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Aldrich Ames

Ames' damage to U.S. called 'mind-boggling'

October 31, 1995
Web posted at: 11:20 p.m. EST

Jamie McIntyre

From Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Aldrich Ames spied for the Soviet Union and then Russia for nine years before his arrest last year. In a closed session before Congress Tuesday, CIA Director John Deutch gave his assessment of how badly Ames damaged U.S. intelligence.

John Deutch

Deutch said the damage was more serious and extensive than previously thought. After the briefing, a member of Congress called it "every bit as bloody as we've been led to believe over the last year and a half."

Deutch said Ames compromised more than 100 U.S. spies. Ten were executed. Others fell under the control of the KGB. The controlled agents were used by the Soviets to feed selective information to the CIA, which then went to key policy members, including the president.

"It is an inexcusable lapse in elementary intelligence practice," Deutch said after the briefing. "Nobody could be more indignant than I am as a former consumer of this high level intelligence." (144K AIFF sound or 144K WAV sound)

Arlen Specter

Indignation was running high on Capitol Hill Tuesday. "This information went to the rank of the president of the United States and other key members of the defense establishment," said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania. "And so, it's just mind-boggling, the scope of what went on here." (168K AIFF sound or 168K WAV sound)

Presidents Bush and Clinton were given tainted intelligence, even after the CIA realized in the early 1990s what was happening.

In a unclassified statement, Deutch said, "Most troubling of all ... (intelligence) consumers were not informed that some of the most sensitive human intelligence reporting they received came from assets that were known or suspected of being controlled by the KGB."

The CIA contends that the information passed on to key policy makers was accurate and was supported by other intelligence. The problem was that those who knew there was an intelligence problem failed to disclose that the information might be suspect because it came from controlled agents.

The CIA has treated the security breach as a disclosure and accountability breakdown and not a credibility problem. But clearly, some of the members of Congress weren't buying that Tuesday.

During his six months as CIA director, Deutch has cleaned out some of the old management. The CIA inspector general's report recommended the three previous CIA directors be held accountable for the lapse in intelligence, but Deutch has only disciplined one officer at the CIA. Eleven who might have been disciplined have retired. Deutch promises further "bold" changes ahead.

Bob Kerrey

Deutch said he had no plans to reprimand former CIA directors John Woolsey, Robert Gates and William Webster. Deutch said he has "the highest professional and personal regard" for his three predecessors.

Deutch's decision not to censure the directors did not sit well with Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Nebraska. "A new standard of accountability, in my judgment, is being applied: 'We just didn't know,'" Kerrey said. "Well, they should have known. All three of them should have known." (160K AIFF sound or 160K WAV sound)

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