No accomplices or 'moles' inside CIA, Ames says

April 30, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- Convicted CIA spy Aldrich H. Ames, munching deli sandwiches and sipping coffee, reportedly told FBI and CIA officials questioning him for the first time yesterday that he had no other accomplices and knew of no other "moles" inside his former agency.

While government sources would not disclose Ames' initial insights, one intelligence official said the questioning began with "a set of priorities that we're working our way through. Obviously our first priority is: 'Who else do you know about?' "

Ames reportedly denied working with anyone in the agency. His defense attorney, Plato Cacheris, said, "Ames will not disclose other high-level or low-level people because he doesn't know of any."

Despite the reported claims, one skeptical official said "somebody must have inadvertently helped" the man responsible for one of the most damaging spy cases in U.S. history.

The official said investigators are determined to learn how Ames obtained more than 100 classified documents, many of them outside his areas of jurisdiction.

Arrested with his wife, Rosario, on Feb. 21, Ames was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without a chance of parole after pleading guilty to betraying nearly a dozen Soviet officials who were cooperating with the CIA. He also gave the Soviets details of super-secret U.S. surveillance of the Eastern bloc.

FBI and CIA officials are involved in the questioning, in which Ames has agreed to be tested on a polygraph.

In the coming days, as Ames is asked about specific documents and other information he gave the Russians, including CIA operations he compromised, the agency will compile a confidential "damage assessment" report to determine what codes and other espionage techniques need to be altered, officials said.

One intelligence official said Ames' responses to their questions will send CIA analysts scurrying through their files to see if they can verify or disprove his answers.

"In some cases we might ask the Brits or other intelligence services about information that Ames provides or we might query [CIA] stations overseas to check something out," the official said.

Unless Ames fulfills his pledge of truthfulness and "full cooperation," the government can withdraw its promise to recommend leniency for his wife when she appears for sentencing Aug. 26. Ames was motivated to enter into a plea agreement to spare his wife a long prison term while their 5-year-old son is being cared for by relatives.

Rosario Ames pleaded guilty Thursday to the lesser espionage charge of "aiding, advising and encouraging" her husband's spying. Both also admitted evading federal income taxes by concealing $2.5 million in cash payments from the Russians. CIA director R. James Woolsey told a breakfast panel meeting of the American Bar Association that he intended to punish any CIA officials found to share blame for the lapse that allowed Ames' spying to go undetected.

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