1997: Sandy Grimes on Catching Spy Aldrich Ames

Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille explain how CIA officer Aldrich Ames was caught spying for the Soviet Union.
3:00 | 12/23/13

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Transcript for 1997: Sandy Grimes on Catching Spy Aldrich Ames
-- editorial cartoonists of course had a field day with the story how could the CIA of all agencies have failed to put two and two together. Their entire network of espionage agents in the Soviet Union had been rolled up. And to all appearances the counterintelligence. People had looked everywhere but the next desk over. For nearly nine years Aldrich -- eluded arrest despite the fact. That he was among the few CIA officers who knew the identities and code names of all the agents -- been betrayed. Despite the fact that names had come into a surprising amount of money that allowed him to buy half million dollar home cash. Drive the drug war dress in 15100 dollar Italian suits. And that this new affluence just happened to coincide. With the loss of America's most valuable spies inside the Soviet Union. Eventually of course he was caught and now he's serving a life term at a federal prison in Pennsylvania. But the story of why it took so long to caption is an incredible one. And for the first time tonight you will meet two extraordinary women who deferred their own retirement. Rather than give up the -- All of -- james' career as a KGB mole inside the CIA began on June 13 1985. When he turned over handwritten list to his KGB contact segregated show market. There were at least. When he names. People that he gave to -- KGB which comprise the entire. Roster. Have CIA. Assets. And the Soviet Union the entire roster. It was a critical moment. In US Soviet relations Mikhail Gorbachev -- just emerged as the new and very different leader of the Communist Party. And it was during -- tense period but the CIA human intelligence network in the Soviet Union. Began to go dark. Almost immediately after ames' betrayal the KGB began arresting those named by any news. Over the next eighteen months the CIA would slowly discover its entire network of spies being rolled up. Including its premier -- -- general Dmitry for the air -- code named top hat. The highest ranking Soviet. Intelligence officers this agency this government has ever run in place he provided intelligence that was absolutely incredible. Sandy Grimes who would later become a key member of the team that -- Rick games was top -- control officer. They never met yet she considered him her best friend. After Ames betrayed him he was tried in a secret Soviet court and sharp. What would you do if your best friend is murdered you look inside your soul and you say. What did possibly to Rome little -- did I so what did I make and operational decision. That cost this person. His life. Yeah. As the soul searching began that the CIA is suspicion fell first on this man Edward -- Howard. A former CIA officer who had fled to the Soviet Union. By late 86 it was clear that Howard could not have been responsible for all the agents who were compromised missed. There had already been one study done that. So that there were no patterns and that each case had -- of its own accord. Jean -- -- phase of veterans Soviet division hand. Was asked to serve on a task force investigating the lawsuits. The biggest cluster we found however related to our Moscow station. There was paper on every single case except one of the cases of -- that we knew at the time had gone -- it was paper that -- -- cases in Moscow exchange. When you -- paper you mean within the within the city yes. Physically -- hard copy paper in safes inside the Moscow station inside there are endless. The assumption that was made. His that perhaps KGB technicians had gotten into the secure spaces of the of the station and had photographed what was in this race. And -- -- was a logical suspect. Sergeant Clayton lonetree and in December of 1986. He confessed. That he had been recruited by the KGB while he was a marine guard and Moscow. We worked on this for years and we became more and more convinced that it had never happened. Meanwhile Aldrich Ames and his new wife had been assigned to the CIA's station in -- Ames didn't know until they went to Italy. And 8687. Almost a year into being a spy. That the KGB had done what just astounded him. They had started rounding up everyone and executing him. And he was flabbergasted. -- he said to this KGB handler my god that's like putting a neon sign over the CIA with the big heroes says mold -- -- The compromises that occurred in 8586. That were caused by -- send off sent off. You -- out what should've been galvanizing signals instead. Is it caused a couple of brief jerks and then kind of it's subsided into. Kind of low priority thing but most counterintelligence problems most moles if you well. Will not cause. That kind of galvanizing. Signal to occur. -- verdict today explains it was the KGB's are audacity enrolling up the CIA's -- that threw them off the track. The sinking was indeed that it was not a human -- Because they don't want to kill the goose that lays the golden -- so if they have somebody with continued access and penetration humble. They're not going to roll up the case. If -- look at opportunity. And motive. Need. And the indicators that somehow mysteriously the need has been fulfilled. And are just sort of ticked off for pretty good reasons for wanting to -- -- close look recurrence. We were looking but we were deflected by the -- -- into thinking our problem was a Moscow problem and it wasn't a human being. We didn't go forward on a broad front and look at a lot of other things too. Another reason that some of this took a backseat is because starting in 1986. We started getting -- us again. And thus by in 198780. Hate it becomes somewhat of a historical problem that -- that in 1980 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Because Rick Ames and yes so he -- -- -- him during that same period. Voters' general approval so he's he's he's sort of out of the mix Estrada's Nolan also -- sight out of -- All told Aldrich -- received more than two million dollars for his years of spine. It was during his posting to Rome that he and -- -- are adopted a lavish lifestyle. He was -- wrong. He was around 86 to 182263. And from everything together. The -- grungy -- Rick Iranians. Terms into the swamp him condensed -- are her curves it's just -- Gets physical assets that are glasses stars were in -- expensive in terms there's. He told the word -- use this -- becomes -- becomes waiting ambulance. And anybody watching your wrong no no nobody you know. We're talking about and agencies that did not have a serious. Serious counterintelligence counter espionage capabilities. He didn't do it. At one point he is called back to the CIA -- -- petrified he figures there -- on time. And then they thought he finds out it's about a little housekeeping duty that needed began. And -- convinces himself that the CIA will never catch him. Because he knows the people who are looking for him -- honestly believes there are sound confident. That they'll never be Smart enough to track him down. And in particular to those people -- -- afraid and sandy guarantees for twists and he thinks he's much smarter than either of them. I knew him before it. And and after. There is -- change in his behavior is significant should rush and one that everybody noticed right. And but one that he accounted for by saying. That his wife's family had money. After he gets back from wrong. There was a change but he had an explanation for and on the surface. The explanations seem -- recent -- but nobody ever trip. Now no one ever checked. Another clue no one ever checked it was Rick impresario team's new home. They chose one that cost more than 500000 dollars. At the time he was making about 70000 a year. They paid for the entire thing cash. He didn't want a mortgage. -- overture and destroy our own expense occur over from our -- from wrong. His wife is running up enormous telephone billows and and closing those and you're you're spending money like it's going Astaro just no one a suspicious of the agency park. -- is full of jaguars are six. Many many many agency officials live and in homes and Potomac in Arlington. In northwest Washington would cost half of dollars. You have to give it get away a little bit fortunate and unfortunate -- -- -- from. What I'm saying is is that had a serious effort -- that -- five the basics. They could have seen a lot of unusual things taking place which which no one else really noticed. -- -- -- -- -- In me -- among his wounds and what the money the money is is the is is -- critical. Because. Because. The cash deposits I was making -- -- -- associated with my contact. It was -- to Iraqi. There -- -- whole variety. Of things that that is serious and professional counter espionage counter intelligence. Staff. Could could have could have put together. The CIA is asking very few questions at all during this period the mole hunt is all but forgotten. Until 1991. Six years after -- first becomes a spy. The CIA finally. Does what it needs to do. Which is stands Jeanne. -- of faith back in to find the mall. And the -- reason they do it. His -- cast -- -- as close to retirement and has nothing to do. And she goes to her boss and says I want -- -- at the 85 losses I'm unhappy about how that -- handled. So she single handedly starts the investigation again. It really was not until 91 we said we are going to get this one more. Shocked. We're -- look at everybody. Who had access to those cases. And limit itself -- -- -- let me read a list of suspects bright I gather you're the only one. Forever terms of the top of I -- out guess what what caused your reported that the tone. When he came back from Roman 89 he was a different McCain's this is not a very easy thing for any of us to ask. Could this person be a spy. Could this person be a trader. I felt that. We're going programs. There was approval coming from someplace and yet there was -- antiques. But until we came -- I had known was gone. -- Grimes is the one who links. The money the deposits that everyone assumes come from or SARS parents. With Rick -- calendar of when he's meeting Soviets. Back in 1985. She's the one big set out. He'd have lunch with -- -- can say on Wednesday. And Thursday there would be a composite to his bank at that point there was no question. There was something very very wrong and he was. It would be another year and a half before the FBI had enough evidence to arrest of Aldrich Ames and his wife. He was convicted of treason and is serving a life sentence with no hope of parole.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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