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 intelligence.

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 US,

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


. 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 intelligence.

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

the life-sentence meted Pollard is one of the most unfortunate perversions of justice in the history of American jurisprudence