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1994: CIA double agent jailed for life
Former CIA agent Aldrich Ames has admitted selling secrets to the Soviet Union and then Russia, in what is regarded as one of the most damaging spy cases in US history.

The court in Arlington, Virginia, sentenced Ames to life imprisonment without parole, despite his agreement to a last-minute plea bargain to save his wife, Rosario, who also faces charges.

US officials said there could be no leniency for Ames, known to the KGB by his code name of "Kolokol" ("The Bell"). His actions are thought to have led to the deaths of at least 10 US agents in the former Soviet Union.

The KGB... had set aside for me $2 million in gratitude for the information
CIA double agent Aldrich Ames

The former head of the CIA's Soviet operations, Ames is the highest-ranking CIA official ever to be exposed as a double-agent.

His arrest in February sent shockwaves through the US intelligence community, and the CIA's director, R James Woolsey, admitted last week that a number of other CIA officials have been placed under investigation.

In an eight-page statement he read to the court, Ames said he began providing the KGB with the names of CIA spies in April 1985, seeking money to pay debts.

He received an initial payment of $50,000.

A few months later, he said, he volunteered information to the KGB identifying virtually all the CIA's spies in the Soviet Union.

"To my enduring surprise," he went on, "the KGB replied that it had set aside for me $2 million in gratitude for the information."

Lavish lifestyle

Mr Ames admitted to receiving a total of about $2.5 million from the Soviet Union during the nine years he acted as double agent.

He spent the money on a lavish lifestyle, including a new Jaguar car, foreign holidays and a new $540,000 house.

He never attempted to hide his spending, although his CIA salary was never higher than $70,000 a year.

In his statement, Ames expressed his bitter regret at what he had done. "No punishment by this court can balance or ease the profound shame and guilt I bear," he said.

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Aldrich Ames
Double agent Aldrich Ames was sentenced to life imprisonment

In Context
The number of Western agents betrayed by Ames is now thought to be about 25.

At least 10 were executed, including General Dmitri Polyakov, a senior official in Soviet army intelligence, who had supplied information to the West for more than 20 years.

In 1995 the CIA presented Congress with a devastating internal assessment of the period covered by Ames's operations as a double agent.

The CIA's inspector-general recommended reprimands for up to a dozen officials who may have passed on suspect intelligence to the White House.

Aldrich Ames continues to serve out his life sentence.

In 1996, he filed a legal action against the Internal Revenue Service, which was claiming almost half a million dollars in back tax owed on the $2.5 million paid to Ames by the KGB.

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