INT: Tell me why you decided to give information to the Soviet Union. Explain as succinctly as you can - a difficult question, I know, but one that we have to face, and we have to get an answer from you that will impact upon an ordinary audience - tell us what your reasons were, and how you came to those reasons.
04:35:10 AA: Well, the reasons that I did what I did in April of 1985, were personal, banal, and amounted really to kind of greed and folly. As simple as that. The ability to decide to do that in order to make some quick and easy money, at very low risk... and doing very little damage, because at that time, in April, I saw a limit to what I was giving, as kind of... as almost like a scam I was running on the KGB, by giving them people that I knew were their double agents fed to us. My ability to do that... had been formed by my sense... the various forms in which I felt professionally, politically alienated, or... and upset with what was going on in the United States, in the Agency, in the DO, in the Soviet division at the time. But it was a matter of pursuing an intensely personal agenda, of trying to make some money that I felt I needed very badly, and in a sense that I felt at the time, one of terrible desperation. I mean, you might as well ask why a middle-aged man with no criminal record might go and put a paper bag over his head and rob a bank. I mean, it's that kind of dramatic, and perhaps interesting, but when you get right down to it, kind of banal answer.
INT: How strong was taboo, as it were, in your mind?
04:37:48 AA: Well, that's an interesting point, because, to the extent that a taboo operated, what I've talked about as the preconditioning or the enabling ideas I had about how it didn't do any harm, how it didn't help the Soviet Union in a geopolitical sense... these beliefs and ideas that I had had and developed over a long time, they enabled me to act, out of personal desperation, as if there were no taboo against it, in running my little scam in April '85: "Give me $50,000 - here's some names of some people we've recruited." And of course, I knew that these were really harmless, because these were guys the KGB had sent to us. I assumed that they'd be happy to pay the 50,000 because I was a CIA officer, and it was cheap - you know, they'd pay them anything, you know. If said, you know, "Here's my bank account number," you know, "Put $50,000 in it," they would do it. So there was that. So that was the plan, and the taboo didn't operate as I felt it at the time. But of course there is a taboo; the taboo is what we talked about as the nature of espionage, which I was doing in a different role than I had before, which is the betrayal of trust, and that carries a heavy taboo.
05:01:02 INT: You've explained... and I'm not going to be in a position in this film to go into the question, because there is a dispute, and I do not intend to get involved in it, as to what was in the very first information that you gave, because the material in Petersburg... about the Soviet view of it being slightly different. But let us therefore, as it were detaching ourselves from the nuts and bolts of what's in one conversation and what's in another conversation... at a certain point, early on, a decision is taken by you to name the names, and I wonder first of all whether or not you could explain... would it be possible for you to have got your money, and told them political stuff, and sort of Reagan's (red in?) tooth and claw, and solved your financial needs, but stopped short of doing the thing for which you've been pilloried? I mean, did you consider these questions? And if so...
05:02:06 AA: There is no question that that could have been done, that I could have stopped it after they paid me the $50,000. I wouldn't even have had to go on to do more than I already had, just the double agents' names that I gave. ... and the reason that I didn't stop will forever be... inexplicable to me, as well as I suppose to everyone else. The idea of a taboo fits into it in a way. The KGB would have been happy to have planted the one little hook; they wouldn't have pressured me, they wouldn't have tried to blackmail me into doing more. They would have sat back and said, you know, "What brought him to us first will bring him again." I wasn't afraid of any pressure from the Soviet side. But... what happened after I got the $50,000... I think, was the realization that despite my ideas and beliefs that there was nothing really damaging in all of this, which I continue to subscribe to, had overlooked the element of betrayal, the taboo; that, granted, I hadn't given away agents who would suffer; I hadn't given away information that would, in my view or in practically anyone's, really do any serious damage. I had received some money... but the taboo, the betrayal - I trafficked with the devil. This I hadn't factored in. And I am not trying to present myself, in April or May or June, as a fully rational person - I wasn't. ... but I hadn't, in the kinds of calculations I had been making, I hadn't taken that into account. And what happened to me in May, when I got the money, the burden in a sense of it descended on me, and the realization of what I had done. And it led me then to make the further step, which in a sense was to cast myself into it, which meant an unreserved offer of loyalty, if you will, a change of loyalties. I mean, it's not particularly ideological or political, but much more personal in that sense: a change of loyalties, in which I said, "I'm yours. I've cast myself out, and I realize what I've done to myself, and I don't... you know, I don't belong here anymore, I belong there." And that's what I did, and that's when I gave the names, under that really... again inexplicable in so many ways, in an irrational sense. And at that point, to the extent that I considered the personal burden of harming the people who had trusted me, or me by extension, plus the Agency, or the United States. I wasn't processing that, I wasn't processing that. I thought about it, and I'm sure I must have thought in terms of "These guys will actually be OK in certain ways, because of their need to protect me,", but that was about as far as I went in terms of giving that consideration. In stepping back from my frame of mind in those days, and looking at it more objectively some years later, I can say that they took similar risks, that the risks we took were similar. Now we were dealing in different systems and what not, but they chose to betray, for reasons of their own, people who had trusted them, just I did that. So, vis-a-vis the individuals - General Polyakov and others - I feel that way. The human costs to their families, you know, is something that can't be so easily put to the side, can't be put to the side in that way. They didn't undertake those risks, as my family didn't undertake mine.
INT: Can you remember the moment at which you went the stage beyond the innocuous names to the nocuous ones? Can you remember that?
05:08:23 AA: Well, in a general way, as I've said, you know, I compiled a list and ... together with documents, and delivered them... feeling that I was completing something I'd started, that I had not had the original intent to do, but realizing that this was a completion.
INT: Did you have any kind of discussion or negotiation with the KGB about the terms upon which you were giving those names, in terms of their fate? Did you have any kind of conversation?
INT: Can you tell me about that?
AA: No, we never had the conversation because until...
(Interruption - request for full answer, etc)
05:09:38 AA: We never discussed the issue of what would be done with the names. ... in the first place, because until I visited Bogota in the... winter of '85, I really didn't have a personal meeting with anyone to discuss it with. An exchange of notes and I never asked about how they intended to handle it, and they never explained that to me. There continued to be throughout the whole period, I think, a feeling of reticence on both sides, in terms of not wanting to appear to push or press the other, and there was a feeling of professional respect involved, in which they didn't tell me and I didn't tell them. ... that is to say, I didn't feel - it sounds strange to be putting it this way - I didn't feel that I could put any conditions on what I was doing, and I never did. And I think, from their side, they never... well, it's not exactly analogous to say that they never put conditions on what we were doing, but there was no atmosphere or feeling in our relations, whether in passing notes back and forth, or in the times that we conversed, there was no atmosphere of obligation and horse-trading or anything like that. the atmosphere was one of personal and professional respect and understanding that was remarkable. I can look back and say there are some things I should have pressed, and I'm sure they can look back and say there are some things they should have pressed, too, because, for example, I mean, it's a commonplace that case officers worry about how agents use their money, and, you know, I'm sure they look back and they can say, "Well, you know, we asked, we asked if he was taking care of the money and not doing anything... obtrusive with it, and he assured us, and he's a pro and he knows," and... you know, and I'm sure they can look back and say, "Boy, we really should have pressed him, or tried to press him on that a little." , so there is that. But in essence, what we had was an extremely frank and professional relationship.
INT: Did you... and again, bear in mind that I'm coming to this from having gone through these questions already, and so... this line of questioning takes place within the context of having had to discuss this with other people in a similar position, rather than coming to you cold, as it were. Because, of course, Blake went into this question with his case officer, and that is discussed in the film by both of them. Did you, in giving the names - and again I'm moving past the point of the innocuous ones - did you, from your own professional experience, have a picture, if you like, of the implications? And I don't mean by this simply the bullet in the back of the head and the unmarked grave aspects of it, but if you like the judicial processes that might be applied in these sorts of cases. I'm interested, for instance, that as far as I can tell, neither of the books go into this matter with you, but it's of great interest to me, and we checked up before this interview on how the actual law of the Soviet Union stood in those days vis-a-vis espionage cases under the statute book. Now I'm curious to know whether or not you had a picture in your own mind of the likely fate, the likely outcome of the process of giving names. Can you tell me? Again, you have to self-start.
05:14:54 AA: I knew quite well, when I gave the names of our agents in the Soviet Union, that I was exposing them to the full machinery of counterespionage and the law, and then prosecution, and capital punishment, certainly, in the case of KGB and GRU officers who would be tried in a military court, and certainly others, that they were almost all at least potentially liable to capital punishment. There's simply no question about this. Now... I believed that the KGB with the support of the political leadership, would want to keep it very much under wraps, and I felt at the time that not only for the overriding reason, practical reason of protecting me, they would also find it useful to cover up the fact, the embarrassing fact of who so many of these people were, and that this would all have a somewhat dampening effect on the results of the compromise. But of course you know, given time and circumstances, obviously these folks I knew would have to answer for what they'd done. And certainly I inured myself against, you know, a reaction to that. The only thing I ever withheld from the KGB... were the names of two agents whom I personally had known and handled and had a particular feeling for. So, obviously... obviously I was feeling something; I distinguished two agents from all the rest, on the basis of my personal feelings. Later, after the compromises, when I was in Rome, feeling that, for particular reasons, these folks would not be persecuted, much less prosecuted, I did give the KGB their names, but I felt confident when I did that, that the consequences to them would not be significant, and they have not been. But it is important to at least recognize in retrospect that while a number of the agents that I compromised were executed others were treated with relative leniency. At least one KGB officer only got 15 years, and of course later released under the amnesty, and traveled to the United States, where he lives. Now this is a KGB officer who worked in place for the FBI and the CIA. So I knew that there were many twists and turns in the Soviet criminal process here, and that while many would be exposed to capital punishment, and would be executed - I never doubted that - the question of the... kind of the blanket thing didn't apply. And at the same time, I certainly understood. I certainly understood. I had the view that despite the enormous illegalities and injustices of the Soviet system I could quite easily see how the Soviet legal system, which was a legal system that had standards and strictures, and this and that and the other thing it was not impossible to analogize it with our own, or with British justice for that matter. Now I'm not talking about the dreaded question of relativism here - I'm talking about a simple appreciation, as a counterintelligence officer, for how things work in another system. This in a sense helped to inure my own feelings, this kind of understanding, just as a member of the jury in this country, or a prosecutor, or an FBI agent investigating a lead, can inure themselves to the personal consequences of what's going to happen to the person they're investigating. you know, it's a matter of process. And so there was an aspect of that which helped me to distance those effects.