Several years after retiring from the CIA, and well into his new career as a Boston University professor, Arthur S. Hulnick wrote “Fixing the Spy Machine” — a sort of how-to manual in book-length form for how his former colleagues and elected officials could fine-tune and improve the nation’s intelligence community.
People outside the spy business “may have a faulty perception of the successes and failures of the intelligence system,” he wrote. Even worse, “people think they know about the CIA because they’ve seen James Bond movies or read Tom Clancy novels.”
The reality is much different and far more complex, he added, though trying to study the intelligence community from the outside raises an obvious question: “How can we examine a system that is cloaked in secrecy?”
Mr. Hulnick, who was awarded the CIA’s Career Intelligence Medal in recognition of his 28-year career with the agency, died of cancer last Wednesday. He was 82 and lived in Brookline.
He had “served in both the analytical and clandestine branches” of the CIA, Richard R. Valcourt, editor of the International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, wrote in the forward to “Fixing the Spy Machine: Preparing American Intelligence for the 21st Century,” which was published in 1999.
Valcourt called Mr. Hulnick’s book “a blueprint for improving the intelligence community of the United States.”
Mr. Hulnick was an intelligence officer in the United States and abroad from 1966 to 1982, including a one-year hiatus to research the impact of intelligence on public policy.
He went on to edit the President’s Daily Brief of intelligence information during part of the 1980s. Mr. Hulnick also served as coordinator of academic affairs for the CIA’s public affairs office and chaired the director of central intelligence’s management advisory group.
Notably, Mr. Hulnick went on the road as the CIA’s spokesman, speaking to students at universities.
“Explaining the world of intelligence to generally skeptical audiences, he won numerous friends by advocating greater agency openness and easier access to noncritical documents, so as to allow a deeper public understanding of the real work of intelligence officers,” Valcourt wrote.
Among those Mr. Hulnick spoke to over the years were friends and fellow students of his daughter Larisa Pazmino, who lives in Newton. While she was a student at Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C., a school founded by Quakers, she persuaded a political science professor to invite her father to speak.
There were protesters, as often was the case when Mr. Hulnick spoke to college students during his time with the CIA’s public affairs department, but he didn’t shy from the challenge.
“He would go talk to them and have a dialogue,” his daughter said.
“It was really interesting to watch him in action as a speaker because he was very engaging,” she added. “He made the material very approachable.”
That ability to connect with college students, even those who protested the CIA, served him well when began his new career at Boston University.
In “Fixing the Spy Machine,” Mr. Hulnick made a point of thanking those on the BU campus who welcomed his arrival in 1989 and “defended me against the skeptics who wondered about the propriety of having a CIA ‘agent’ in the classroom, and questioned the validity of intelligence as an academic subject.” The popularity of the courses he taught in international relations seemed “to have silenced the critics,” Mr. Hulnick added.
The older of two brothers, Mr. Hulnick grew up in the Stapleton neighborhood of Staten Island, N.Y. His father, Robert, was a high school gym teacher. His mother, the former Martha Israel, was a homemaker who helped Robert run a summer camp for youths in the Poconos in Pennsylvania, which Mr. Hulnick, his brother, and their cousins attended.
Mr. Hulnick graduated in 1957 from Princeton University, where he studied at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
He was a captain in the Air Force for several years and served as an intelligence officer before he was recruited by the CIA.
While in the Air Force, he met Eileen Brandt, who was a nurse in Texas when he was stationed in the state. Like him, she was from Staten Island. They married in 1965. “I think my dad met somebody who said, ‘Oh, you should meet my friend. She’s also from Staten Island,’ ” Pazmino said.
When Mr. Hulnick first arrived at BU as a CIA officer-in-residence, he developed courses on strategic intelligence for the international relations department. Upon retiring from the CIA in 1992, he became a lecturer in the department and then an associate professor. He retired from the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies in 2015.
“He really loved teaching,” his daughter said. “As much as he enjoyed intelligence and his adventures, I think teaching is where he really found his passion.”
With his wife, Mr. Hulnick traveled regularly, and they frequently attended concerts in Boston and at Tanglewood. He collected vintage cameras, and among his cars was a 1929 Morris Minor from England. The vehicle was eye-catching, no matter where he drove it.
“Occasionally I would get picked up from a slumber party in the Morris,” his daughter said, “and all my friends would have to come out and see it.”
A service will be announced for Mr. Hulnick, who in addition to his wife, Eileen, and daughter Larisa leaves his other daughter, Sandra Borgerson of Quincy, and three grandsons.
In his second book, “Keeping us Safe: Secret Intelligence and Homeland Security,” published in 2004, Mr. Hulnick examined subjects such as how much attention is paid to the intelligence community’s failures. Because trumpeting certain successes would compromise ongoing intelligence work, he noted, the public often is left to dwell too much on miscues.
Still, he wrote, to improve the intelligence community, plenty of areas must be examined: “Animosity between agencies, bureaucratic rivalries, clashing cultures, risk-avoidance behaviors, reduced resources,” to name a few.
“Fortunately, the US Intelligence Community can be fixed, but it’s going to require some rethinking of the entire system,” he added.
In “Fixing the Spy Machine,” Mr. Hulnick recommended making the director of central intelligence position as “politically neutral” as possible. And some of the fixing, he argued, must start with something as simple as agency budgets.
“We can no longer do more with less,” he said.
Espionage “is probably the oldest form of intelligence gathering. Biblical stories recount the deeds of spies, and Sun Tzu, writing four centuries before the birth of Christ, noted their value in his treatise on war,” he added.
“Wise political leaders should acknowledge that investments in intelligence are cheaper and have a potentially greater payoff than spending huge sums on weapons systems,” Mr. Hulnick wrote. “The Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu recognized this almost 2,500 years ago. We should pay attention to what he has taught us.”