Ames was arrested by the FBI in Arlington, Virginia on espionage
charges on February 24, 1994. At the time of his arrest, Ames was a
31-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), who had
been spying for the Russians since 1985. Arrested with him was his
wife, Rosario Ames, who had aided and abetted his espionage
pleas by both Ames and his wife on April 28, 1994, Ames was
sentenced to incarceration for life without the possibility of
parole. Rosario Ames was sentenced on October 20, 1994 to 63 months
Ames was a
CIA case officer, who spoke Russian and specialized in the Russian
intelligence services, including the KGB, the USSR's foreign
intelligence service. His initial overseas assignment was in Ankara,
Turkey, where he targeted Russian intelligence officers for
recruitment. Later, he worked in New York City and Mexico City,
Mexico. On April 16, 1985, while assigned to the CIA's Soviet/ East
European Division at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, he
secretly volunteered to KGB officers at the USSR Embassy,
Washington, D.C. Shortly thereafter, the KGB paid him $50,000.
During the summer of 1985, Ames met several times with a Russian
diplomat to whom he passed classified information about CIA and FBI
human sources, as well as technical operations targeting the Soviet
Union. In December 1985, Ames met with a Moscow-based KGB officer in
Bogota, Colombia. In July 1986, Ames was transferred to Rome, Italy.
In Rome, Ames
continued his meetings with the KGB, including a Russian diplomat
assigned in Rome and a Moscow-based KGB officer. At the conclusion
of his assignment in Rome, Ames received instructions from the KGB
regarding clandestine contacts in the Washington, D.C. area, where
he would next be assigned. In addition, the KGB wrote to Ames that
he had been paid $1.88 million by them in the four years since he
his return to Washington, D.C. in 1989, Ames continued to pass
classified documents to the KGB, using "dead drops" or prearranged
hiding places where he would leave the documents to be picked up
later by KGB officers from the USSR Embassy in Washington. In
return, the KGB left money and instructions for Ames, usually in
other "dead drops."
meantime, the CIA and FBI learned that Russian officials who had
been recruited by them were being arrested and executed. These human
sources had provided critical intelligence information about the
USSR, which was used by U.S. policy makers in determining U.S.
foreign policy. Following analytical reviews and receipt of
information about Ames's unexplained wealth, the FBI opened an
investigation in May, 1993.
Agents and Investigative Specialists conducted intensive physical
and electronic surveillance of Ames during a ten-month
investigation. Searches of Ames's residence revealed documents and
other information linking Ames to the Russian foreign intelligence
service. On October 13, 1993, Investigative Specialists observed a
chalk mark Ames made on a mailbox confirming to the Russians his
intention to meet them in Bogota, Colombia. On November 1st, Special
Agents observed him and, separately, his Russian handler in Bogota.
When Ames planned foreign travel, including a trip to Moscow, as
part of his official duties, a plan to arrest him was approved.
their arrest and guilty pleas, Ames was debriefed by FBI Special
Agents, at which time he detailed compromising the identities of CIA
and FBI human sources, some of whom were executed by USSR
authorities. Pursuant to his plea agreement, he forfeited his assets
to the United States, and $547,000 was turned over to the Justice
Department's Victims Assistance Fund. Ames is serving his sentence
in the federal prison system. Rosario Ames completed her sentence
and was released.