This series of articles Subversion, Espionage, and Spying against the United States continues with 1994 and the case of the Aldrich Ames, a KGB mole operating in the CIA.  

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The goal is to provide some general information and references on cases already concluded. The verdict has been given and the case closed. No matter the justification these people try to make, all cases come down to greed or need for money, ideology, nationalism, revenge, sex, or a warped sense of adventure and an over-inflated ego. Note to Readers: As repeated before, you will not find stories on any pending cases and unsubstantiated news headlines. This is a simple summary of the major cases available through open source materials such as those stories covered by major news outlets, newspapers, properly released governmental reports and information made available through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

One of the most famous (or infamous) spy cases in U.S. history was the arrest and conviction of the CIA (U.S. Central Intelligence Agency) Intelligence Officer Aldrich Hazen Ames. Aldrich Ames and his wife Maria Del Rosario Casas Ames were arrested on 21 February 1994 on the charges of providing classified information to the Soviet KGB and later to the Ministry of Security for Russian Federation (the successor of the KGB) for over a nine-year period. The Ames case is one that reminds us that these acts of espionage, passing classified information to people who should not have it, can and does have life and death impact. It’s not a victimless crime.

At the time of his arrest, Ames was a 31-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), who had spied for the Russians since 1985. Ames worked in the counterintelligence branch of the CIA from 1983 to 1985. In this capacity, he had detailed knowledge of U.S. agents and intelligence sources operating overseas, especially within the U.S.S.R (Russia). Ames became a person of interest in a CIA investigation into the deaths and unexplained disappearances of CIA agents, assets, Allied agents and informants in the Soviet Union and in Europe. During the court proceedings testimony given that stated at least 100 U.S. and Allied intelligence operations were closed down and at least 10 U.S. and Allied agents were executed by the Soviet Union. According to the evidence, the Ames couple received nearly $2.5 million from their Russian handlers. It was the Ames couple’s lavish lifestyle and spending habits that solidified investigators’ suspicions as to the identity of the CIA mole.

Ames’s Career/Events 

Aldrich Ames Letter to KGBCredit: U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations

  • Ames was a CIA case officer, who spoke Russian and specialized in the Russian intelligence services, including the KGB, the USSR’s foreign intelligence service.[1]
  • His initial overseas assignment was in Ankara, Turkey, where he targeted Russian intelligence officers for recruitment. Later, he worked in New York City and Mexico City, Mexico.[1]
  • On April 16, 1985, while assigned to the CIA’s Soviet/ East European Division at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, he secretly volunteered to KGB officers at the USSR Embassy, Washington, D.C.[1]
  • During the summer of 1985, Ames met several times with a Russian diplomat to whom he passed classified information about CIA and FBI human sources, as well as technical operations targeting the Soviet Union.[1]
  • In December 1985, Ames met with a Moscow-based KGB officer in Bogota, Colombia.
  • In July 1986, Ames was transferred to Rome, Italy. In Rome, Ames continued his meetings with the KGB, including a Russian diplomat assigned in Rome…[1]
  • ... [I]n 1989 [when reassigned to Washington D.C.] Ames continued to pass classified documents to the KGB, using “dead drops” or prearranged hiding places where he would leave the documents to be picked up later by KGB officers from the USSR Embassy in Washington.[1]
  • Bogota, Columbia: In October of 1993, an investigator spotted Ames marking a mailbox with chalk believed to be a message to his Russian handlers.
  • On November 1, 1993 special agents observed him and, separately, his Russian handler in Bogota. When Ames planned foreign travel, including a trip to Moscow, as part of his official duties, a plan to arrest him was approved.[1]
  • In a search of Ames’s lavish home several classified documents were discovered on the premises.
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Under a plea agreement that would reduce Maria Ames sentence, Aldrich Ames pleaded guilty to the espionage charges as well as tax evasion. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. His wife, Maria, received a lesser charge for conspiracy to commit espionage and tax evasion with a sentence of five years and three months in prison.  They forfeited their assets to the U.S. as well as $547,000 fine turned over to the Justice Department’s Victims Assistance Fund. Maria has since completed her sentence and was released.

The Washington Post published several articles on this case: February 23, 1994, “CIA Officer charged with selling secrets”; followed on February 25th with article “Accused couple came from Different Worlds”; and December 27th titled “Ames says CIA does not believe he has told all.”     

Next: History of Subversion, Espionage, and Spying Against the United States: Year 1993

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