|Born||May 26, 1941
River Falls, Wisconsin, United States
|Charge(s)||Violations of the Espionage Act|
|Penalty||life imprisonment (without parole)|
|Occupation||former CIA officer and analyst and spy for the Soviet Union and later Russia|
|Parents||Carleton Cecil Ames
Rachel Aldrich Ames
Aldrich Ames was born in River Falls, Wisconsin, to Carleton Cecil Ames and Rachel Ames (née Aldrich). His father was a college lecturer, his mother a high-school English teacher. Aldrich was the eldest child. He was later joined by two sisters. In 1952 Carleton began working for CIA's Directorate of Operations in Virginia. In 1953 Carleton was posted to Southeast Asia. He and his family were there for three years.
Aldrich attended high school at Langley High School in McLean, Virginia, and during school holidays worked for the CIA (1957 to 1960) in low-level clerical jobs and a maintenance job. Ames later stated he did not originally plan career employment with the CIA, seeing his low level work as a "stop gap" measure to help put himself through school, but over time became fascinated by CIA work. Over the next few years, he graduated from college and advanced through the ranks while working in the Records Integration Division of the Operations Directorate. In 1969 Ames married fellow CIA agent Nancy Segebarth. They both moved to Ankara, Turkey, but Nancy had to find work as an administrator owing to a CIA rule forbidding married partners from working as agents from the same office.
Aldrich's job was to target Soviet intelligence officers for recruitment. He infiltrated the Communist DEV-GENÇ organization through the roommate of student activist Deniz Gezmiş, who was later executed. In exchange for $75, he requested the names of the DEV-GENÇ members Gezmis knew, and the details of their activities.
In 1976 Aldrich was assigned to New York. He and his wife returned to the US.
In 1981 Aldrich accepted a posting to Mexico City. His wife Nancy remained behind in New York. In October 1982 Aldrich met Maria del Rosario Casas Dupuy, a Colombia born, CIA informant who was cultural attaché in the Colombian Embassy. He commenced an affair with her.
In September 1983, Aldrich moved to CIA headquarters in Washington DC. He was assigned to the CIA's Europe Division/Counterintelligence branch, where he was responsible for directing the analysis of Soviet intelligence operations. He had access to the identities of U.S. sources in the KGB and Soviet military. In October he formally split from his wife, and in November Dupuy joined him in Washington DC.
In September 1984, Aldrich’s first wife filed for divorce on grounds of mental cruelty.
In 1985 Aldrich was heavily in debt. He owed money because of the divorce, and Maria was spending freely. After exceeding his credit limit on different credit cards Aldrich considered robbing a bank. Realising he had no experience in performing such a caper he instead decided to pursue the less hazardous option of selling information to the Soviets.
The information Ames provided led to the compromise of at least 100 U.S. intelligence operations and to the execution of at least 10 U.S. sources. He ultimately gave the Soviet government the names of every American agent working in their country.
Altogether, the Soviets paid Ames approximately $4.6 million for his services, allowing Ames to maintain a lifestyle well beyond the means of a normal CIA officer.
As early as 1985, the CIA's network of Soviet-bloc agents began disappearing at an alarming rate. The CIA noticed that something was very wrong, but was reluctant to admit that there was a mole in the agency. Initial investigations were far more focused on a communications breach caused by Soviet bugs or by a broken code. By 1990, the CIA was certain that there was a mole, but could not find the source. Recruitment of new Soviet agents came almost to a halt.
The CIA was harshly criticized for not focusing on Ames sooner, given the dramatic increase in his standard of living. One of Ames's co-workers (also a friend of his wife) noted that Mrs Ames was able to make payment in full for drapes in their house, even though that co-worker (in similar circumstances) was obliged to pay in installments. Despite Ames's official salary of $60,000 USD he was able to afford:
It has been alleged that investigation of the breach was discouraged in the late 1980s, when the CIA was reeling from the Iran-Contra Affair and was desperate to avoid another major embarrassment. Another explanation is that the CIA was anxious to avoid a repetition of the internal turmoil generated by the brilliant, but extremely paranoid, former ADDOCI (CIA's Associate Deputy Director of Operations for Counter-Intelligence) James Angleton, whose obsessive conviction that the CIA was riddled with Soviet double agents adversely affected agency operations during the 1970s.
In 1986 and again in 1991, Ames passed two polygraph screening examinations while spying for the Soviet Union and Russia, respectively. Ames was initially "terrified" at the prospect of taking the test, but had received advice from the KGB on how to pass it. Critics claim that the CIA's over-reliance on the device is harmful to national security.
Due to the inability of the CIA to uncover the leak and the fear that the counter-intelligence division may not have been secure, the CIA turned to the FBI to investigate the matter. The FBI soon focused on Ames as one of the prime suspects and put him under constant surveillance.
Markus Wolf, the retired director of the Stasi's foreign intelligence directorate, claimed in his memoirs that Gardner Rugg "Gus" Hathaway, recently retired as CIA counterintelligence director but haunted by his failure to identify Ames, approached him in 1990 with an offer of cosmetic surgery, lavish compensation, and a new life in the United States if he were to defect and help the CIA identify the source of Ames's ongoing leak. Wolf also claimed to have declined the offer in the belief that he would have to compromise moles he had placed and that he had insufficient guarantees that the CIA would not betray him.
In February 1994, Ames was scheduled to fly to Moscow as part of his duties for the CIA and the FBI feared that he would defect. The FBI arrested Ames and his wife on February 21, 1994 for providing highly classified information to the Soviet KGB and its successor organization, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service. Upon being taken into custody, Ames stated to the arresting officers, "You're making a big mistake! You must have the wrong man!"
In the plea Ames made to the court, he said that he had compromised "virtually all Soviet agents of the CIA and other American and foreign services known to me" and provided the USSR and Russia with a "huge quantity of information on United States foreign, defense and security policies."
On February 22, 1994, Ames and his wife were formally charged by the United States Department of Justice with spying for the Soviet Union and Russia. Ames could have faced the death penalty, since his betrayal had resulted in several CIA "assets" being killed. However, he received a sentence of life imprisonment, and his wife received a 5-year prison sentence for conspiracy to commit espionage and tax evasion as part of a plea-bargain by Ames. Rosario Ames was released from federal custody after her sentence was completed.
Ames received a total of $4.6 million for his spying, over $2 million of which remains to this day in an undisclosed bank account. Russian intelligence has refused to reveal the account, which the United States would then seize. Russia's position is that the money was rightfully earned by Ames and will remain his (although it is unknown how he could collect it.)
Ames appeared in the documentary series The Cold War (1998), commenting on the way espionage was conducted, and how he, as a double agent, had operated.
To date, Aldrich Ames is the highest paid spy in American history. He is one of five known spies to have earned the "big money" -- $1 million or more. Clyde Lee Conrad, Larry Wu-Tai Chin, John Anthony Walker, and Robert Hanssen are the other four.
Ames' story is dramatized in the 1998 movie Aldrich Ames: Traitor Within, starring Timothy Hutton as Ames. Ames was included as a character in the 1997 Frederick Forsyth novel Icon, in which several Soviet agents recruited by the United States were betrayed by him.
In The Recruit, Al Pacino states that operational security is almost entirely focused on external espionage and that the CIA will always be vulnerable to internal espionage, citing the examples of "Ames, Nicholson, [and] Howard."
In the boardgame Twilight Struggle one of the most powerful cards is called 'Aldrich Ames'.