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.
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