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Authors: Sandra V. Grimes

Circle of Treason












Annapolis, Maryland

Naval Institute Press

291 Wood Road

Annapolis, MD 21402

© 2012 by Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Grimes, Sandra.

Circle of treason : a CIA account of traitor Aldrich Ames and the men he betrayed / Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille.

p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 978-1-61251-305-8
Ames, Aldrich Hazen, 1941– 2.
United States. Central Intelligence Agency. 3.
United States. Federal Bureau of Investigation. 4.
Intelligence officers—United States—Biography. 5.
Espionage—United States. 6.
Intelligence service—United States.

I. Vertefeuille, Jeanne. II. Title.

JK468.I6G76 2012



This paper meets the requirements of ANSI/NISO z39.48-1992 (Permanence of Paper).


First printing

All statements of fact, opinion, or analysis expressed are those of the authors and do not reflect the official positions or views of the CIA or any other U.S. government agency. Nothing in the contents should be construed as asserting or implying U.S. government authentication of information or Agency endorsement of the authors' views. This material has been reviewed by the CIA to prevent the disclosure of classified information.

To General Polyakov
And to the others
Who were executed or imprisoned
And to their families



Chapter 1
. Jeanne's Story

Chapter 2
. Sandy's Story

Chapter 3
. Overview of SE Operations

Chapter 4
. The Polyakov Case—The Beginnings

Chapter 5
. The Polyakov Case—The Middle

Chapter 6
. The Polyakov Case—The End

Chapter 7
. Early Major Cases

Chapter 8
. Later Major Cases

Chapter 9
. Things Begin to Go Wrong

Chapter 10
. First Attempts

Chapter 11
. CIC Formation

Chapter 12
. Beginning of the Focus on Ames

Chapter 13
. The Investigation Gets New Life

Chapter 14
. Ames Emerges as a Major Focus

Chapter 15
. The FBI Takes Over

Chapter 16
. Reactions to the Arrest of Ames

Chapter 17
. Ames the Person, Ames the Spy

Chapter 18
. Hanssen and Ames—A Comparison

Chapter 19
. Final Thoughts

Honor Roll

Selected Chronology


Selected Bibliography



about Cold War espionage in general, or about particular aspects, cases, or periods. The great majority of these books suffer from the same deficiency—they are written by outsiders with an imperfect knowledge of the main organizations, methods of operation, and personalities involved in this struggle. Other books, whether written by outsiders or insiders, also suffer from being written by persons with an axe to grind, or who are besotted by a pet theory, or are simply more interested in producing a marketable commodity than in searching for truth and accuracy.

This book attempts to avoid these pitfalls. It is written by insiders. The authors can speak with authority and in detail about the CIA's operations against the Soviet—and to a lesser degree, the East European—target. We were there, starting at the bottom but working up into increasingly responsible positions. Also, we were at the center of what became the Ames mole hunt. The book mainly covers the period 1961–94, the years of our greatest personal involvement.

The reader may wonder why we have chosen to air material previously considered classified. We wish to emphasize that we are not “leakers.” All of our contacts with the media stem from a project conceived by the Agency to tell its side of the Ames story. After Ames was arrested in February 1994, the FBI, as is customary for that organization, launched a
campaign to let the public know of their success. In the Agency's view, the decisive CIA contribution to this roll-up was getting lost. Therefore, it was decided that five of us—Sandy, Jeanne, Paul Redmond, Dan Payne, and Diana Worthen—would be tasked to participate in media interviews on the subject of the CIA's operations against the Soviet target, the devastation wrought by Ames, and our investigative efforts, which resulted in his identification as a Soviet mole. All of our early contacts took place on Agency premises and were monitored by an Agency official. Some were taped. Initially this project made us quite uneasy because we are of the old school and had been indoctrinated with the dictum that one was to avoid the media at all costs. Later we became more comfortable with the idea and continued to cooperate in selected interviews, but all of our media contacts were approved in advance.

The reader may also wonder why we have chosen certain KGB and GRU operations for extended treatment, while providing only a cursory summary for others. Throughout we have tried to adhere to one criterion: Is the information we are including already known to the KGB and its successors because of the treason of Ames, Hanssen, Howard, and the others? When this holds true, we have seen no reason to withhold it from the general reader. On the other hand, when it comes to information we believe the opposition does not know or that could prove harmful to certain individuals, we have suppressed it in our book even though sometimes it would add useful background to our story.

With this limitation in mind, we generally chose those cases that were the most significant in terms of intelligence and counterintelligence production, those in which we had the most personal engagement, those that were intrinsically the most interesting, and those where the Soviet participant paid for his involvement with his life. We regret that, with the exception of Tolkachev, we have not been able to give more coverage to the great majority of those cases that did not involve intelligence officers. While some of them were significant in the Agency's overall Cold War effort, we in the counterintelligence world often did not focus on them. We also have omitted East European cases, though some of them were of major importance and some of their stories would make fascinating reading, again because we did not focus on them on a continuing basis.

On the reverse side, our discussion of the U.S. intelligence officers who volunteered to the KGB is limited to Ames, Hanssen, and—to a
lesser degree—Howard. We have not covered Richard Miller and Earl Pitts of the FBI or Harold (“Jim”) Nicholson of the CIA, despite the fact that all of them have served prison time for their espionage activities. While they certainly did cause damage, compared to Ames and Hanssen they are minor players.

The authors make no pretense of neutrality. We have our opinions, and have expressed them as warranted. However, we have tried to be scrupulous about separating fact from opinion and have made every effort to concentrate on the former. Also, we have attempted to avoid writing a book overly concerned with exposing or “getting back” at those whose beliefs and actions have, in our minds, taken the CIA down the wrong track in its Soviet operations, sometimes with tragic consequences. This material does appear when it is pertinent, but for the most part it has not been given undue emphasis. Our purpose has been to give a balanced, in-depth depiction of our operations with as much accuracy as we can command. We believe that we have a story well worth telling.

As might be expected, the two authors do not agree on every point. Where the differences are significant, they have been included.

A few definitions are in order at the outset. “Counterintelligence” and “counterespionage” have been defined and redefined to the point of exhaustion over the past decades. Nonetheless, sometimes they are employed interchangeably. This book will generally use the term counterintelligence or CI. In our context CI includes all the efforts, both defensive and offensive, used to counter the attempts by foreign governments and their intelligence services to penetrate our government or to neutralize the clandestine activities of our government.

The offensive aspect of CI is exemplified by CIA and FBI recruitment of foreign intelligence officers, thus becoming privy to their services' operations. The defensive aspect includes such mundane practices as security clearances and need-to-know compartmentation, but focuses most strongly on organized attempts to uncover the moles among us.

Two other necessary definitions: This book examines at length our activities vis-à-vis the two Soviet intelligence services. These services are the KGB and the GRU. The KGB has had many names since the 1917 Bolshevik revolution: Cheka, OGPU, NKVD, and so on. Its function has been to preserve the security of the Soviet state and it has interpreted its mandate in the broadest sense. In 1954 it took the name KGB, from the
initials for the Russians words for Committee of State Security, and retained that title during most of the period covered in this book. In 1991, the KGB was broken into several distinct organizations. The foreign operations component of the KGB became the SVR, from the Russian initials for Foreign Intelligence Service, while the main internal counterintelligence component became the FSB, or Federal Security Service. For simplicity's sake, however, we will use “KGB” throughout our text.

The GRU's name is derived from the Russian words for Main Intelligence Directorate and it is a component of the General Staff of the Ministry of Defense. It has changed little in form or function since the end of World War II, its mission being now as always the collection of strategic intelligence. It does not have a CI role, and does not target foreign intelligence services, but it has run a number of very successful operations against the U.S. government over the years, obtaining valuable information, primarily in the military and scientific/technical fields.

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