The Ames Case and Pollard
February 25, 1994 - The Jerusalem Post
The most astonishing aspect of the Aldrich Ames case is that it took American
counter-intelligence nine years to catch a spy who is the highest-ranking US
traitor since Alger Hiss. For well over a decade there have been suspicions
in Washington that the Soviets had placed a mole in the upper echelons of the
CIA. (This makes one wonder if Ames, a CIA officer for 31 years, began his
spying activities only in 1985, as now alleged, and if he was the only such
mole.) The most vocal proponent of these suspicions was James Angleton, the
CIA's legendary counter-intelligence chief, who died in 1987 after being
hounded out of office for being "paranoid."
The evidence pointing to the existence of a highly-placed spy was plentiful.
The Soviets anticipated US moves with uncanny accuracy. Defectors from the
Soviet Union were discredited and rendered ineffective. In 1985, one such
defector - Vitaly Yurchenko - perhaps sensing that he was being debriefed by a
Soviet mole, ditched the CIA and returned to the Soviet Union. Lt.-Gen.
Ion Pacepa, deputy chief of the Romanian KGB and the highest-ranking defector
from the Soviet bloc, was treated by CIA debriefers with disbelief. Only the
revelations which followed the collapse of the Ceausescu regime proved how
credible and accurate Pacepa was.
But most difficult to ignore was the execution of at least 10 American agents
in the Soviet government. Only the most reliable information emanating from a
highly-placed mole in American intelligence could have induced the Soviets to
eliminate these people. It was Ames, according to the FBI, who was responsible
for all these deaths.
Yet post-Angleton counter-intelligence at the CIA not only failed to trace
Ames; it apparently refused to believe that a mole existed. Only the FBI's
growing suspicions of Ames's extravagant life-style brought about his capture.
The damage to the free world - even in these post-Cold War days - is
inestimable. Ames sold an enormous number of American state secrets to the
Soviets and the Russians. Every US ally, including Israel, has been betrayed
and compromised at the highest and most sensitive level of American
That the American public is even angrier about Russian espionage than it was
by Soviet spying is more than understandable. Russia is supposed to be a
friend of the US now, not a USSR under a different name but with the same
character. Moreover, the US is now Russia's chief benefactor. The thought of
giving money to a country which then spends over a million dollars on spying
against it is riling.
Ironically, the Ames affair may hurt Jonathan Pollard. Some simplistic minds
may see a parallel between the two, because both Israel and Russia are seen as
beneficiaries of American largesse. But the fact is that Pollard spied in the
not against the US. Unlike the Soviet Union and its successor Russia,
Israel does not have 30,000 nuclear warheads, and
it cannot threaten America.
Nor has Pollard betrayed the US to its greatest enemy at the time and caused
the death of 10 American agents.
In fact, the Ames case should be instructive. One of the main charges against
Pollard, effectively used by those who oppose his early release, is that the
information he gave Israel could have been leaked to the Soviet Union by
Soviet spies in Israel. It was not just that he gave American secrets to
Israel, say his detractors; he indirectly helped the USSR.
With Ames's capture, this charge is exposed as
ludicrous. Clearly, the Soviets
did not need second-hand information from their agents in Israel who might
have had access to information Pollard provided (a far-fetched proposition
anyway), when they had a super-agent at the very core of American
If anything, Ames's apprehension, who for all the enormity of his crime can
only be sentenced to life in prison, should make it clearer than ever that
life-sentence meted Pollard is one of the most unfortunate perversions of
justice in the history of American jurisprudence.