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Spy defends betrayals on “Nightline” interview

February 12, 1997

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Aldrich Ames said contended Tuesday night that he caused ``no significant damage″ to national security of the United States when he revealed to the Soviet Union the identifies of dozens of Soviets spying for America.

Nonetheless, the one-time CIA counterintelligence officer said in an interview on ABC-TV’s nightline, he will always feel a personal remorse about betraying his country.

``I do maintain that ... no significant damage to our national security interest occurred,″ he said in the televised interview of the U.S. Penitentiary at Allenwood, Pa.

But he acknowledged that ``tremendous damage was done to the agency’s institutional framework, the institution’s operations and most importantly to a lot of people.″

The FBI arrested Ames in 1994 for feeding the Soviets dozens of names of Soviets spying for the United States, ten of whom were later executed, in exchange for more than $1 million in cash. Ames eventually pleaded guilty and is now serving a life sentence without the chance for parole.

The Ames interview coincides with the limited release Tuesday of ``Confessions of a Spy,″ a book former Washington Post writer Pete Earley wrote after 17 private interviews with Ames in an Alexandria, Va., jail before he was sent to Allenwood.

Ames defended double-crossing a Soviet agent he had befriended, saying he ``believed at the time I gave him up ... that there was no serious risk to him.″ The spy managed to elude execution.

Equally defiant Tuesday night was Ames’ wife, Rosario, also interviewed during the show from the prison where she is serving a five-year sentence for conspiracy. Rosario Ames said she feels ``shock and outrage″ that her husband ``betrayed his country.″

``You don’t betray your mother, you don’t betray your country, you don’t betray your wife, you don’t betray people,″ Rosario Ames said.

But she said she also is indignant that the FBI bugged her family’s home and car in its 18 months of investigation. ``To know that your privacy, your most intimate life has been, you know, like, spied upon so long. That’s the thing I haven’t gotten over yet,″ she said.

The one show of emotion came when Ames was asked how he will explain everything to his 8-year-old son, Paul, now living with his mother’s family.

``That kind of explanation, that kind of understanding, that kind of communication is going to have to wait for a while ... until Rosario gets home,″ said a moist-eyed Ames. ``And it’s at that point that she and Paul move on with life.″

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