1995: Edward Lee Howard Interview

"Nightline" talks to former CIA agent believed to have been a Soviet mole.
8:23 | 12/23/13

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Transcript for 1995: Edward Lee Howard Interview
Story of two spies a story that resulted in the deaths of a lot more people. And may rank as the biggest fiasco in US intelligence history. Once again though it appears that there were certain people within the CIA. Who knew fairly early on what was happening but who opted for one reason or another. Not to pass that information up the chain of command. Our story begins a full ten years ago with a name you certainly heard at the time but may have -- Edward Lee Howard was considered one of the most damaging spies in American history clear in news reports at the time. American intelligence agencies have put out a worldwide alert for a former CIA agent. Believed to have been a Soviet mole is Howard include Austria where top level KGB officials. Paid him money in exchange for information -- Soviet expert on aviation has been executed. There were reports that he'd been fingered by Edward Howard and today's Edward Lee Howard turned up in Moscow where he was Edward Lee Howard still wanted for espionage here in the United States. Has written a book calling for a reassessment of his case. He now lives in Moscow over the new Russian identity is supplied by the KGB -- recently Howard spoke with Nightline producer -- Monica. Early hour. That Howard really still exist. Over. Sheriff who lives and land it is my plans. Howard says that his case shouldn't be seen in -- new light now because of recent disclosures. I have parts of the puzzle. But I don't have all the pieces. I know what happened in the you know what I did and when I didn't do. But one thing's for certain. I took a lot of -- for things that weren't done that I can do and was very convenient occasion yes. Convenient indeed for what no one but the highest levels of the KGB -- Was the right about the same time that Howard was alleged to be selling the Soviets the CIA's -- -- another mid level officer at the CIA's Soviet division. Was just beginning a long and fruitful career as a KGB spy. His name. -- -- It's. He exposed 55 clandestine operations and more than 34 agents. -- -- is now believed to have compromised many of the intelligence losses that had been blamed on Howard. They have the best of both worlds they have propaganda victory here think -- -- Howard's first CIA officer's -- from Moscow. And they had a source inside the CIA providing a good hard information. -- Howard was gonna take -- hits. The story of -- and Howard wound up living in Moscow over the Russian identity. Begins here at CIA headquarters in Virginia. We're in 1981. Howard joined the CIA as the green thirty year old trainee. A lot of people -- fighting Indian society division. It was Canada and the top gun school of the CIA. Despite admitting to a past troubled by alcohol and drug abuse. Howard was trained as a deep cover CIA officer who would work out of the US embassy in Moscow. For just before he was to leave Howard was put through a series a final -- routine polygraph test. It's definitely forecast thing. So this -- I don't know what they thought I was -- Somebody couldn't pass that box that was in -- -- They're about to hand this individual overblown most sensitive those spots and the the world at that time. And they acted quickly arbitrarily say okay he's out. Bitter and angry Howard returned to his native New Mexico and went to work for the state government in the Santa Fe. He says he'd be there -- except for this man to tell your chief Inco. -- KGB officials who defected to Washington in August of 1985. Your Genco provided information that led to the arrest of Ronald Pelton a retired communications expert. He also fingered a -- who had worked at the CIA. He had identified an individual with a code name -- Robert. Who had volunteered to work for the Soviets. Had met with in the number of times and had been paid money. So the CIA took information. Extrapolated from London. Identified at Howard instrument. Gerald brown was one of dozens of FBI agents who work the case. -- finally confronted Howard would be espionage allegations at a meeting in this industry Hilton. Howard denied everything and something's gone wrong and you're trying laying on my doorstep I won't put up with a we all know in retrospect for large -- With these case coming out last year we were relying on the confession but that's at that moment. That's when I started thinking about -- the FBI -- Howard and his wife went to this Santa -- restaurant he says the FBI followed him. Please turn driving homeless. -- I'm due to the current from the -- -- in the bushes and bushes and them was -- -- my place. The surveillance did not see him -- he didn't have to jump. She could drop him off the -- Howard says he took the next plane from Albuquerque and made his way to the Soviet embassy in Helsinki where he asked for help. And was taken to Moscow. Shortly thereafter the Soviet defector -- your chain crew who have raised the CIA's suspicions about Howard. -- defected to the Soviet Union accusing the CIA of kidnapping and drugging him. Ironically Rick Ames the Soviet spy was one of the CIA officers who had to -- -- -- What's -- -- -- and here in order to give up Howard who had perhaps limited information at that point. In order to protect Ames who really had access to much more information. Within a year having been granted asylum Howard appeared on the Soviet television condemning the CIA. This -- and tourism cooperation but. I'm not convinced -- as they can including myself. He admits only that he did identify people in photographs that the KGB showed him. Howard says he was never meant to work with agents in Moscow because he had been specifically train for another highly classified CIA project. We were basically. Eavesdropping -- sensitive government communications. And I was asserts that project. And it was felt. They would not rise to expose -- to any humans who could be provocations and then they would put surveillance on me and I would lead them to protect and project. But was Howard a -- before his defection in Finland in late September of 1985. Vladimir approach golf was chairman of the KGB. Before it came to the Soviet Union. Howard was not a counselor -- -- opinions as smooth. But -- KGB and doesn't know yet that we think the -- story begins for us in Finland or. I spoke recently by phone -- former CIA director Robert Gates. Do you saying no our own reflection. From horror of war rose when he left. -- You know I think he volunteered afterward. All the evidence that I've seen would suggest that. The CIA didn't want to believe that there was yet another trader in its -- but there was simply too much evidence pointing in that direction. CIA operations in the Soviet Union were undergoing a meltdown. But for some reason that is still unclear mid level officials -- the agency who were aware of the scope of the disaster chose not to share that information. Not with the White House or the FBI not with -- either intelligence committee in congress. Not even -- their own superiors at the CIA.

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

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