East German files helped catch Ames, officials say

March 07, 1994|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- Information from the files of the former East German intelligence service aided an American inquiry that led to the arrest of Aldrich H. Ames on espionage charges, government officials said Saturday night.

It was not clear what the precise nature of the information was or the extent to which it helped the inquiry, but the officials said it helped narrow their search for a mole at the CIA.

The information was provided to the United States sometime after a joint inquiry was begun in 1991 by the CIA and the FBI. The investigation into Mr. Ames, an officer at the intelligence agency, did not get under way until last May.

The East German assistance was first reported in yesterday's issue of the Washington Post, and government officials confirmed it later.

The inquiry began after repeated instances in which East Bloc countries identified officials who had been recruited by the CIA.

Mr. Ames and his wife, Rosario, were arrested Feb. 21 and charged with conspiracy to commit espionage. Federal prosecutors have said the couple were paid more than $2.5 million over their alleged nine-year spying career.

The Post said Mr. Ames, who was in Soviet counterintelligence at the CIA, had access to the identities of some of the East Germans recruited to spy for the United States.

The CIA-FBI probe began after East German files revealed that East German spies the United States was thought to have recruited were actually double agents. U.S. officials believed that someone inside the CIA had helped pull off the deception.

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