FBI ties deaths of 10 U.S. spies to CIA official

February 24, 1994|By Tim Weiner | Tim Weiner,New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- The FBI is accusing Aldrich Hazen Ames, the CIA officer arrested on espionage charges this week, of betraying at least 10 Soviet citizens working for U.S. intelligence, government officials said yesterday. All were convicted of treason and executed in Moscow by the Soviet authorities, they said.

The agents said to have been identified by Mr. Ames included the first two intelligence officers the FBI had ever recruited from the Soviet Embassy in Washington and a senior Soviet counterintelligence official in Moscow responsible for catching U.S. spies.

Mr. Ames had access to a wide range of CIA documents about intelligence operations and agents as a counterintelligence branch chief responsible for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe between 1983 and 1991, according to government officials who received FBI briefings about the case yesterday.

Although the CIA and other intelligence agencies keep sensitive information carefully segregated to enhance secrecy, Mr. Ames could have kept himself informed about most agency activities in the Soviet Union, including the identities of Soviet citizens working for Washington, officials said.

The FBI's accusations that Mr. Ames' betrayals led to the executions of Moscow's agents have been made only behind closed doors to Congress and other government agencies, not in open court. FBI officials said they are still working to complete their list of accusations against Mr. Ames and did not name all 10 people they say were betrayed. The executions they described are all believed to have occurred before the Soviet Union dissolved in December 1991.

It is clearly in the interest of federal authorities both to present a strong case against Mr. Ames before he has a chance to defend himself, if he chooses to do so, and to paint as damaging a picture as possible of what they say were his activities.

The FBI and the CIA have long been anxious to explain the lapses in their own knowledge of Soviet affairs and the destruction of a large part of the agency's spy network in the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

As Mr. Ames and his wife, Maria del Rosario Casas Ames -- who officials say has agreed to talk to federal investigators -- remained imprisoned outside Washington yesterday awaiting a scheduled arraignment tomorrow on espionage charges, President Clinton took pains to keep relations between Washington and Moscow from becoming a hostage to the case.

Clinton urges caution

While some lawmakers said U.S. aid should be suspended to punish Russia for recruiting a spy within the CIA, Mr. Clinton appealed for caution, saying the United States should keep the money flowing to support Russian democracy and reform.

Senate Republican leader Bob Dole of Kansas called the case "as damaging as any in U.S. intelligence history." He said that at a minimum the Russians should "cease and condemn efforts to penetrate American intelligence."

Mr. Dole also said a temporary freeze of U.S. aid to Russia should be imposed until Mr. Clinton is satisfied that the Kremlin is ending its espionage against the United States.

The administration has asked the Russians to defuse the tension over the spy case by voluntarily removing from Washington one or more of the Russian intelligence officers connected to the alleged 1985 recruitment of Mr. Ames and his wife.

Among the betrayals ascribed to Mr. Ames by government officials briefed by the FBI were those of two Soviet Embassy officials, Valery F. Martinov and Sergei M. Motorin.

"The FBI is bitter about this case," said a government official yesterday. "They lost two great sources here from the embassy."

Other officials, who insisted on anonymity, said that a third Soviet Embassy official who was secretly working for U.S. intelligence was also betrayed and executed in 1986.

The FBI succeeded in recruiting Mr. Martinov and Mr. Motorin in 1983 or 1984, after years of everything from friendly persuasion to cold-eyed entrapment, government officials said.

The KGB found out that Mr. Martinov had betrayed Moscow in late 1985, according to retired KGB officers. In November 1985, he was ordered to escort back to Moscow a senior Soviet spy, Vitaly Yurchenko, who had defected to the United States and then apparently changed his mind.

Mr. Ames was one of the CIA officials who debriefed Mr. Yurchenko, the deputy chief of the KGB's North American bureau and the highest-ranking Soviet intelligence official ever to defect to the United States.

Executed by firing squad

Upon arrival in Moscow with the double defector in tow, Mr. Martinov was arrested. So was Mr. Motorin, who was transferred back to Moscow at about the same time. The two men were executed by firing squad in 1986, both U.S. and Russian officials familiar with the case said.

An even better-placed source betrayed by Mr. Ames, according to the FBI, was the man code-named Prologue.

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