APL Colloquium

June 9, 2017

Colloquium Topic: Circle of Treason: A CIA Account of the Traitor Aldrich Ames and the Men he Betrayed

From May through December 1985 the CIA experienced the unparalleled loss of its stable of Soviet assets. There was no indication of the impending disaster, which all but wiped out human source reporting on the Soviet Union. Whatever the nature of the problem, something was seriously wrong. Circle of Treason is the story of Sandra Grimes’ and Jeanne Vertefeuille’s personal involvement in the CIA’s effort to identify the reason for the losses and to protect future Soviet assets from a similar fate of execution or imprisonment. In 1991 the quest led to their hunt for a Soviet spy in the CIA and to their identification of the “mole” as case officer Aldrich “Rick” Ames, a long-time acquaintance and coworker in the Soviet-East European Division and Counterintelligence Center of CIA. That identification allowed the FBI to take the necessary law enforcement steps that led to Ames’ arrest in February 1994 and, two months later, a conviction and life sentence. One of the most destructive traitors in American history, Ames provided information to the Soviet Union that led to the deaths of at least eight Soviet intelligence officers who spied for the United States.

Not only is this the first book to be written by two of the CIA principals involved in identifying Ames as the mole, but it is also the first to provide details of the operational contact with the agents Ames betrayed, as well as similar cases with which the authors also had personal involvement — a total of sixteen operational histories in all. Of particular note is GRU General Dmitriy Fedorovich Polyakov, the highest-ranking spy run by the U.S. government during the Cold War. Described as the “Crown Jewel,” Polyakov provided the United States with a trove of information during his twenty-plus-year history of cooperation. The book also covers the aftermath of Ames’ arrest, including the congressional wrath for not identifying him sooner, the FBI/CIA debriefings following Ames’ plea bargain, and a retrospective of Ames the person and Ames the spy. Now retired from the CIA, Grimes and Vertefeuille are finally able to tell this inside story of the CIA’s most notorious traitor and the men he betrayed.

Colloquium Speaker: Sandy Grimes

Sandy Grimes is a 26-year veteran of CIA, who worked against the former Soviet Union, supporting some of CIA’s most valuable cases – penetrations of the KGB and GRU. In 1991 she participated in the hunt for a mole in CIA and the identification of the individual as CIA case officer Aldrich Ames. She is co-author of the book Circle of Treason which details that search and the men he betrayed.  It is also the basis for an ABC News mini-series “The Assets” which aired in 2014.

The daughter of parents who worked on the Manhattan Project, Sandy spent her formative years in Denver, Colorado, where she substituted a course in Russian for the dreaded junior of physics that set the direction of her personal and professional life. She holds a BA in Russian from the University of Washington, Seattle. A mother of two daughters, grandmother of four, she and her husband of 48-years live in Great Falls, Virginia.