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Get the Mole!

How CIA agent Sandra Grimes took down the traitor in her own organization.


You might feel like a bigshot for taking down the vermin in your yard, but former CIA agent Sandra Grimes can claim one better.

She’s the agent who helped capture Aldrich Hazen Ames, one of the most dangerous moles operating within the CIA during the Cold War. At the time of his arrest in 1994, Ames had been with the CIA for 31 years. His nuanced understanding of Russian intelligence services earned him a coveted position in the Agency’s Soviet/East European Division. It was here in 1985 that he first encountered undercover KGB officers, and secretly agreed to spy for the USSR.

Soon thereafter, the CIA sensed a leak. But how? Whom? The Agency assembled a team of special agents to investigate the case, including Sandra Grimes. Clues kept pointing to a spectacled guy in Langley, Virginia by the name of Ames. What tipped them off? Well, for starters, despite his modest government salary, Ames had been living like royalty. Cue theme music to Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous:CIA Edition:

•  Ames lived in a $540,000 home, which he paid for in cash

•  Every morning, Ames arrived to work in a $50,000 Jaguar sports car

•  The officer wore sharp, tailored suits that replaced his original thrift store wardrobe and put those outfits of his colleagues to shame

•  Ames’ monthly phone bills exceeded $6,000

Field surveillance and tapped phone conversations revealed a treasure trove of evidence that linked Ames to the Soviet Union. In 1994, after Grimes and her team observed Ames traveling to Colombia and covertly meeting with a KGB officer on the CIA’s dime, they moved in to make their collar.

It was estimated that Ames’ treasonous activities compromised at least 100 U.S. intelligence operations and led to the ousting and execution of 10 American sources by the KGB. Ames was ordered to forfeit all assets to the U.S. Government, including the Jaguar. He is currently serving life in prison without possibility of parole.

Agent Grimes, by contrast, fared much better. Soon after her apprehension of Ames, she retired from the CIA. She has since co-authored a book with fellow agent Jeanne Vertefeuille entitled, Circle of Treason: A CIA Account of Traitor Aldrich Ames and the Men He Betrayed. And earlier this year, ABC aired a show called The Assets, an eight-part spy thriller miniseries inspired by her hunt for the CIA turncoat.

[via the FBI]

Courtesy of Getty/David Burnett of Newsmakers