December 10, 1995 in Nation/World

Spy’s Treason Had Far-Reaching Effects On U.S. Foreign Policies Declassified Cia Reports Show Extent Of Ames Scandal On Politics, Military

James Risen Los Angeles Times
 

Russian President Boris Yeltsin continued to reap the benefits of Aldrich Ames’ treason against the United States long after the collapse of the Soviet Union by making it difficult for the United States to figure out the Russian leader’s intentions on critical foreign policy issues, CIA Director John Deutch revealed Friday.

Offering newly declassified information from the CIA’s internal damage assessment on the Ames spy scandal, Deutch disclosed that Ames’ betrayal complicated the nation’s ability to predict Yeltsin’s intentions on such issues as nuclear proliferation and Moscow’s role in other former Soviet republics.

Deutch also said America suffered from a diminished ability to understand the extent of the decline of Russian military technology in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and had a harder time grasping the true relationship in the late 1980s between Communist hard-liners and former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

Deutch’s report once again underscored the broad and long-lasting damage to U.S. intelligence caused by Ames, a career CIA officer who is serving a life sentence for spying for the Soviets and later the Russians from April 1985 until his arrest in February, 1994.

Ames’ betrayal of U.S. agents who were operating within the heart of the Soviet government denied Washington valuable intelligence that could have guided American policy-makers during the Soviet break-up and its aftermath.

Deutch made it clear that Ames’ 1985 betrayal of 10 U.S. agents within Soviet intelligence and elsewhere in the government - which Deutch said Friday resulted in the deaths of at least nine - was just the beginning of the damage.

“Over the next decade,” Deutch said, “Ames disclosed the identities of many U.S. agents run against the Soviets and later the Russians, disclosed the techniques and methods of double agent operations, details of our clandestine trade craft, as well as communication techniques and agent validation methods. And he went to extraordinary lengths to learn about U.S. double agent operations and pass information on them to the Soviets … he identified CIA and other intelligence community personnel … he provided finished intelligence reports, arms control papers, and State and Defense department cables.

And he aided the Soviet, and later Russian, effort to engage in “perception management operations” by feeding carefully selected information to the United States through agents whom they were controlling without our knowledge.”

Ames also provided the Soviets with U.S. intelligence reports prepared for arms control negotiations, including the START nuclear treaty and the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty.

Deutch insisted, however, that the CIA’s damage assessment team found “no major instance where the Soviets maneuvered U.S. or NATO arms control negotiators into giving up a current or future military capability or agreeing to monitoring or verification provisions that otherwise would not have been adopted.”

Deutch’s lengthy public report - providing far more detail than his initial announcement of the results of the Ames damage assessment on Oct. 31 - resulted from a behind-the-scenes tussle between the CIA and the Senate over how much information to release to the public about the controversy. That dispute delayed release of the report and of a separate statement by CIA Inspector General Fred Hitz.

Sources say that the CIA, humiliated by disclosures that the damage assessment had uncovered that agency officials knowingly passed on information from Soviet double agents to U.S. policymakers, had been reluctant to publish a more detailed account.

When news of the double agent fiasco was revealed in late October, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said “controlled information” from Soviet double agents had given the U.S. an inflated view of Soviet military capabilities, and may have cost “billions of dollars” in needless purchases of weapons systems by the Pentagon.

U.S. intelligence officials quickly dismissed Specter’s assertions, however, saying the Pentagon would never develop or acquire new weapons systems based solely on information from a Russian spy.

In his statement, Deutch tried to walk a fine line between endorsing Specter’s charges and playing down the controversy. He said the CIA’s damage assessment found that the effect of the controlled information from double agents “varied from program to program. In some cases the impact was negligible. In other cases the impact was measurable, but only on the margin.”

Still, Deutch’s report did seem to offer some cautious support for Specter’s assertions that the controlled information from the double agents may have compromised the U.S. intelligence system.

Under the CIA’s rules, officials could pass on information from double agents if the reports clearly spelled out that the intelligence had come from questionable sources or double agents.

Deutch said the CIA has identified 35 intelligence reports sent to U.S. policymakers in which the agency did not properly disclose that the information came from Soviet double agents.

Another 60 reports were improperly distributed from agents whom the CIA had some suspicions about. Of the total of 95 reports, three went to the president.

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