The Arrest of Russian Spy Aldrich Ames

Aldrich Ames was a former CIA agent who was involved in a Russian espionage. He was caught on February 21, 1994 along with his wife, Rosario Ames, who had been aiding him throughout his espionage activities. The couple was arrested by the FBI in Arlington, Virginia.

Life Without Possibility of Parole

Aldrich Hazen Ames was a 31-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency at the time of his arrest. He had been spying for the Russians since 1985. Following guilty pleas by both Ames and his wife on the day of April 28, 1994, Ames was sentenced to incarceration for life without the possibility of parole. His wife Rosario was sentenced on October 20, 1994 to 63 months in prison.

The Perfect Spy

In the eyes of the Russians, Ames was the ideal candidate to work for them and acquire information. He was a CIA case officer who could speak fluent Russian. This put him in a position where he specialized in the Russian intelligence services, including the KGB, the USSR’s foreign intelligence service.

Volunteering to Work with the KGB

Ames initial overseas assignment was in Ankara, Turkey, where he targeted Russian intelligence officers for recruitment. He later worked for a while in New York City and Mexico City. On April 16, 1985, while he was assigned to the CIA’s Soviet/East European Division at CIA Headquarters in Langley, VA, he secretly volunteered to KGB officers at the USSR Embassy in Washington D.C. Not long after that, the KGB paid him $50,000.

Providing Information to Russian Diplomats

During the Summer of 1985, Ames met up with a Russian diplomat several times with whom he passed classified information to. The details included information about the CIA and FBI sources. He also supplied them with information about technical operations that were targeting the Soviet Union. In December of 1985, Ames met with a Moscow-based KGB officer in Bogota, Columbia. And in July of 1986, he was transferred to Rome, Italy.

While he was in Rome, Ames continued to have meetings with the KGB, including a Russian diplomat who was assigned in Rome and a Moscow-based KGB officer. At the end of his assignment in Rome, Ames received instructions from the KGB regarding secret contacts in the Washington D.C. area where he would next be assigned. In addition, the KGB wrote to him, letting him know that he had been paid $1.88 million by them in the four years since he volunteered.

Ames and His Unexplained Wealth

After he had returned to Washington D.C. in 1989, Ames continued to pass classified information to the KGB using “dead drops” or prearranged hiding places where he would leave the documents to be retrieved at a later time by KGB officers from the USSR Embassy in D.C. In return, the KGB would leave him money and instructions, usually in another undisclosed location.

In the meantime, the CIA and FBI had learned that Russian officials who had been recruited by them were being arrested and executed. These human sources had provided critical intelligence information concerning the USSR, which was used by the U.S. Policy makers in determining U.S. foreign policy. After analytical reviews and receipt of information about Ames unexplained wealth, the FBI opened up their investigation on him in May of 1993.

Putting the Pieces Together

The FBI special agents and investigative specialists conducted intensive physical and electronic surveillance of Ames during a 10-month investigation. His residence was searched and revealed documents and other valuable information linking Ames to the Russian foreign intelligence service.

On October 13, 1993, investigative specialists observed a chalk mark Ames made on a mailbox confirming to the Russians his intention to meet them in Bogota, Columbia. On November 1, special agents observed him and, separately, his Russian handler in Bogota. When Ames planned foreign travel, including a trip to Moscow, as part of his official duties, a plan to arrest him was approved.

Making the Arrests and Turning Over His Assets

After the arrest and guilty pleas of Ames and his wife, Aldrich was debriefed by FBI agents, at which time he detailed compromising the identities of CIA and FBI human sources, some of whom were executed by USSR authorities. Pursuant to his plea agreement, he forfeited his assets to the United States. As a result, $547, 000 was turned over to the Justice Department’s Victims Assistance Fund.

At this time, Ames is serving his sentence in the federal prison system. His wife, Rosario Ames completed her sentence and was later released.