Aldrich Ames

Project 74 of 74

Born 1941 in River Falls, Wisconsin, the son of Carleton Ames, a teacher at River Falls State Teachers College and grandson of Jesse Ames, the president of the school. His mother was also a teacher. Carleton Ames, struggled with alcohol but introduced his son to the theatre, a passion that Aldrich would follow for years as he participated in plays throughout high school.

The Ames family moved to McLean, Virginia in 1951 when Carleton Ames took a position with the CIA where he worked for a time with James Jesus Angleton. Aldrich enrolled at George Washington University, majoring in history and took a part-time position, arranged by his father at the CIA in 1959. Was believed to be one of the youngest employees ever with the agency. Eventually received a degree from George Washington in 1967.

Continued working with the agency and was assigned to a post in Turkey where he was sent to try to recruit new intelligence agents. Unfortunately, was unable to recruit any new spies. Was considered aloof by those around him. This, along with his tepid performance as a case officer, caused resentment from fellow workers. Was recalled from Ankara in 1972 and assigned to a post at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia where he was given the task of recruiting Soviet officials. At headquarters, Ames was looked upon with disdain by his colleagues, many of whom believed that he was a product of nepotism. Despite this, he was made privy to top secret information on Soviet operatives. Still, he failed to recruit any new agents. Was assigned to the New York office in 1980, instructed to recruit new Soviet agents from the United Nations delegation. Married his girlfriend Nancy in 1980. The couple struggled early in the marriage and Aldrich began drinking, a habit that would become problematic in the years to come.

After being passed over for a promotion (due in part to his ineptitude as a recruiter in New York), Ames applied for and was assigned to a post in Mexico City, Mexico. His wife, however, stayed behind. Met with continued lack of success as a recruiter in Mexico City, prompting him to fall further into his drinking habit. Also was becoming disillusioned with certain activities by the CIA in Latin America.

Met Columbian socialite Maria del Rosario Casas, the cultural attache for the Columbian embassy in Mexico City. Her father was a former member of the Columbian Senate and she was raised in a world of privilege. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of the Andes in 1974 and became a faculty member at the University shortly thereafter. Was extremely close to her mother, Cecelia Depuy de Casas, a lover of music and also a faculty member at the University. Rosario had on occasion loaned out her apartment to CIA operatives for meeting with Mexican spies. After being introduced to Ames, she was recruited by him into service with the CIA. The two were romantically involved and traveled among the more prominent circles in Mexico.

Ames was promoted in 1983, heading up the CIA Soviet counterintelligence branch, and was assigned to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. In his new position, he was given access to nearly all information available on Soviet cases, including U.S. assets operating within the Soviet Union. After a period of time, he brought Rosario to the United States to live with him. She pressured him to divorce his wife Nancy and he consented, keeping most of the couples assets (the divorce was finalized in 1985). Rosario began running up huge bills, shopping and placing calls to her mother in Bogota. Ames was soon almost $60,000.00 in debt, but was earning only $45,000.00 each year. Burdened by his overwhelming debt-load, Ames began searching for means of obtaining additional money. He had once heard that a co-worker had been offered $50,000 to spy for the KGB, and he began to consider that as a possibility.

In April 1985, Ames tried to meet with Sergey Chuvakhin, a Soviet arms expert to suggest that he might be willing to spy for the Soviet Union. Instead, he decided to approach Stanislav Androsov, a Soviet agent at the Soviet embassy. Ames passed Androsov a note, offering to provide the name of three Soviets working for U.S. intelligence in exchange for $50,000.00. Androsov introduced him to Victor Cherkashin, the KGB counterespionage chief at the embassy. Cherkashin accepted Ames’ offer and Ames was given a bag containing $50,000.00.


Aldrich Ames  - spymuseum.comAfter being passed over for a promotion (due in part to his ineptitude as a recruiter in New York), Ames applied for and was assigned to a post in Mexico City, Mexico. His wife, however, stayed behind. Met with continued lack of success as a recruiter in Mexico City, prompting him to fall further into his drinking habit. Also was becoming disillusioned with certain activities by the CIA in Latin America.

Met Columbian socialite Maria del Rosario Casas, the cultural attache for the Columbian embassy in Mexico City. Her father was a former member of the Columbian Senate and she was raised in a world of privilege. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of the Andes in 1974 and became a faculty member at the University shortly thereafter. Was extremely close to her mother, Cecelia Depuy de Casas, a lover of music and also a faculty member at the University. Rosario had on occasion loaned out her apartment to CIA operatives for meeting with Mexican spies. After being introduced to Ames, she was recruited by him into service with the CIA. The two were romantically involved and traveled among the more prominent circles in Mexico.

Ames was promoted in 1983, heading up the CIA Soviet counterintelligence branch, and was assigned to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. In his new position, he was given access to nearly all information available on Soviet cases, including U.S. assets operating within the Soviet Union. After a period of time, he brought Rosario to the United States to live with him. She pressured him to divorce his wife Nancy and she consented, keeping most of the couples assets (the divorce was finalized in 1985). Rosario began running up huge bills, shopping and placing calls to her mother in Bogota. Ames was soon almost $60,000.00 in debt, but was earning only $45,000.00 each year. Burdened by his overwhelming debt-load, Ames began searching for means of obtaining additional money. He had once heard that a co-worker had been offered $50,000 to spy for the KGB, and he began to consider that as a possibility.

In April 1985, Ames tried to meet with Sergey Chuvakhin, a Soviet arms expert to suggest that he might be willing to spy for the Soviet Union. Instead, he decided to approach Stanislav Androsov, a Soviet agent at the Soviet embassy. Ames passed Androsov a note, offering to provide the name of three Soviets working for U.S. intelligence in exchange for $50,000.00. Androsov introduced him to Victor Cherkashin, the KGB counterespionage chief at the embassy. Cherkashin accepted Ames’ offer and Ames was given a bag containing $50,000.00.

Just days after the meeting, the FBI announced the arrest of John Walker, Jr. on espionage charges. That arrested spooked Ames who feared that he could be compromised by any number of Soviet double-agents. On June 13, 1985 he met with Chuvakhin and gave him the name of every double-agent that he felt was in a position to expose him. He also provided a mound of CIA intelligence reports. As a result, the KGB rounded up dozens of agents, returning them to Moscow for questioning, interrogation, imprisonment and often execution.

The CIA took note that many of its double-agents were disappearing and that some of their communications intelligence apparatus was no longer gathering information (including an elaborate bugging system within the tunnels running underground through Moscow). Initially, the agency believed that the activity was a result of the defected of former CIA employee Edward Lee Howard, a recent defector. Eventually they realized, however, that the information now possessed by the Soviets was outside of the scope of Howard’s limited knowledge.

Although alarmed, the CIA took a cautious approach to searching for a mole, still smarting from the mess stemming from James Jesus Angleton’s previous mole hunt. As such, the security breach was looked upon a chance mistakes by several agents, and not the work of an internal mole.

Aldrich Ames  - spymuseum.comIn order to distance himself from the activities swirling around him, Ames requested a transfer to the office in Rome, Italy. While assigned there, he and his wife began spending lavishly on clothing and accessories. Ames also purchased a Jaguar.

In November 1986, the CIA assigned 32 year employee Jeanne Vertefeuille to help isolation the source of the information flow. She and her small group of analysts focused on known traitors such as former Marine guard Clayton Lonetree, but realized that none of these people possessed the scope of knowledge apparent for the breach.

In 1987, Dan Payne, a young investigator with knowledge in accounting was assigned to her group and decided to look for a money trail to lead him to the mole. Payne began looking into the spending habits of various CIA personnel. When the Ames’ moved back to the United States, they purchased an expensive house and Rosario announced to friends that she intended to add new drapes to the entire house. Knowing how expensive this would be, one of the Ames’ friends, Diana Worthen, informed one of the mole hunter (Sandy Grimes), of the Ames’ sudden wealth. Grimes began researching Aldrich’s past dealing with the Soviets while Payne began digging through the Ames financial records and found that the couple was spending up to $30,000.00 each month, while Aldrich’s annual salary was less than $70,000.00. Further investigation, however, led the CIA to believe that Rosario’s family was considerably wealthy and that this was the source of the Ames’ new finances.

Aldrich Ames  - spymuseum.comUndeterred, Grimes continued investigating and noticed that there was a co-relation between the dates of Ames meetings with Chuvakhin and his bank deposits. With this information in hand, the CIA notified the FBI, which put the Ames’ under surveillance. The FBI planted bugs in Ames home, car and office. They also discovered that Ames had neglected to turn off an automated save feature in his word processor, thus leaving a trail of incriminating letters written to the Soviets. The FBI also obtained that Rosario was aware of her husband’s activities and that she pressured him to continue his spying activities.

CIA officials quietly moved Ames into an area where he was not privy to classified information. He was planning however, to travel overseas for a conference and the FBI was worried that he might be tipped off and flee. He was summoned to work on February, 21, 1994 for a routine matter but was instead intercepted and arrested by FBI agents. Rosario was simultaneously arrested at the couple’s home.

Aldrich Ames offered to cooperate with the U.S. Government if they would release Rosario and not charge her with any crimes. The government, however, had enough evidence on her to prosecute so they refused a deal. Rosario was nowhere near as loving towards her husband, blaming him for deceiving and manipulating her. She was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison and was promptly deported upon her parole. She moved back to Columbia where her mother was caring for the Ames’ son.

Aldrich Ames was sentenced to life in a federal prison.

 

Aldrich Ames – Spy Who Betrayed CIA
 

 

Most Wanted Spies

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