“At first, I wanted to jump across the table and strangle him. But then I started laughing. It was really funny, because he was the one in shackles, not me.”
This was the reaction of CIA officer Jeanne Vertefeuille upon learning that Aldrich Ames, the most damaging mole in CIA history, had once given his Soviet handlers her name when they asked what other CIA official could be framed for Ames’s own treachery.
Fortunately that strategy did not pan out, and instead Jeanne led the internal task force that ultimately brought Ames to justice. It was the pinnacle of a long and memorable career in CIA.
From Typist to Spy Catcher
Jeanne joined the CIA as a typist in 1954, and as professional opportunities for female officers slowly began to grow, she got assignments at various posts overseas. She also learned Russian and found her niche in counterintelligence.
In the spring of 1985, after an alarming number of Agency assets run against the Soviet Union disappeared in rapid succession, Jeanne received a cable from the Soviet/East European Division Chief. As she later recalled, “He said, ‘I want you to come…when you come back, I want you to work for me, and I have a Soviet problem….I want you to work on it.”
She returned to lead a five-person investigative team searching for answers as to how this troubling loss of assets happened.
The task was a long and exhaustive one, complicated by the fact that many did not believe the cause was a traitor. Among the other explanations floated was the idea that outsiders were intercepting CIA communications.
An extensive review of records ultimately yielded the answer: Ames, who was initially working in the Soviet Division counterintelligence, began spying for the USSR in 1985.
He compromised numerous Soviet assets, some of whom were executed. In exchange he received sums of money so great that, of known foreign penetrations of the US Government, he was the highest paid.
His position gave him the perfect cover, as he was authorized to meet with Soviet officers for official purposes. Yet, his extravagant lifestyle came under the task force’s suspicion in November 1989.
Read more at CIA.gov
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