Aldrich Ames

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Aldrich Ames

Aldrich Hazen Ames (born June 16 1941 in River Falls, Wisconsin) is a former Central Intelligence Agency counter-intelligence officer and analyst, who in 1994 was convicted of spying for the Soviet Union.

Ames began working for the CIA in 1963, and his first assignment was as a case officer in Ankara, Turkey, where (somewhat ironically) his job was to target Soviet intelligence officers for recruitment.

He first began spying for the Soviet Union in 1985 when he walked into the Soviet embassy in Washington to offer secrets for money. Ames was assigned to the CIA's Europe Division / Counterintelligence branch where he was responsible for directing the analysis of Soviet intelligence operations. He had access to the identities of US sources in the KGB and Soviet military. The information Ames provided led to the compromise of at least 100 US intelligence operations and to the execution of at least 10 US sources. The Soviets/Russians paid Ames approximately $2.5 million, allowing Ames and his wife to live a lifestyle beyond the means of a normal CIA officer's family. Ames, who struggled with alcoholism, had no ideological affinity for the USSR and spied purely for the money.

The CIA quickly noticed that something was very wrong, but were reluctant to admit that they could have a mole, something that had never before befallen the CIA. Initial investigations were far more focused on a communications breach caused by Soviet bugs or by a broken code. It has been alleged that investigation into the breach was discouraged in the late 1980s when the CIA was reeling from the Iran-Contra Affair and was desperate to avoid another major embarrassment.

Aldrich Ames passed two polygraph tests while spying for the Soviet Union, a fact that some use to cast doubt on the accuracy of the polygraph test. In an interview, he stated that when he asked his Soviet contacts about advice on beating the polygraph, they replied to just relax.

Due to the inability of the CIA to uncover the leak and the fear that the counter-intelligence division may not have been secure the CIA turned to the FBI to investigate the matter. The FBI soon focused on Ames as one of the prime suspects putting him under constant surveillance.

In February of 1994 Ames was scheduled to fly to Moscow as part of his duties for the CIA and the FBI feared that he would defect. Thus Ames and his Colombian-born wife, Rosario, were arrested on 21 February 1994 by the FBI and charged with providing highly classified information to the Soviet KGB and its successor organization, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service.

On February 22 1994 Ames and his wife were charged by the United States Department of Justice with spying for the Soviet Union. They were later convicted; Ames received a sentence of life imprisonment and his wife received a 5-year prison sentence for conspiracy to commit espionage and tax evasion as part of a plea-bargain by Ames.

Ames' story is dramatized in the 1998 movie Aldrich Ames: Traitor Within with Timothy Hutton as Ames.

Further reading

  • Pete Earley, Confessions of a Spy: The Real Story of Aldrich Ames
  • Peter Maas, Killer Spy: The Inside Story of the FBI's Pursuit and Capture of Aldrich Ames, America's Deadliest Spy, Warner, 1995, ISBN 0-446-51973-1
  • David Wise, Nightmover: How Aldrich Ames sold the CIA to the KGB for $4.6 Million, HarperCollins, 1995, ISBN 0-06-017198-1
  • U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General, "A Review of the FBI's Performance in Uncovering the Espionage Activities of Aldrich Hazen Ames - Unclassified Executive Summary (April 1997)" Executive Summary online (
  • "Famous Cases: Aldrich Hazen Ames (", Federal Bureau of Investigation (Mar. 27, 2005) - A short description of Ames' spying career
  • "Rationalizing treason: An interview with Aldrich Ames (", CNN Cold War Series (1998) - Aldrich Ames in his own words
  • "CIA Traitor Aldrich Ames (" - A lengthy description of Ames' spying careerhe:אלדריץ' איימס

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