Transcript for 1994: Aldrich Ames Arrested for Espionage
One of the burning questions in Washington how could it have taken so long. So long to arrest the highest ranking CIA officer ever accused of selling out to the Russians Aldridge Ames and his wife Maria are -- of course the alleged spies. But there is no doubt in Washington tonight that this is an intelligence disaster. Here's ABC's Bob -- CIA director James -- faced an audience of congressman anxious to know why it took nine years to figure out that Aldridge Ames was working for the KGB. Is a bit like playing. Goalie on -- hockey team in which you can never let a single shot get past you. Here's what went wrong in 1985 another CIA agent Edward Lee Howard defected to Moscow. Intelligence sources say that when he arrived the Soviets began executing several Russians who had been working for the CIA. For two years the CIA assume that Howard was the man identifying their Russian agents. -- events occurred. After you know that he no longer has access. Didn't assume that somebody else -- doing the same thing something is wrong. It took seven more years to identify -- as the double agent by -- intelligence sources say -- had told the KGB about as many as ten Russians who are working for the CIA. Including two embassy officials in Washington and a top KGB counterintelligence officer. All were killed. It is impossible to overestimate. The amount of the of the damage. -- the consequences. For our own surprise. Meanwhile Ames was allegedly spending more than one point five million dollars in KGB money on a home cars and charge accounts or wanna 70000 dollar annual salary. The CIA knew nothing about this as it does not require agents to file financial reports. Periodic lie detector tests are administered -- passed to such tests in 1986 and 91. By 1991 with the problem continuing the CIA transfered several counterintelligence personnel including aims to less sensitive unit. -- went to counter narcotics and gradually came under more intense suspicion. Yet during 1992. And 93 -- continued to seek and receive classified information including the names of Russian agents and he continued to pass information to his Russian handlers signaling each dropped by marking the designated mailbox sources say the FBI allowed the exchanges to proceed until they had gathered enough evidence for a strong case against games how many additional Russians -- -- -- allies to -- delay is not yet known. Bob Zelnick ABC news Washington. This is David ensor in Moscow where Boris Yeltsin spoke for 45 minutes before parliament today on economic reform and the need to crack down on crime saying not a word. About espionage. But Russian officials tell ABC news that high level talks are underway on -- US demand that Russia withdraw to its diplomats said to have handled the Ames case. The Russians are saying they will withdraw intelligence agents from their embassy in Washington. Only -- CIA personnel are also withdrawn from the US embassy here. US officials are saying that is not acceptable. Russian newspapers today called the US demands hypocrisy. Russia has no -- right to spy on the US said one leading daily that America does to spy on Russia. As for the argument that one should not spy on a nation that is sending millions and aid the Russians beg to differ. Israel it's spies in -- them. I'm been very sensitive places. I have never heard that this severely damaged the relationship it's been. Israel and the United States. On Russian television there's much attention paid to the opulent lifestyle of the games as. There half million dollar house which was allegedly bought with the Russian taxpayers money. Many Russians say president Yeltsin does not have the political leg room now to withdraw intelligence agents from Washington without getting something in return. They fear the US -- -- the agency anyway prompting a tit for tat response. And an uneasy -- and relations with Washington. David ensor ABC news Moscow.
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.