Espionage in our Nation’s Capital…

Today marks the 12th anniversary of the arrest of Aldrich “Rick” Ames who proved to be one of the most notorious traitors in CIA history. Ames singlehandedly shut down our human intelligence program in the former Soviet Union by exposing the names of all KGB moles on the CIA payroll, to include a former Soviet ambassador who he considered a “good friend”. When asked how he felt about the ultimate demise of the people he exposed, he basically responded that it was all part of the game, a game in which every intelligence operative knew the risks. Nice, except he was supposed to safeguard the very agents he exposed.

His reasons for spying were primarily financial and he was VERY well paid for his traitorous actions. The bottom line, it was his bold, brazen display of wealth that led to his ultimate arrest. What CIA officer can afford a half million dollar home in Arlington, a new Jaguar, several Rolex watches, and lavish, high end furniture throughout their home? One thing I found particularly interesting was that he kept a picture of some riverfront property that the Soviet’s had promised him for his dacha when he finally “retired”.

What really amazes me, though, is how long it took the CIA to discover who was leaking the information. The Soviet Union was quick to act on Ames’ information, eliminating or jailing most of the agents he exposed within days of finding out their identities, yet it took us nine years to find Ames.

Very intriguing story of high treason, isn’t it? Almost as good as the Robert Hanssen story (which we will discuss at a later date). Interested? The yet to be created Cold War Museum will start with their all-day Spy Tours in spring of this year and it sounds like it will be a fascinating tour. The Centre for Counter-Intelligence and Security Studies also runs a two and a half hour Spy Drive tour highlighting locations of dead drops, signal sites, and meeting locations throughout town.

2 Comments so far

  1. Derek (unregistered) on February 22nd, 2006 @ 9:37 am

    What really amazes me, though, is how long it took the CIA to discover who was leaking the information.

    It could be that the CIA knew all along and was trying to find out who he was contacting and used the knowledge of the leaks to provide false information to the Russians.

  2. Tom Mills (unregistered) on February 22nd, 2006 @ 10:04 am

    I think Ames and the KGB worked together to confuse the CIA as long as possible. According to the reports, they chased down 3 erroneous leads before catching on to the fact that Ames was living a little too well for his salary. They even bought the “wealthy in-laws” line based on an interview with a priest in Columbia (where his second wife was from) who indicated that Ames’ wife came from a family with money (she didn’t, the family was quite poor). It’s possible they knew, but I don’t know that they would have allowed all of their “human assets” to be killed or captured in order to leak false information. They also lost some technological assets (a bugged line and some radiation monitoring equipment)… I just don’t think there was a cost-benefit argument there.

    Of course, until the documents related to the case are declassified, we’ll never know…

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