The investigation into the activities of confessed Soviet spy Aldrich Ames has uncovered what can only be described as the most astounding dereliction of duty in the CIA's history. Indeed, to call it "dereliction" is to be charitable in the extreme. The agency's failure to trace and apprehend Ames despite the knowledge - shared by every experienced reporter and columnist in Washington for well over a decade - that a highly-placed mole was selling the country's most sensitive secrets to the Soviets was nothing short of criminal.
A draft of a 400-page classified report, prepared under the direction of CIA's inspector-general Frederick Hitz, reveals that Ames exposed - and caused the death of - 34 secret US and allied agents, and identified 55 clandestine US and allied operations to the Soviet Union, thus causing the death of many others.
The matter can hardly be deemed an internal American affair. The US is the leader of the free world. And while the Cold War may be over - at least until Russia achieves the "political reintegration" of its seceding republics - the fact is that many smaller countries rely on the American superpower for their security and welfare. Israel, whose ability to keep a qualitative edge over its neighbors has been partly due to its access to American technology, now intends to make itself even more dependent on the US to compensate for the loss of the Golan Heights. The thought that the most sensitive American government agencies are not only vulnerable to penetration by mercenary traitors but incapable of the most elementary security precautions is hardly encouraging.
But the most immediate ramification of the Ames scandal concerns Jonathan Pollard's case. It is now clear even to those who have had complete faith in the American justice system that Pollard is a victim of a disinformation and vilification campaign initiated by Ames. With Soviet help, Ames managed to divert attention from his own betrayal by pointing a finger at Pollard as the source of information which fell into Soviet hands. According to this disinformation, the secrets Pollard gave Israel were transferred to the KGB by Soviet spies in the Israeli government.
It was thus that senior administration officials, including such friends of Israel as former secretary of defense Les Aspin, were persuaded the damage Pollard did to the US was of monstrous proportions. And it was for this reason they strenuously opposed a presidential pardon for a man who was sentenced to life in prison though he never betrayed US secrets to America's enemies.
To let Pollard rot in prison after the Ames disclosures is to compound the crime of failing to apprehend Ames years ago. It is time Washington realized that every day Pollard stays in jail erodes its credibility as a bastion of fairness and justice.