(A bit of preliminary talk)

10:01:24 INTERVIEWER: I wanted to begin by asking you to tell me about what appears to me, from what I've read and heard, is a disillusionment within you about the CIA, and I'm speaking about this and asking you to talk about it, not, as it were, looking for a non-personal, money motive in your actions, but just as an intelligence officer living and working through the period of the Cold War. You seemed to be, later on, not the guy with the same sort of intellectual standpoint to do with your work and to do with the environment in which you were working, as you were at the very beginning, and I wanted you to tell me about the disillusionment and what its reasons were, and how you started to see the work that you were engaged in.

10:02:16 ALDRICH AMES: I think that.. I came into the Agency with a set of ideas and attitudes that were quite typical of people coming into the Agency at that time and earlier. You could call it "liberal anti-communism", if you will, in which the anti-Communist [sic], tracing to a very strong anti-Stalinist attitude way back, was a very important component in the nature of the struggle, the need to counter Soviet subversion; all of these things collapsed together, but from a strong liberal or even progressive sort of tradition. And many of the people in the Agency in the early days reflected this standpoint; and my father was very much of this stripe, and I took that on board and brought it in with me as well. this tended to fade over time, and from the purely political point of view, I became personally more alienated, or let's put it this way: felt myself to be very much out of tune with the overall sort of political views of most of my colleagues in the Agency. But I shouldn't overstate this - I mean, there's quite a diversity of political views, and not everyone in the Agency became a Nixonian Republican and later a Reaganite. Not at all. But, by the same token, the general shift of the country, of the political tone of the country to the right that took place after the mid- to late Sixties, was something that impacted on my views a great deal, and I felt that shift to the right very intensely. When Reagan was elected, and Bill Casey took the Agency over, I felt very strongly that the Agency had crossed a small river in the political sense, and had gone much more into the service of a political tendency in the country with which I had already felt very strong disagreement. So that's the sort of personal political comment. In my professional work with the Agency, by the late Seventies, I had come to question the value of a great deal of what we were doing, in terms of the intelligence agency's overall charter, and to question whether this was having any significant impact on American policy and my own work, which was primarily espionage, to whether we were doing anything that resulted in anything useful. These ideas about the professional aspect of the espionage collection in its eventual application in terms of what we call the intelligence product or finished intelligence that's supposed to provide a basis for policy-makers, I found... I began to doubt whether the process functioned in a very useful way, and I saw this reflected on my own level in terms of the espionage, the collection from human sources, from human agents that I had become deeply involved in. And by the early Eighties, when I moved into a new job in the counterintelligence branch, in the Soviet division, and of course, there can be self-fulfilling prophecies in this, in that I discovered that my growing misgivings were even truer than I had thought, and I found myself looking around me at the history of our Soviet espionage program... with some amazement and some feeling that my earlier doubts had been confirmed in spades.


INT: Can I ask you to be quite concrete? You don't need to stray into cases of any kind or (unclear words). It is much more this question... tell us, as sort of directly and succinctly as possible, what your misgivings were. What, when you sat there in your new job, did you find yourself thinking about?

10:08:50 AA: Well, I found that... and again, most of this had roots in my own experience before that... I found that, for example... our Soviet espionage efforts had virtually never, or had very seldom, produced any worthwhile political or economic intelligence on the Soviet Union; that what we had, what we acquired through espionage in, we did a little better on some technical... on some weapons and defense things, but these were spotty, these were fortuitous: Tolkachev, who came and insisted on giving us material despite our initial fears;... that our espionage efforts simply were not productive, except in one area - as a strange set of circumstances, in the counterintelligence area they were extremely successful for a variety of reasons, the tendency of a few KGB and GRU officers over the years to come and volunteer to us. This meant a tremendous counterintelligence production. But as far as the kind of information that contributes to intelligence assessments, it was very, very little. I had been involved in probably the only... at least up until the mid-Eighties, close to the only two cases that produced information, valuable information on Soviet foreign policy. This is the Trigon case and Shevchenko; both of those sources produced quite a quantity of extremely interesting and secret information about the Soviet Foreign Ministry, and Foreign Ministry documents, if you will. These were both extremely important cases, considered extremely important cases; were treated as such. And being familiar with the reporting, it seemed to me that they said a great deal about Soviet foreign policy in certain areas, and that this could easily be reflected in the intelligence assessments and perhaps even in the decisions made by American policy-makers. And I found that, despite the fact that... word had it that Secretary Kissinger, at the time the Secretary of State, himself read the raw reporting, the documents and everything that one of these sources produced of course they were closely held because they were so sensitive, but in speaking with analysts later who worked in the area of Soviet foreign policy, none of this made it into intelligence production, no matter how closely held, that seemed to me to result in any better understanding or a better... in any... that they were useful to policy-makers in any particular way. In fact, what they did was, they undercut the bases of American policy, both of these sources, demonstrated... to the extent that their materials could support it, demonstrated a rather ad hoc defensive approach from Gromyko and Brezhnev and the Soviet foreign policy establishment at the time, improvising, ad hoc, or worrying, defensive, not the secret master plan for world conquest that was so much at issue in the late Seventies, when many people, including policy-makers, took the view that the West was under a new coordinated aggressive assault, and these materials ten... just simply not only didn't support it, but tended to contradict it. These were the kinds of things. Also it appeared to me that the difficulties of conducting espionage against the Soviet Union in the Soviet Union, were such that historically the Agency had backed away from the task. There are so many other things a large, a vast intelligence espionage organization can do to justify its existence, that can produce something, whether it's in the form of covert action or acquiring information on Italian politics, or recruiting senior officials in Central Africa, that people can get promotions for and produce reams of reports and find a consumer for, that my own guess, which I would never pretend to try to defend rigorously, is that maybe 10% of the Directorate of Operations -, resources, people, money, effort, attention - went to espionage against the Soviet Union, that it was all directed somewhere else, because it could pay, it could result in results. It might even influence American policy, if it were good enoug

10:17:18 INT: That's very interesting. I mean, I get an impression - I may be completely wrong, but... - that there's almost a consistency throughout the Cold War, that the information that comes out on politics, when it comes out, generally tends to downplay grand Soviet strategies, big plans, world domination; and when it does come out as world domination, it's seen as a bit of bluster and bluff from a dangerous loose cannon like (Overlap - unclear name)...

10:17:45 AA: (Overlap) There's a great deal to that. Now historians of the Cold War are going to be getting into that in a very interesting way in the future, and we already have a good deal of that. I think, if you were to ask people on the former Soviet side, they would have a similar view, because the political conviction and the ideological and defensive bases of Soviet policy were simply founded upon an intensely planned, staged and aggressive campaign by the encircling capitalist countries, and that intelligence information obtained by the KGB or anyone else - much less those wimps in the Foreign Ministry - would simply be downgraded, downplayed.

INT: Do you think that... because one of the things that's interesting about the period of time the early Eighties, when you start to see the extent of penetration of the Soviet, primarily military and intelligence...

AA: Intelligence, I would say.