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Circle of Treason: A CIA Account of Traitor Aldrich Ames and the Men He Betrayed Paperback – November 15, 2013

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Circle of Treason: A CIA Account of Traitor Aldrich Ames and the Men He Betrayed + Spy: The Inside Story of How the FBI's Robert Hanssen Betrayed America + Spy Handler: Memoir of a KGB Officer - The True Story of the Man Who Recruited Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press; Reprint edition (November 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591143969
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591143963
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (145 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #153,138 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Circle of Treason is an enormously important account of a complex, often frustrating, case written by those who did much of the work to break it." --Studies in Intelligence, 2013

"The authors provide intriguing insights into the background and tradecraft of a number of productive operations the CIA ran against the GRU and KGB from the 1960s through the 1980s. They also show how, when operations went wrong or were compromised by traitors, sources paid with their lives. Circle of Treason has the advantage of being written by two intelligence professionals, not by academics or journalists, and thus is an authoritative account of the Soviet sources that were providing the U.S. with invaluable information during the Cold War until Ames betrayed them. Because classified material on operational cases was going to be made public, the CIA took over three years to approve the book's publication. T he authors note that 90% of the disputes were resolved in their favor." --The Wall Street Journal, 12 December 2012

"In a brutally frank account of CIA traitor Aldrich Ames's career, Grimes, a 26-year veteran of the CIA's Clandestine Service, and Vertefeuille, a long-time CIA counterintelligence officer, pull back the curtain on the hunt for an American who spent years working for the KGB without being discovered. Espionage buffs will love the details taken from previously classified CIA files, as well as a penetrating view of him as an "All-American boy" and spy. Well-researched and written in a clear, no-frills style, this fascinating Cold War saga will allow any American without a security clearance to better understand how Aldrich Ames could have become one of the most damaging moles in U.S. intelligence history." --Publishers Weekly, 3 December 2012

"What makes this volume interesting is that it was written by longtime CIA insiders, who saw firsthand how the agency's network inside the Soviet Union crumbled. They write authentic sketches of agents working for the CIA who were betrayed by Ames, such as Dmitriy Polyakov, a general in the GRU (Soviet military intelligence), the highest-ranking Soviet official in uniform to spy for the United States during the Cold War, who was arrested and executed after Ames identified him. This book adds an insider perspective to the bookshelf…" --The Washington Post, 2 December 2012

"The Ames story of vast treasonous duplicity may have been often told, but this is an insiders' perspective, with clarifying details and upfront identification of the vicious damages, the sad glories and the assorted 'warts' of the case. It provides an extraordinarily detailed discussion of the agents and their secrets betrayed by Ames, with stunning assessments of the devastating losses for all structural and human components. Having met the criteria and demands of the CIA's Publications and Review Board provides prima facie notice of cooperation, but the depth and intricacy of the revelations simply must be seen in print to be believed. Whatever the rationale for the unabashed candor, there is a truism [that has always been known inside Langley but not always in a Hollywood context], 'you could not make up this stuff.' Indeed Mmes. Grimes and Vertefeuille, did not make it up, but relate it in intimate, excruciating, and spellbinding details, making it all the more extraordinary and worth reading." -- American Ex-Prisoners of War Bulletin, 7 December 2012

"…[A] fine book which is gripping without any pyrotechnics, a story that could not be told except by the women who brought Ames down." -- The Dispatch (Columbus, MS)

"Circle of Treason, written by two women CIA employees--Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille--is an extraordinary tribute to their training, ingenuity, years of service and access to CIA top secret files, Soviet agents collaborating with the CIA, and FBI colleagues. It took them years to uncover the CIA mole in their midst. The book is a tribute to their work." --Betty McIntosh, retired CIA officer and author of Sisterhood of Spies

"All in all, Circle of Treason is a disturbing read, but an essential one for anyone interested in the intricate detail work involved in a counterintelligence investigation -- and a tribute to two women who helped push it to a conclusion." -- The Washington Times

"This is an important contribution to the field of literature. Although there are a half dozen books dealing with the Aldrich Ames case, they are of very differing quality and none contains all the background information on sources which CIA recruited inside the KGB and GRU that this book contains. Also, this is an 'insider' story. These two women actually participated in the running of some of these operations, watched their sources being arrested and executed by the Soviets, and then spent years of their lives uncovering Ames, the 'mole' who gave it all away. Very engagingly written. For me it was a page-turner!" --RADM Thomas A. Brooks, USN (Ret.), former Director of Naval Intelligence

"Only the authors of Circle of Treason could write this fascinating insider account, which not only deals with their tenacious, painstaking pursuit of the CIA's most damaging spy but also reveals the extraordinary efforts the CIA took to ensure the safety of its sources fighting the oppressive Soviet regime. This is essential reading for intelligence professionals and for anyone interested in the day-to-day reality behind Cold War espionage." --Michael Sulick, former Director of CIA's National Clandestine Service

"You can now read the insiders' own, long-awaited account of the unmasking and capture of Aldrich Ames, the most notorious and damaging CIA officer to ever work as a KGB mole inside the Agency. This is the team that caught him. This is the story of how they did it. His betrayal greatly damaged U.S. national security, led to the executions of at least 8 courageous Soviet intelligence officers, and roiled the U.S. Intelligence Community for years. No picture of this infamous case is complete without this gripping narrative by the investigators themselves." --Peter Earnest, Executive Director, International Spy Museum

"A story that only two CIA mole hunters could tell, Circle of Treason fills the gaps in earlier books, giving readers a vivid, behind-the-scenes account of how America's worst CIA traitor, Aldrich Ames, was unmasked. Sandy Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille put human faces on his many victims, revealing important details about their personal lives, motivations, and the incredible secrets they provided us that cost them imprisonment or their lives. A thoroughly researched and riveting, must read." --Pete Earley, author of Confessions of a Spy: The Real Story of Aldrich Ames

"Writing with inside knowledge and access, retired CIA officers Sandy Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille bring clarity and vivid color to the complex and often misunderstood story of the Aldrich Ames spy case. They were involved, supporting CIA's most important cases in the Soviet Union, first witnessing the arrests of valuable agents and then uncovering Ames' treachery with hard work and brilliant insights. Circle of Treason is a page-turner, the real story a thousand times more interesting than spy novels and fictional movies." --Burton Gerber, retired CIA operations officer, co-editor of and contributor to Transforming U.S. Intelligence and Vaults Mirrors and Masks: Rediscovering U.S. Counterintelligence

About the Author

Sandra Grimes was a twenty-six year veteran of CIA's Clandestine Service who spent the majority of her career working against the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. She joined the CIA in July 1967 shortly after graduating from the University of Washington with a degree in Russian. A mother of two grown daughters and four grandchildren, she currently lives in Great Falls, Virginia, with her husband of forty-plus years.

Jeanne Vertefeuille was a CIA officer during the Cold War 1954-1992, specializing in the Soviet target, particularly in the Counterintelligence area. She led the small task force which resulted in the arrest of Soviet mole Aldrich Ames in 1994. Subsequently she served on contract as an analyst 1993-present and died just after the publication of the book in hardcover.

Customer Reviews

Great read, great story, well written.
This book was not as detailed as one would expect from two people who claimed to have first hand knowledge as the lead investigators for thre CIA in this case.
Robert B
Circle of Treason is an excellent account of the actions taken by the CIA to identify and capture Aldrich Ames, who did great damage to the United States.
Nancy Black

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Michael R. Davidson on December 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The "mole" is an insidious exotic creature, a betrayer of trust and indirect slayer of his victims. The treason of Aldrich "Rick" Ames, the selfless investigators who tracked him down, and the ups and downs of how they did it are well and ably described in this long awaited book. The authors, Jeanne Vertefeuille and Sandra Grimes were at the center of the CIA's counterintelligence effort from beginning to end and personally suffered the vicissitudes of the multi-year task but never flagged in their efforts. Both are veterans of the Cold War CIA and bona fide experts on the KGB. Several books, some good, some bad, have been published on the Ames case, but until now none has provided the inside information and accurate rendering of the story.

Vertefeuille and Grimes quite rightly, and for the first time, give pride of place in the story to the individual agents who died, penetrations of the KGB, GRU, and other Soviet entities. The story of GRU General Dmitriy Fedorovich Polyakov, who worked for the CIA for 20 years until he was betrayed by Ames, is especially touching. The respect CIA officers hold for such agents is brilliantly explained in this one-of-a-kind tour de force. The very real dismay upon learning of the brutal deaths of the people betrayed by Ames is palpable.

Operational details, the personalities involved on both sides, and the bureaucratic struggles of the authors are quite frankly breathtaking. No espionage novel, not even fine ones, such as Le Carre's "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," come even close to the complexities involved in this real-life drama. This book is a must read for anyone interested in espionage, the KGB, the Cold War, or counterintelligence.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By F. Carol Sabin on November 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the most revealing, authentic and long-waited books yet published about Ames case written by two CIA veterans with direct knowledge of many dramatic episodes of the Cold War.
The authors - Vertefeuille&Grimes - two tenacious and experienced CIA officers made a superb team (supported by many other colleagues) and wrote, with authority and convinction, a book with many priceless stories.
What makes this book so compelling is that almost every word is true, but, by no means, a complete picture of many Cold War episodes, as you can see below.

The book starts in the first two chapters with a personal description of authors' careers, a fine team as I said, after a short, but explanatory, preface.
In chapter three we were provided with an insightful look and general overview of SE (Soviet and East European) division operations.
Starting with chapter 4 and continuing with the next two, we're providing with the best account about Polyakov case, the GRU general receiving a special attention from the authors and a special dedication at the beginning of the book.

The facts are as detailed as possible, but omitted one important factor - the death of one of Polyakov sons in US, because he was not allowed, by his superiors, to carry out a life-saving surgical operation in a US hospital (Cherkashin&Feifer/Spy Handler) a fact emerging in revenge on the Soviet system, a key element in supporting his double life.
I liked the story of Walt Lomac, an example of personal integrity, in the clash with his CIA superiors about Polyakov bona fide (page 33-34).
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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Chris Lynch on November 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a remarkable book. Although the investigation that led to the arrest of Rick Ames is its centerpiece, the authors are able to illuminate the intelligence battles of the Cold War from the perspective of counterintelligence experts who witnessed many of them. The book begins with the stories of Sandy's and Jeanne's CIA careers, and moves on to an overview of CIA operations targeting Soviet intelligence during the Cold War. From there, they present a series of case studies of CIA assets from the Soviet KGB and GRU. The common theme is that nearly every case ended badly by 1985, with arrest and sometimes execution, although some of the agents were fortunate enough to escape to the West. Once these stories are told, Sandy and Jeanne begin to describe the investigation that eventually led to the traitor Rick Ames. Nearly every sentence is rich with detail, yet the descriptions remain vivid and readable.

As I noted in my book, The C.I. Desk: FBI and CIA Counterintelligence As Seen From My Cubicle (Dog Ear Publishing, 2010), I worked closely with Sandy and her frequent partner Diana Worthen in the Moscow Task Force, which Sandy refers to as "the worst assignment of her career." I wasn't crazy about it, either, but it was extremely rewarding to have the benefit of their guidance and experience while cooped up in our tiny office. I was also able to learn from Jeanne, Sandy, and Diana in other assignments, both while I was in the CIA and in the FBI before that, and I am very grateful for knowing them. In the preface to Circle of Treason, Sandy and Jeanne note their frustration with prepublication review. The C.I. Desk was also subjected to lengthy review.
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