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Circle of Treason: A CIA Account of Traitor Aldrich Ames and the Men He Betrayed Hardcover – October 15, 2012
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"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. The authors note that 90% of the disputes were resolved in their favor." --The Wall Street Journal
"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
"[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)
"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
"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
"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."
"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
"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
"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
About the Author
Sandra V. 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. Born in New York State and spent her childhood and formative years in Colorado. 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, currently lives in Great Falls, Virginia with her husband of forty-plus years.
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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).
Major spy cases are presented in a genuine manner in the next two chapters (40 pages) summarizing the activities of Kulak, Chernov, Poleshuk Piguzov, Yuzhin among others, actually the most valuable CIA network in history. Speaking about B. Yuzhin I noticed, for the first time in the public domain, "the contribution" of FBI's Pitts in this case.
Vertefeuille&Grimes related with accuracy and in fascinating detail each case and I believe that no one knows as much background on these cases as they.
Chapters 9-16 are dedicated to the first reactions to the losses of 1985, gradually focusing on Ames investigation specifically.
The last chapters are more analytical describing Ames (as person and as spy), a comparison between Ames and Hanssen- a fascinating look into the minds of these two characters and concluding with "Final thoughts", a chapter filled with substantial evidence of a somehow troubled US intel community. The book did not spare criticizing some key figures of SE division- for example, M. Bearden activity receiving a particular "scrutiny" (page 19, 100, 133, 211 etc).
The interval between pages 194-207 is filled with an extremely valuable Chronology, a true intelligence history of events and main characters.
The book is well supported by 18 B&W photos showing the main characters of the book (5 are with Polyakov).
There is a useful and short notes section and bibliography to indicate the sources of various statements, so the readers can verify their accuracy, consider the context, or follow them further. There is also a comprehensive index.
In searching for a title to my review I was about to write "a complete study", but few "anomalies" convinced me to change my mind. Ocassionaly, I also did not like the switching between first and third person, often in a very confusing manner. (sometimes a third "person" is speaking about the authors!)
Firstly, there are no accounts about the help of a Russian defector in capturing Ames, a deliberately omission, in my opinion. The authors gave no details about the defector's support - providing no name, but dates, places and times that meshed with the background of Ames - a fact mentioned in two books (Bearden&Risen/The Main Enemy and Cherkashin&Feifer/Spy Handler) and named by R.Kessler (The secrets of the FBI) as being Alexander Zaporozhsky, one of the four Western spies involved in the July 2010 spy swap. This man truly deserves a book for the story of his life.
Another intriguing account referred to the fate of V. Vetrov, the famous "Farewell". It is hard to believe-after reading several books and professional opinions- that Vetrov, as KGB veteran, made the stupid mistake to confess his spying to an unknown person (in prison!), the story so frequently stated in earlier books about this case. Much close to the truth, I believe, is that he was betrayed by someone in the CIA (Bearden) or DST/DGSE (Kalugin).
Thirdly, the fact that both traitors were discovered with the help of ex-KGB/SVR agents was not included in chapter 18 - A comparision between Ames and Hanssen, obviously also a deliberate omission.
Eventually, throughout the book, the authors are not addressing rumors of an undiscovered KGB spy- another Ames or Hanssen- still at large in the US intel community, the so-called "the fourth mole", an interesting episode confirmed by both Bearden (as one involved in the investigations) and Cherkashin (who, as KR line chief, should have direct knowledge or could be the handler of this spy). However, inside the book (page 72) there are a few tidbits about some anomalies represented by O. Gordievsky and S. Bokhan cases. In later case, it is not clear when he was recruited (1975/page 97 or 1976/page 72 and 196); also, in some studies, Gordievsky is suspected that he was recruited as back as 1966, SIS taking over in 1974.
Written by two fine and skilled storytellers as a lesson in the murky world of intelligence during Cold War, this book is a remarkable and major contribution to the literature of espionage that treats spy wars between KGB/SVR and CIA.
For every serious student who likes dead-serious nonfiction books it should be a required and indispensable reading.
Five stars and recommended!
In this way the book remains a monument to dozens of Russians who thought it was in their best interest to help the United States during the cold war. Some of them did it for money, others for ideology, creed or ego.
Whatever their motivations we were better with them alive than dead because a rat turned them over for money, fast cards, and his massive ego. One has to feel saddened by the idea that some of these men were shot in the back of the head and dumped in an unmarked grave.
I no expert, but clearly Ammes must have been an ill man to think he could pull this off for long. I’m not sure how he didn’t see this all coming down around his head. When they sectioned of human intelligence to a very limited number of people that should have been a clue they were looking for him. But either he felt they were stupid and would never find him or he was fatalistic.
In reading this book I couldn’t help but think about so many of the other books on intelligence gathering I’ve read of the years. A lot of people were put in danger because of this man. It is astonishing to think that that even today some people wonder if there was one more mole in the CIA/FBI system. One other than the rat Robert Hanssen.
One other element of the book I found fascinating was the review of traitors in our midst from the 1980s and early 90s. Men such as John Walker, who recently passed away, and his family of spies. I was also reminded of the Marine scandal at the American embassy in Russia. It made for an interesting trip down memory lane.
If you enjoyed this book then I would suggest reading Spy Handler: Memoir of a KGB Officer - The True Story of the Man Who Recruited Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames by communist spy Victor Cherkashin.
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