Ex-KGB Officer Blames Moscow for Blowing Ames’ Cover
MOSCOW (AP) _ A former Soviet spy who says he recruited Aldrich Ames accused the KGB of exposing the CIA official by arresting the clandestine American intelligence agents he identified.
Retired Col. Viktor Cherkashin praised Ames’ ``courage″ and blamed the Russian government for neglecting Ames and his family since he was sent to prison for life for spying.
Cherkashin’s comments published in the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper Saturday appeared to be Moscow’s first confirmation that Ames worked for the Soviet Union.
Ames, former chief of the CIA’s Soviet-East Europe counterintelligence branch, and his wife Rosario pleaded guilty in 1994 to spying for the Soviet Union in the most damaging espionage case in U.S. history.
The Soviet Union paid him $2.5 million for revealing secret information from 1985 to 1994, including the identities of U.S. agents. He is blamed for the deaths of at least nine U.S. agents in the Soviet Union, and for disclosing U.S. counterintelligence techniques.
Cherkashin said he was awarded the Order of Lenin in 1986 for recruiting Ames while he was deputy KGB station chief in Washington.
Cherkashin dismissed CIA allegations that Ames’ exposure was prompted by his luxurious lifestyle, which included a red Jaguar and lavish spending.
The CIA could only have traced him through Moscow’s mistakes or through an American mole in the KGB or top Soviet leadership, Cherkashin said.
He said the KGB was ``unnecessarily hasty″ in arresting and executing the clandestine American agents identified by Ames, without providing a cover for him.
``He knew about that and was seriously concerned,″ Cherkashin said.
He said the CIA was slow to catch Ames because its efforts were deterred by former CIA officer Edward Lee Howard’s escape to Moscow in 1985, as the FBI investigated him for spying for the Soviet Union.
``Americans were distracted, as they had to check the circumstances of the case,″ Cherkashin said.
Cherkashin said news reports portraying Ames as ``not very bright, prone to all vices, not loved and not respected by anyone″ were wrong.
``Ames was a man of great self-control and courage,″ he said.
Cherkashin also urged the Russian government to approach the U.S. authorities to help Ames.
``They must work on that,″ he said, ``In any case, they shouldn’t leave Ames’ family without help.″