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Retired CIA Insider Discusses Cold War Treason

By NIU Library Staff

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“To General Polyakov — And to the others — Who were executed or imprisoned — And to their families.”  

So begins retired CIA officers Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille’s “Circle of Treason: A CIA Account of Traitor Aldrich Ames and the Men He Betrayed,” an insider portrayal of the take-down of one of the most destructive moles in CIA history. Recently, Grimes spoke to an audience at the National Intelligence University John T. Hughes Library about the book. 

During their tenure at CIA, Grimes and Vertefeuille were tasked with running KGB, the former Soviet secret police organization, and GRU, the Soviet chief intelligence directorate, operations at the height of the Cold War. In 1985, they watched as some of the highest ranking assets working for them within the KGB were arrested and executed by the Soviets. They assumed these losses were due to either a mole in the agency, or interception of communications by the Soviets. At the time, however, they were unable to determine what was going on. In the early 1990s, the CIA put together a team that included Grimes and Vertefeuille to investigate the incidents. Through tireless research, this team uncovered Ames’ treachery.  

Grimes explained the motivation for writing the book was not only to give an insider account of the events that led up to Ames’ arrest, but also as a tribute to those whose lives were lost. She emphasized “it’s all about our assets” and argued the agency failed to keep them safe and that they owed the families an explanation.  

In the question-and-answer session that followed, audience members asked Grimes to describe the investigation process in more detail. She discussed the unorthodox way the team narrowed down their suspects, what made them most suspicious of their friend and colleague “Rick” Ames, and the painstaking forensic research they conducted to prove that Ames was the culprit. 

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