The Great Conspiracy
The CIA vs. Jonathan Pollard
by Hezi Carmel
From the Israeli daily newspaper, _Ma'ariv_, Dec. 8, 2000,
Shabbat section p.16.
Translated from Hebrew by Hannah Newman, with added research following
[subtitle text, in bold]
It sounds like something taken from one of John Le Carre's novels, but we're talking about a true story, amazing and infuriating. Aldrich Ames, the most senior agent ever to work for the KGB in the top eschelon of American intelligence, a real Russian mole in the years 1985-1994, caused the United States tremendous and indescribable damage. A big foul-up, a result of faulty alertness and awful denseness, crouches at the door of the American intelligence services, which did and is doing everything to whitewash what happened and to save their skin from responsibility. Involved in this story, which got completely out of control, are hundreds of billions of dollars which went down the drain, deliberate and serious misleading of the U.S. President, and a bizarre cooperation between the CIA and KGB. And the big victim is a little pawn, Jonathan Pollard by name, on whom the American security establishment is trying to pin the punishment for the treason of Ames. This is the reason he is rotting in jail more than 15 years already. Read it in disbelief.
"The KGB did not receive from Israel or from the Israeli Mossad any intelligence information which originated with the spy Jonathan Pollard or any other source. It simply never happened." So it was stated to me, in the form of an official announcement, by Vladimir Krioshkov, in an interview which I had with him recently in his apartment in Moscow. Krioshkov was the last head of the KGB until he was ousted from his position in 1991 for his participation in the failed attempt to overthrow Gorbachev.
Former KGB head Krioshkov sought to refute in his announcement, in an unambiguous way, the testimony of former American Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, which was given behind closed doors at Jonathan Pollard's trial in 1987. In that testimony, Weinberger blamed Pollard for gravely injuring U.S. security through the intelligence material he passed to Israel which reached the hands of the KGB.
This claim, which has its source in the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, continues to serve until today as the main pretext on which the American authorities base their stubborn refusal to release Pollard, although he already served more than 15 years in prison.
The Americans were not content with the testimony Weinberger gave behind closed doors. They made sure to leak their arguments to the news agency UPI [United Press]. On Dec. 14, 1987, a news flash from UPI landed on the teleprinter terminals of over 400 newspapers and media sources on five continents. "Russian Moles Penetrated Top Eschelon of the Israeli Mossad", was the headline of the news flash. The unidentified source of the information related that the people in the counter-espionage department of the Central Intelligence Agency of the U.S. discovered recently that top-secret documents, which were passed by the spy Jonathan Pollard to Israel, were passed to the hands of the KGB by two intelligence officers close to Arik [Ariel] Sharon. In the framework of the deal: information in return for allowing the Jews of the Soviet Union to emigrate.
According to the writer of the news story, American intelligence sources estimated that the penetration of a Russian mole into the top eschelon of the Mossad is the hardest blow ever sustained by Western intelligence services, and that the CIA and FBI are conducting a renewed assessment on the damage caused by Pollard to the national security of the U.S.
Official sources in Israel denied the story, calling it "baseless" and "wicked". From his prison cell in the state of Missouri, Pollard relayed, via his sister Carol, the following response: "The story about the Russian moles in the Mossad was manufactured in the basements of the KGB as part of their psychological warfare, which has a goal of driving a wedge between intelligence sources in the U.S. and Israel."
Pollard was wrong about the direction [source] but not about the essence. The fictitious story about the penetration of a KGB mole into the top of the Mossad was not cooked up in the basements of the KGB, but in the well-lit upper floors of the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia. This invention was, among other things, destined to cover up the fact that a Russian mole operated unhindered at the top of the Central Intelligence Agency, without the organization's heads having the slightest idea how to locate the mole, whose damage in 1987 was already discovered and clear.
To this day, it is hard to understand why Pollard - who spied for the benefit of Israel, a country friendly to the U.S. - was sentenced to one of the harshest prison penalties ever imposed on any spy at all; and why they insist on keeping him in prison until the very end.
During the in-depth investigation I conducted in preparation for writing a book about the Aldrich Ames affair, the most senior agent ever to operate for the KGB in the top eschelon of American Intelligence, a real Russian mole, the reasons were exposed which I believe moved the Central Intelligence Agency chiefs and the then-Secretary of Defense Weinberger to want Pollard's incarceration (then and now) behind bars and bolts until the end of time.
We go back for the moment to the Ames affair. On Apr. 16, 1985, Aldrich ("Rick") Ames, one of the heads of counter-espionage in the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, entered the Russian Embassy building in Washington, and handed the reception clerk a letter addressed to General Androsov, head of the KGB delegation in the U.S, in which Ames offered to serve as an intelligence agent for the KGB in return for money.
At first Ames asked for only $50,000 for the intelligence information he supplied, but after the Russians realized that they had come upon a gold mine, the highest-ranking spy they ever had, they showered on Ames lots of money, totalling close to $4 million, the highest sum ever paid to a single agent in the history of world espionage.
On June 16, two months after he began to operate as a Russian agent, Ames passed on to his KGB handler a list including the names of 25 senior agents which American intelligence had in Russia. Within a short time, most of them were arrested or neutralized, but some of them were put under surveillance to discover their connections with the American handlers. Some of the agents came under pressure from the KGB and became double agents, serving as a conduit for leaking false information in one of the biggest con operations in the history of Russian espionage.
In practical terms, the treachery of Ames destroyed the entire espionage system of the U.S. in Russia. All the agents which the Americans had inside the KGB were eliminated. Among them were KGB General Dimitri Poliakov, and the manager of the KGB branch in London Oleg Gordievsky, two of the highest ranking Western intelligence agents in the top eshelon of U.S.S.R. security.
For nine long years Ames served his Russian masters until he was exposed by the FBI. Nine years. During that whole time, Ames continued to serve in senior positions in the intelligence system of the CIA and passed to the Russians quantities of documents which, if stacked one on another, would reach a height of a five-story building.
Aldrich Hazen Ames was born in 1941 in a small town in Wisconsin. His father served in the Central Intelligence Agency and was removed due to a dispute with his managers. The young Aldrich followed in his father's footsteps and began to work at the Intelligence Agency when he was 21. In 1985 he reached a senior standing as head of the counter-espionage branch of the Agency, the man responsible for the war against penetration attempts by the Russians into the intelligence Agency.
In April 1985, due to financial distress and personal frustration, Ames entered the Russian Embassy building in Washington and offered, as mentioned, to serve as an agent for the KGB. This was a daring step and quite risky. The Russian Embassy, as Ames well knew, was under continual observation by the FBI. But this was not the only careless move he made. He acted with an amazing lack of caution, bringing out large quantities of top-secret documents from the Agency headquarters in nylon [transparent plastic] bags, without anyone checking him. Ames failed his routine polygraph test, a standard check-up given to all intelligence chiefs every few years, without the matter setting off any kind of red light among the CIA security people. He drove around in a modern luxury sports car, one of the fanciest in the Agency parking lot. With the money he received from the Russians, he purchased a luxury home in a Washington suburb which cost $600,000. Ames paid for it in cash (!), a procedure almost without precedent in the American real estate market.
And none of all this aroused the suspicion of the preventative security people at the CIA.
When Ames offered his services as a spy, the Russians were surprised and suspicious. It looked too good. But from the moment that the Russians were convinced that Ames was a genuine agent and not a double or a provocateur, they established a special operations team in the First Direktorat headquarters (the KGB branch dealing with spies outside Russia) in Yasnovo, southeast of Moscow, whose goal was to carry out deceptive activities that would divert suspicions from their new man Ames. At the head of this clandestine team, the existence of which only three people knew, stood the Assistant Head of the Direktorat, Lieutenant General Vadim Kirpichenko.
In July 1985, when it became clear to the KGB leadership that the collapse of the American intelligence system in Russia was liable to arouse suspicions about the existence of a mole, the special operations team in Yasnovo decided on a deceptive ploy which was sophisticated and dangerous. On August 1, 1985, Vitaly Yorchenko, a senior KGB man and the assistant manager of the U.S.-Canada branch in the First Direktorat, defected to the West from Rome. He was one of the people who knew best the Russian spy system in the U.S.
Yorchenko, who was secretly flown to the U.S. under the auspices of the CIA, betrayed to the Americans "secrets" of Russian espionage. The main "secret" which he sold was connected to (what else) the identity of the Russian mole who caused the collapse of the American spy network in Russia. According to him, it was a CIA man, whose code name was "Robert". Central Intelligence Agency investigators identified him by the clues as Edward Lee Howard, a young American who was slated to be integrated in the operations system of the agents in the CIA branch in Moscow, and who was meanwhile discharged from the intelligence agency after a polygraph test revealed that the man was mentally disturbed and had a drinking problem.
Two hours before the FBI team reached Howard's home in New Mexico, the man succeeded in eluding his pursuers and found shelter in Moscow, where he remains until today.
The joke of fate [the irony of it all]: Aldrich Ames was appointed with the members of the intelligence team that investigated the "defector" Yorchenko, and of course he reported on the proceedings of the investigation to the KGB people in Moscow. It could be assumed that the Russian intelligence chiefs were hard-pressed to hide their pleasure at the success of the daring operation and at the Americans falling for it.
On Nov. 2, 1985, some months after he concluded his deceptive operation, Yorchenko evaded an intelligence agent who was hosting him for an evening meal in the French restaurant [spelling uncertain] in Georgetown. Yorchenko went to the restroom, escaped out the back door of the restaurant and made his way by taxi to the Russian Embassy. In a press conference arranged for him by the Russian Embassy, Yorchenko told of being abducted by American intelligence agents who tried to extract secrets from him. He returned to Moscow a hero and continued to work at the KGB.
Today he lives in Moscow and, unlike his colleagues who formerly worked in the KGB, he avoids all media exposure.
About two weeks after Yorchenko, the simulated defector, returned to Russia, FBI agents arrested Jonathan Pollard, a Jewish officer in the intelligence system of Central America, after discovering that he passed American intelligence documents to his handlers in the Israeli Embassy in Washington.
Pollard, who was abandoned by his [Israeli] handlers, handed to his investigators a detailed confession of his deeds. According to his admission (which was leaked wholesale by the FBI to American papers), over a period of 18 months he passed to Israel around 1000 documents which included information on weapons deals with Arab countries, reports on non-conventional weapons stockpiles and missiles in the Middle East, and terror activities against Israel. Among them apparently were documents which reached Central American intelligence from Russian sources.
In his duties as head of the Russian counter-espionage of the Agency, Ames had full access to all material in the investigation of Pollard. He was very familiar with some of the information sources in Russia. They were the people Ames had betrayed to the KGB a few months earlier. He understood that it would be possible to hang the guilt on Pollard for the elimination of those agents, if a way could be found to explain how the Russian material got from Israel back to Russia. Was the idea born in the mind of Ames, or on the desk of the special investigating team established in the Agency to investigate the collapse of the American spy network? This is not clear. But there is no doubt that the leak published in the UPI in 1987 about the Israeli-Russian "connection" had its origin in American intelligence sources. The American investigating team had a hard time believing that there was a Russian mole in the inner sanctum of the Agency. They refused to believe that one of "our boys" committed treason.
They sought for traitors in every possible place. Except under their own noses. Even when Ames was exposed by the FBI, the head of the CIA investigating team, Ms. Jeanne Vertefeuille, claimed that Ames, whom she knew well in their joint work, sold secrets to the Russians for monetary gain because of the criminal extravagance of his wife, a beauty from Colombia.
But the fact that it took the Americans nine years to expose the mole at the top, when all the signs pointed to the existence of a Russian agent at the top, indicates more than just rottenness in the system and blight in the thinking of the American intelligence system.
The exposure of Ames caused deep shock in the American public, but the real lessons were not internalized and not acted upon. Ames served as a pawn in the great power game in which, as much as this doesn't sound [sic - "may sound"?] strange or parodoxical, the KGB and the CIA are on the same side of the divide!
In 1985, the year that Ames began his activities as a Russian agent (and Pollard ceased his activity as an Israeli agent), Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union, who sought to end the era of the cold war and to lead his country into a new age of cooperation with the West. The U.S. of President Ronald Reagan was at the height of "Star Wars" hysteria, a mad campaign without any practical or basic justification, which cost the American taxpayer hundreds of billions of dollars. For nothing.
The KGB and the Soviet security establishment, in opposition to the position of Gorbachev, sought to continue creating an image in the West of a strong world power with its military forces steadily increasing in strength, in order to protect their privileges and to slow down the process of compromise and disarmament. The security establishment also believed that without the military might, the framework of the empire would crumble and would bring about the break-up of the Soviet Union, as indeed actually happened.
The American security establishment, on the other side, had a clear interest in continuing to spend hundreds of billions of dollars in a build-up of military might which did not add one ounce to security, but filled the coffers of the security industry's tycoons with all their branches. The yearly report published each year by the Central Intelligence Agency, on the military strength of the U.S.S.R., filled an important function in determining the arms policy and the arms budget of the U.S.
The security establishment of the Soviet Union, via the top-secret ministerial committee of disinformation, made very efficient use of the Americn agents who were betrayed to them by Ames. Some of these agents "were doubled" by the KGB through enticements or pressure, and served either knowingly or innocently as conduits for the Russians to leak to the CIA false information which magnified the military strength of the Soviet Union.
Sounds like something taken from one of John Le Carre's novels? Here is a quote from the closing comments and conclusions of the combined investigating team which dealt with the lessons of the Ames affair, written by Agency head John Deutsch: "...Ames' activities provided the Russians with an opportunity to influence the policies of the U.S., by the fact that they fed information to the policy-setters of the U.S., through the double agents under their control, [information] initiated as they chose... The members of the team estimate that the reason the Russians invested effort in 'guided imagery' came from their desire to prove to us that they are still a serious world power and that their weapons research and development system is well-established and all-powerful... I estimate that as a result of the leaking of 'the directed information' by the Russians, we exaggerated our estimation of the strength of the Russian far beyond their real power."
And this is still not the most amazing part. The same investigating team under the general monitoring authority of the Agency, determined on Oct. 31, 1995 that the CIA succeeded in locating a great number of reports from Russian sources which contained clear disinformation. In spite of this, the head of the CIA passed several dozen (and perhaps hundreds) of reports like these to the U.S. President and the Pentagon, as material which was verified [as authentic], without indicating in any way that it involved material suspected as disinformation!
Again we hear from the manager of the Central Intelligence Agency, Deutsch: "One of the most troubling findings which the investigating team uncovered relates to the fact that American intelligence sources did not inform the leadership [of the country] that extremely sensitive material which was brought to their attention was obtained from agents under reasonable suspicion that they were controlled by the Russians."
"Troubling findings"? A funny term in light of the severity of the subject. How would the Israeli media respond if it were revealed that the Mossad passed to the Israeli Prime Minister dozens of intelligence reports from a Syrian agent, knowing that the reports contained disinformation cooked up by Syrian intelligence, without revealing it to the PM?
On Nov. 1, 1995, Tim Weiner, the expert in intelligence affairs for the _New York Times_, wrote: "The Agency admitted that it passed to the White House and the Pentagon information about the Soviet Union which originated with agents that the Agency knew or suspected were controlled by Moscow. The Agency preferred to protect the agents rather than to reveal the truth to the nation's leaders."
On Nov. 2, the _New York Times_ wrote in an editorial: "An intelligence agency that knowingly misleads its government with false information fed to them by the adversary has gone totally out of all control."
But it's hard to talk about a mistake made by handlers, an error of judgment by those making the assessment, or loss of control. We're talking here about a deliberate policy that was intended to pass to the White House and the Pentagon information which was clearly false, but which served in a clear way both the White House and the Pentagon, and also the Agency heads, and mainly the Moloch [insatiable god] of the security establishment.
The American Professor Franklin Holzman, a world expert in security budgets, determined that the exaggerated estimate of the Central Intelligence Agency of the military expenditures of the Soviet Union in the years 1979-1988 caused the U.S. to spend a needless sum of $500-800 billion.
Aldrich Ames was perhaps the greatest of the Russian spies in the U.S., but in this giant deception game which involves all-powerful economic interests and global power struggles, he had only a marginal role. It is clear that the American security establishment is not interested today in re-opening the affair. They, and maybe also one or two moles who remained in the Agency, prefer that the subject of Ames be forgotten and buried.
It's just that meanwhile, Jonathan Pollard continues to rot in his prison cell, and to pay the price big-time for Ames' treason. In this dreadful power struggle, Jonathan Pollard was also a little pawn. But like all the little pawns involved in the giant wars, they always pay the price. To the end and with no time off.
Relevant facts from other sources:
1. This article by Carmel may be a reprint; it is referred to by _Moment Magazine_ Editor Hershel Shanks back in Dec. 1995. ("Whose Crimes? Pollard's or Ames's?")
Shanks, like Carmel, quotes a UPI report from Dec. 1987 which names Pollard as supplier of "highly sensitive American intelligence information" which found its way to the Soviets via "a Russian mole [who] has infiltrated the Mossad". But Shanks suggests a plausible source for the fiction. A week later, he writes, "Shabtai Kalmanowitz was arrested as a Soviet mole inside Israeli intelligence. The assumption is that the Soviets sacrificed Kalmanowitz to protect Ames and to provide a cover for the information that Ames had supplied to his Soviet superiors. In short, Kalmanowitz linked Pollard to the problems in the CIA's Soviet bureau." (Note that this was public knowledge back in 1995. Yet 5 years later, Pollard is still serving time for these crimes, with no chance of parole or pardon.)
Shanks notes a significant difference in government disclosure of the security damage caused by Ames, as opposed to Pollard. Within a few years, the American press was filled with details of Ames' treason, including the agents who lost their lives. After 15 years and the opening of KGB files to researchers, the U.S. public still has no clue of what damage Pollard caused, although it is insisted to be quite severe.
2. Besides the glaring examples mentioned in Carmel's article, where CIA investigators managed to miss warning signs in Ames' behavior, there are more problems (detailed in a psychological assessment of Ames published by the U.S. Army Defense Department, part of their Employee Security Guide): Several incidents are noted where Ames left classified materials in public places, brought unauthorized personnel to restricted areas, kept classified documents at home and in an open office safe. He would store secret material on his laptop computer - including his messages to his KGB handler! - and loan it out to colleagues, including his boss. He failed to file proper reports on money he spent and people he met. His alcoholism made him unable to function on many occasions during at least 20 of the 31 years he worked for the CIA. Yet he was entrusted with one of the more responsible positions at the Agency. Go figure.
3. Actually, someone did go figure. British journalist Phillip Knightley came to the conclusion that the CIA - KGB clashes showed that they "often had more in common with each other than with the governments that employed them." ("The KGB vs. the CIA: The Secret Struggle", PBS "Red Files" online) He also asserts that the greatest Soviet spy of them all, known only by his code-name "Percy", was never caught. The major achievement of this American scientist at the Los Alamos facility was to slip the Soviets the plans for the atomic bomb in 1948, a bit of news that came to light as the KGB opened its archives and former KGB officials began to brag about past exploits. Percy's second achievement was to vanish into thin air: "the KGB says that he is still alive and well today " somewhere outside the U.S., while the FBI claims there never was a "Percy". His third achievement was to trigger the "Red Scare", an impotent effort by embarrassed U.S. security agencies to flush out any more undetected "percies". Meanwhile, the Americans had a major spy going through sensitive CIA and FBI files: Kim Philby, Britain's intelligence liaison officer who was betraying both his country and the U.S. to the Soviets.
And here we find an interesting parallel to the Ames-Pollard connection. Philby learned of the super-secret Venona Files, the code-breaking success that allowed the U.S. to identify Soviet agents in the West. But using it for Soviet benefit would tip off the Americans to a leak. The solution: to sacrifice a less important Soviet spy by letting him take the blame for the damage done by Philby. The fall-guy? Julius Rosenberg and his wife Ethel, who are remembered today for being Jewish traitors as much as for being American Communist traitors.
Although the KGB asserts the Rosenbergs were minor couriers never provided any valuable secrets, the USSR allowed the FBI to think that they were super-spies, even perhaps in contact with "Percy" (a prototype of the mythical "Mega" that Pollard supposedly worked with?). The FBI for their part were looking for a way to hide the existence of Venona, and decided that their own progress in exposing KGB networks could be nicely covered by a phony report of KGB identities wrung out of the Rosenbergs. But they refused to "confess". U.S. prosecutor Myles Lane was determined to "break this man Rosenberg" by threatening him with the death penalty. The judge did one better, by sentencing both Julius and Ethel to the electric chair. One little-publicized fact of history is the worldwide call for President Eisenhower to grant the Rosenbergs clemency in a case of unusually harsh punishment, a call which was ignored (as in Pollard's case).
Motives? In both cases - Philby/Rosenberg and Ames/Pollard - the U.S. and the USSR had a common interest in allowing innocent parties to pay the penalty for covert activities by other agents. They no doubt rationalized the injustice by reminding themselves that the sacrifices were actually guilty of spying, even if they weren't guilty of the crimes laid at their door. While we know that Pollard's spying wasn't even for the same country as Ames, appearances were contrived to make him seem like a latter-day Rosenberg. (Weinberger's public comparison of the Pollards to the Rosenbergs was no coincidence.) It is doubtful that the Rosenbergs ever harmed U.S. security, given the assessment by the KGB. It has always been clear that Pollard never harmed U.S. security either. But both were conveniently available to paste such charges on, to protect "national" interests which overrode their rights to fabled American justice.
Then there's the kid-glove treatment of the real spies, until incriminating evidence became too public to continue. Like the strange Aldrich Ames story, the suspicious behavior and the damage trail of Kim Philby were inexplicably overlooked by his country. No doubt greater things were at stake that outweighed simple national loyalty. In both cases, the eventual exposure of these men's treachery did nothing to clear the names of those who had taken the blame for their crimes. Nor were the lessons from the Philby affair or the "Percy" debacle ever internalized - instead, the witch-hunt known as the "Red Scare" was launched in search of communist spies... and not least, Jewish communist spies in the tradition of (grossly overrated) Julius Rosenberg. Concurrently, the phobia grew concerning all American Jews having a potential dual loyalty to Israel -- what we can call the "Blue and White Scare", a hunt for Jewish zionist spies in the tradition of (totally misrepresented) Jonathan Pollard. The Red Scare became a farce which hurt many citizens innocent of any disloyal activities. The casualty toll of innocents from the Blue and White Scare is likewise mounting, with no end in sight.
3. The White House Press Secretary released a press statement (Feb. 22, 1994) when Ames was arrested, but inexplicably presented him as a "mid-level employee of the CIA" working in the "counter-narcotics center" since 1991. The FBI report names him as Directorate of Operations with the Soviet/East Europe Division, and it was open knowledge that Ames had been with the Agency for over 30 years. Either this was sloppiness of a magnitude that should have cost the Press Secretary his job, or it was conscious disinformation.
4. An FBI report (Apr. 21, 1997) says that Ames came under suspicion at the CIA as early as 1989, when he began to flaunt his sudden wealth. After the first year, however, this rival agency faults the CIA with giving "inadequate attention" to this indicator.
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