in a movie or TV show, and saving your ...more
Feb 18, 2015 Rdonn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: a-royal-pain
In many ways this is an important book. Written by a man who was at the top of so many operations by the CIA you get an insight into how it works, and the importance of covert operations. It will appeal greatly to people who are fascinated by the "spy craft" of our government. I found his style very choppy, and the use of acronyms always confusing. So many people, so many operation, my head was spinning as I read it. I was not as fascinated as I expected to be, but the sections dealing with Alle ...more
Dec 19, 2014 Chris rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wasn't really expecting much form this autobiography - I wasn't expecting a man who had been so dedicated to the CIA to really criticize it at length. That said, I still managed to be put off by Devine's reasonably shallow recounting of his life. It's an interesting life, no doubt, and that's perhaps the primary strength of this book. If you're hoping for a critical or nuanced examination of the CIA and its activities over the years, it won't be here.
Dec 07, 2014 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really well done memoir of Devine's career in the CIA. He tells some great stories of his career including working in Counter Narcotics, stories about his interactions with Ames, working with Charlie Wilson and getting Stinger's to Afghanistan and many more. He does not get very political, occasionally calling out issues he had with individual policy decisions but not detracting from the narrative.
Jul 04, 2014 Nancy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not as good as I was hoping. Devine is an interesting man and this book recounts his over 30 yrs in CIA. He eventually becomes acting deputy director of operations for CIA. He worked for presidents Nixon- Clinton and advised Obama while he was running for President. My favorite line in book is " intelligence is about hunting for information about enemies as well as for ways to neutralize them. This allows our leaders to make informed policy decisions."
Sam Taylor
This book was very straightforward on what jack Devine thought the CIA needed to change and how they should do it. It's an amazing story of his time in the CIA but was a struggle to get through. However he gives great insight in what things you may not have know about Escobar and the Afghan espionage war between US and operatives.
Jean-Paul Pearson
Apr 25, 2016 Jean-Paul Pearson rated it really liked it
to finish it up completely i will use one quote that sums up a career as a spy. Especially the higher ups. "A bullets been fired and you didn't hear the shot, but its headed in your direction, and whether it hits you in the shoulder or the head, but it's got your name on it, and i can't tell you exactly how bad it that hit is going to be."(pg227)
Kanishka Sirdesai
Jan 14, 2015 Kanishka Sirdesai rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting tale recited by an insider using his experiences working for the CIA. Truly refreshing piece chronicling the successes and failures. A must read for people who believe the CIA is an invincible force as depicted in movies. The book portrays the CIA as a normal workplace trying to getting the job done of protecting the people from any adverse situations!
Aug 24, 2014 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's interesting to see my memories of this period through Jack Devine's experiences during his CIA career. The reader knows this man loved his work. Even when Devine discusses the 'bad' decisions or outcomes, he is respectful of the agency. I appreciated his service and that he explained the basic tenets he used for making decisions. We are fortunate to see behind the scenes.
Jan 12, 2016 Ngiste rated it really liked it
I enjoyed it. Crisp writing style swiftly covers a large portion of American foreign policy history. Presents a balanced view of intelligence's role and its limits in foreign policy. This will not satisfy anyone with preconceived notions, pro or con, about the CIA but is probably a good read for anyone interested in joining it or understanding it.
John Page
Mar 30, 2016 John Page rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating look into the clandestine operations of the CIA, but written with the obvious bias of someone who dedicated their career to that service. The recounts of various operations and operating areas provide an interesting perspective that the general public largely misunderstands.
Apr 05, 2016 Denise rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
More serious discussions about the CIA, particularly with respect to covert action. The part when he went into private business was slow for me. Wish there would have been more stories or anecdotes from his times living abroad with his family.
Jul 29, 2014 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading this memoir of Jack Devine's career in the CIA although I felt I was reading top line experiences. I would love to learn more and appreciate that he mentions colleagues who have also written their own account of the same events. Now, I have more books to read.
Oct 02, 2014 Spencer rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Mildly interesting, but despite constantly insisting on his neutrality, the guy comes off as a right-wing douche. I mean, there's absolutely no excuse for what happened in Chile, for one thing. This is definitely not a Hopscotch-esque tell-all.
Wasn't doing it for me.
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“this information without sharing it with me? This is all new information to me. I feel sandbagged.” To his relief and slight embarrassment, I pointed out that it was his own information. We had merely given it some analytical horsepower, in the spirit of broadened collaboration. After that, he became more trustful of the CNC, and a number of his senior leaders became major supporters of the center. Beyond this new trust and cooperation among federal agencies, the other new and innovative component of the linear strategy was the way we started dealing with our liaison partners in foreign intelligence agencies. Brian Bramson, a veteran CIA operations officer and Latin America hand, led the way here—and has never been fully recognized for this achievement. Traditionally, we tried to give liaison partners as little support and intelligence as we could get away with to stay in the game. We did not want to develop their skills to the point where they could jeopardize our other unilateral operations if they turned against us. I understood this reluctance, having seen trusted liaison partners become criminal liabilities. Nevertheless, when it came to attacking drug cartels at the CNC in the early 1990s, we made a decision to truly build up liaison capabilities and share with the locals even high-end resources—everything that could be used to damage the narcotic-trafficking networks. Our strategy was to use our liaison partners as a genuine force multiplier. Combining their on-the-ground knowledge, language abilities, and existing networks with our skills, training, and equipment, we went from minimal bilateral liaison to enhanced multilateral liaison. “The kind of information we were looking for had to be gathered in-country by our good liaison contacts that we trusted … liaison relationships were key,” Brian Bramson said.5 Soon we were building powerful and effective” 0 likes
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