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Betrayal:: The Story of Aldrich Ames, an American Spy Hardcover – June 6, 1995

4.3 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Aldrich Ames, according to this account by a team of New York Times reporters, was an incompetent, office-bound, alcoholic spy in the middle of an undistinguished career. Even so, he was promoted to lead the counterintelligence branch of the CIA's central Soviet division, and there, in 1983, he began calling for the files on every important CIA operation involving Soviet spies in every corner of the world. He sold these files to the Soviets in order to fund tastes not appropriate to his salary; dozens of U.S. operatives were exposed, and many were killed.

Until his arrest and conviction for espionage in 1994, Ames received nearly $3 million for his treason, about which he was quite unsubtle. Yet the CIA took years to wonder why Ames could afford an expensive home in a Washington, D.C., suburb and frequent weekend trips to Europe. The agency was so slow to act, the authors suggest, because its leadership was more concerned with institutional self-preservation than with doing its job properly. This suspenseful book draws on interviews with Ames himself to show that major housecleaning is in order at Langley.

From Publishers Weekly

This New York Times reporting team's taut, riveting, remarkably vivid account of former CIA agent Aldrich Ames's treason, arrest and 1994 conviction as a mole for Moscow reads like a spy thriller. The Wisconsin-born son of a history professor-turned-CIA-agent, Ames, depicted here as a slovenly, procrastinating, inept, mediocre, alcoholic bureaucrat, rose to become counterintelligence chief of the CIA's Soviet division. In 1985, he revealed to the KGB the identities of 12 Soviet intelligence officers who were secretly working for the CIA. Despite the ensuing wave of KGB arrests and executions, the CIA would not acknowledge that someone within its ranks was a traitor, and the agency's slapdash mole-hunt made progress only after 1991, when the FBI was called in to crack the case. Through hours of jailhouse interviews with Ames, sentenced to life without parole, the authors establish greed as his overriding motive-he stashed away $2 million in payoffs from Moscow in secret bank accounts. This is an amazing tale of institutional hubris and bungling. Photos.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 308 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (June 6, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067944050X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679440505
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #430,432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"Betrayal" is the perfect book for readers interested in espionage but rusty on their Cold War history. It's also a welcome change to fans of Current Events and True Crime books tired of the mediocre research and rampant overwriting endemic to each genre. The authors wisely stick to the case at hand and introduce background only as it pertains to Aldrich Ames. In this way they avoid the odious True Crime approach of devoting multiple chapters to the family tree and childhood of their subject. Better still, the writers do not take undue authority by stating what motivated Ames; rather, they present aspects of the spy's life, such as alcoholism and a faltering marriage, as evidence of what made him tick. Not only do the authors practice good journalism, they respect their readers enough to avoid padding out the book with meandering anecdotes in lieu of characterization. Instead of slogging through forty pages about Ames's high school grades, the reader gets four or five pages of concise and useful detail on U.S.-Soviet relations of importance to this case. It's a shame this book is out of print. It's lean style, respect for relevancy, and use of on-the-record sources make it the most credible study of Aldrich Ames and an enjoyable read years after its release. On a final note, this book should be available second-hand in a normal size format and for less than five dollars. Look around. If you actually found this review it will be worth your time.
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By A Customer on April 22, 1997
Format: Hardcover
I've read every book on the Aldrich Ames case (including a new one that recently came out) and I must say that this book was the most difficult one to put down. The story reads like one you would expect from professional journalists -- well documented, precise, and interesting from beginning to end. If I had to recommend one book on this pathetic case of espionage, it would be a "no-brainer" -- get _Betrayal_!!
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Format: Hardcover
I picked up Betrayal on a whim and although I was initially just casually interested, I was surprised how engaging the book was from first sentence to last.

I learned a lot about how this bureacracy worked during the time of Aldrich Ames' treason. I was amazed that hardly anyone was even fired even if they were an incompetent, lazy, dissatisfied, alcoholic misfit like Ames was. Even though Ames wasn't very good at his job, he still expected to be promoted. Amazingly, he was, even into some very sensitive areas where he could do the most damage. Ames' dissatisfaction with his job and the agency was one of the reasons he began working for the "other spy company", the KGB. He thought that all the spy games were meaningless.

Some interesting moral situations are brought up such as when a Soviet diplomat is entrapped by making him look like he is traitor to his country, when he isn't, so that he would be forced to spy for the US. Soviets who betrayed their corrupt country were praised as heroes in the US, but were executed in the USSR. It brings up questions of how loyal you should be to your country. Also, the CIA is supposed to be devious in another country, but expected to be totally honest when dealing with US government. Lastly, defectors can't be considered honest or sincere, they could still be spies. I can see how someone could end up morally warped after awhile.

The CIA didn't want to face the reality that they had a mole in their own camp working against them, so the investigation took years to pinpoint Ames. One guy did think so, but it was generally viewed as too paranoid a viewpoint, even in this place where people are paid to be paranoid. But eventually the paranoid proved to be right, which is heartening for all us paranoids out there.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is the 2nd book I have read about A. Ames ( Also saw a movie dealing with how he was unmasked) & if you put the 2 books together a full picture emerges of a spy that should have been found out years before, when he gave the KGB the names of those Russians spying for the USA ( See "The Billion Dollar Spy"). This book focuses equally, in my opinion, on how he was discovered & the CIA/FBI as well as on Ames himself.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed Confessions of A Spy by Pete Earley along with this effort entitled Betrayal by authors Weiner, Johnston, and Lewis. Greed appears to be the primary motivating factor for individuals turning over secret documents over to another country eager to capitalize on their desires. Red flags such as alcohol or other drug problems along with spending beyond their means are things to look for as indicators that something is out-of-line regarding an employee.

Aldrich Ames does not strike me as one particularly adept in concealing his unsavory tactics. The Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) appears inept in dealing with the problem that confronts them. Ames is free to come and go as he pleases with documents without anyone questioning his behavior. When Russians spying for the United States are recalled to Russia and subsequently executed the C.I.A. refuses to believe a mole lurks within their midst choosing any number of other reasons for the problem.

Although the C.I.A. didn't know what to do with a mediocre employee such as the alcohol-loving Ames he always appeared to receive a position that enhanced his spying ability. Although initially unaware of her husband's unsavory behavior she did become accepting of it because it resulted in an upscale in their standard of living.

Both the C.I.A. and F.B.I. appear to have a competitive and antagonistic attitude towards one another rather than working together. The capture of Aldrich Ames finally comes to a conclusion after a lot of painstaking effort by both agencies, but this could have been avoided with a greater vigilance on the part of the C.I.A. which is portrayed as a weak organization.

I found the book to be very interesting and well worth my time.
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