BETRAYAL by Tim Weiner


The Story of Aldrich Ames, an American Spy
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 An eye-widening look inside one of America's most notorious spy cases. Veteran New York Times reporters Weiner, Johnston, and Lewis portray the CIA as populated by mediocre career bureaucrats more concerned with self-preservation than with doing the organization's legally mandated job. Given this climate, it comes as no surprise that Aldrich Ames, a severely alcoholic, astonishingly incompetent, midlevel, office-bound spook, should have risen to head the counterintelligence branch of the CIA's central Soviet division, where in 1983 ``he began calling for the files on every important CIA operation involving Soviet spies in every corner of the world.'' Ames sold critical government secrets to the Soviet Union. Dissatisfied with what he regarded to be his lowly station, he turned to a quick source of cash--the KGB--to fund his expensive tastes in clothing, housing, food, drink, and companions during his postings in places like Mexico City and Rome. The information he supplied the Soviets led directly to the destruction of a network of double agents with James Bondish code names like Tickle, Jogger, and Top Hat; his treason earned Ames nearly $3 million before his arrest and conviction for espionage in 1994. Although he was brazenly careless about his new wealth, the authors write, the CIA took years to wonder how Ames could afford an expensive home in a Washington, D.C., suburb and frequent weekend trips to Europe, questions that could have been answered ``by the kind of credit check millions of Americans undergo each year.'' If we trust the authors' depiction of a branch of government gone far out of control, it's amazing that the agency ever caught up with Ames at all. This suspenseful book, based on interviews with key players, including Ames himself, lends powerful ammunition to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan's argument that the CIA has seen its day and should be abolished. (Author tour)

Pub Date: June 15th, 1995
ISBN: 0-679-44050-X
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1995


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