Being a spy certainly isn’t the easiest job in the world, and in general it’s tough to secure a job in an agency like the Central Intelligence Agency. A top-notch education, being physically fit, and a taste for danger are just some of the many criteria for obtaining a job as a spy for most major national intelligence agencies.
And yet, even the CIA flubs from time to time. Sometimes mistakes happen and events evolve outside of even the best spy’s control. Other times, general incompetence and laziness can be observed. And still other times, agents were simply sleeping at the wheel (computer?)
1. Agent Turned Double Agent Turned Triple Agent
The Soviet Union and United States were arch nemesis to the max. They represented competing ideologies, and for a time the world was largely divided between the Soviet Union and the United States. So given this massive rivalry, the United States must have kept a close eye on the Soviet Union, right?
For example, the Soviet embassy in Washington D.C. must have been closely watched day and night by CIA agents and others. Anyone going in and out would have obviously been closely monitored. In a world run by common sense? Yes, but for the CIA common sense doesn’t always come easy.
When the CIA decided to have an agent infiltrate the Soviet embassy by acting as a double agent, they decided to choose Aldrich Ames. Only problem, Ames was a drunk womanizer who was heavily indebted. So when the Soviets offered him $50,000 in exchange for information, he sold out.
The CIA knew, it was all part of the plan, after all. What they didn’t know was that as the USSR handed Ames more and more money, Ames started selling valuable, real secrets, and especially the identity of CIA agents.
In 1985, American CIA assets started rapidly disappearing. The CIA was alarmed by the disappearances, but instead of consider the possibility of a mole, they figured that the Soviets had gotten a bug in somewhere, or broken a code, or something like that. It never occurred to them that Ames, who was “infiltrating” the Soviet embassy with their knowledge, might actually be a triple agent.
For years, the CIA was unable to figure out that Ames was the mole giving away assets. The USSR even planted fake information through another mole to throw the CIA off Ames trails. Ames kept selling and assets kept disappearing. Finally, after a time Ames unexplainable wealth finally drew suspicions.
After wiretapping Ames and investigating him with other methods, U.S. authorities finally connected the dots. An estimated 100 people had already been compromised, and at least 10 American sources.