Aldrich Ames

Aldrich Ames

Aldrich Ames

Aldrich Hazen Ames was arrested by the FBI in Arlington, VA on February 24th, 1994. At the moment of his arrest he had been 31-of-service at the CIA and for nearly ten years he had been a KGB spy. He was arrested along with his wife and formally accused by the U.S. Department of Justice with spying for the Soviet Union. Ames faced the death penalty because his betrayal had caused the killing of different CIA sources of information. After plea bargaining, his penalty was reduced to life imprisonment, while his wife was sentenced to five years for crimes of espionage conspiracy and tax evasion.

Aldrich Ames was a Russian speaking CIA officer specialized in the KGB, the Russian intelligence service. He began working for the CIA in 1962 with low-profile jobs, but after graduating he was able to work his way up. His first assignment abroad was in 1969 in Ankara, Turkey, where he was able to identify several Soviet intelligence agents, one of which was recruited.

He later worked in New York and Mexico City. On April 16th, 1985 he entered the Soviet Embassy while he was assigned to the European division of the CIA’s counterintelligence and was responsible for the analysis of the Soviet intelligence operations. He had just divorced and was heavily in debt, so he decided to pass information to the Russians.

It was the first move of what was to be the most devastating infiltration of Western intelligence agencies. His position gave him access to the most important secrets of the CIA (among these were the names of CIA and British agents infiltrated in the KGB and details about their activities). The KGB wrote tank you notes to the new much appreciated spy, but most of all they paid Ames a fortune. Moreover they promised him houses and land in the USSR. In exchange for all this money Ames continued to pass all the information he was capable to collect, simply bringing hundreds of secret documents out of the CIA offices below the eyes of his colleagues putting them under his arm in an envelope or among other non-confidential documents. The Soviet embassy in Washington was kept under constant surveillance but the role of Ames allowed him to meet with the Soviets and thus his frequent visits to the embassy never aroused any suspicion. He had a perfect covering, however most of his business away from the embassy was done with the system of dead drops. Ames’ motivation was only money, no ideological reason, just money. He never had the feeling of being an agent, or to belong to the KGB. During this period he was also sent to Bolivia and Rome where he continued his meetings with KGB agents providing top-secret documents.

Aldrich Ames letter

Aldrich Ames letter

On his return to Washington in 1989 Ames continued to pass classified documents to the KGB, once again with the system the dead letter box. In return, the KGB left instructions and money.

Meanwhile, the CIA and FBI began to be alarmed; in fact since 1985 the network of Soviet sources was disappearing at an alarming rate. The first stages of the investigation were focused on the leaks caused by Soviet listening systems or encryption codes decrypted by Soviet computer scientists. At first, the agency suspected of Edward Lee Howard, a disgruntled employee who worked in computing, but it was clear that Howard could not know all the undercover agents and all the secret operations. The agency then proceeded with an analytical control over most of the staff of the CIA, but could not find any flaw. Ames even managed to get through two lie detector machine tests. Eventually the entire investigation was taken over by the FBI that selected a list of possible moles within the CIA, which included also Aldrich Ames.

Aldrich Ames arrest

Aldrich Ames arrest

After several months of wiretapping and shadowing, Ames made some banal mistakes. The first clue was the discovery of the draft of a letter to the KGB in his junk. Then, he was seen putting a chalk mark on a mailbox; this was the confirmation of a meeting with Russian agents in Bogota. Special agents saw him meet with the Russians a few weeks later in the center of Bogota; also in this case there was an exchange of money for information. Ameswas planning another trip to Moscow, and he was finishing the copy of hundreds of top secret documents in 3 floppy disks by connecting to various data banks as the SIS or the Department of State and of course the CIA. The FBI arrested him immediately before his departure for Moscow.

Aldrich Ames is currently detained in prison in Allenwood, PA.

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