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Circle of Treason: A CIA Account of Traitor Aldrich Ames and the Men He Betrayed

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Circle of Treason Circle of Treason details the authors' personal involvement in the hunt for and eventual identification of a Soviet mole in the CIA during the 1980s and 1990s. The search for the presumed traitor was necessitated by the loss of almost all of the CIA's large stable of Soviet intelligence officers working for the United States against their homeland. Aldric Circle of Treason Circle of Treason details the authors' personal involvement in the hunt for and eventual identification of a Soviet mole in the CIA during the 1980s and 1990s. The search for the presumed traitor was necessitated by the loss of almost all of the CIA's large stable of Soviet intelligence officers working for the United States against their homeland. Aldrich Ames, a long-time acquaintance and co-wor... Full description


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Circle of Treason Circle of Treason details the authors' personal involvement in the hunt for and eventual identification of a Soviet mole in the CIA during the 1980s and 1990s. The search for the presumed traitor was necessitated by the loss of almost all of the CIA's large stable of Soviet intelligence officers working for the United States against their homeland. Aldric Circle of Treason Circle of Treason details the authors' personal involvement in the hunt for and eventual identification of a Soviet mole in the CIA during the 1980s and 1990s. The search for the presumed traitor was necessitated by the loss of almost all of the CIA's large stable of Soviet intelligence officers working for the United States against their homeland. Aldrich Ames, a long-time acquaintance and co-wor... Full description

30 review for Circle of Treason: A CIA Account of Traitor Aldrich Ames and the Men He Betrayed

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jill Mackin

    An excellent account of the hunt for Aldrich Ames. I love that the two CIA officers assigned to the case were females. Ames is serving life in prison and rightly so.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    So how cool is it that one of the most infamous spies in US history was caught by a group of CIA agents led by two women? Yep. That cool. I first heard about the women leading the team in the International Spy Museum (go to it), and that made me pick up this audio book when it was one sale. It is very gripping. While Ames is the centerpiece, there is information about both women and how they conducted their careers. Additionally, there is a nice analysis of how stupidly Congress responded. Reall So how cool is it that one of the most infamous spies in US history was caught by a group of CIA agents led by two women? Yep. That cool. I first heard about the women leading the team in the International Spy Museum (go to it), and that made me pick up this audio book when it was one sale. It is very gripping. While Ames is the centerpiece, there is information about both women and how they conducted their careers. Additionally, there is a nice analysis of how stupidly Congress responded. Really worth reading or listening too.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    The "mole" is an insidious exotic creature, a betrayer of trust and indirect slayer of his victims. The treason of Aldrich "Rick" Ames, the selfless investigators who tracked him down, and the ups and downs of how they did it are well and ably described in this long awaited book. The authors, Jeanne Vertefeuille and Sandra Grimes were at the center of the CIA's counterintelligence effort from beginning to end and personally suffered the vicissitudes of the multi-year task but never flagged in th The "mole" is an insidious exotic creature, a betrayer of trust and indirect slayer of his victims. The treason of Aldrich "Rick" Ames, the selfless investigators who tracked him down, and the ups and downs of how they did it are well and ably described in this long awaited book. The authors, Jeanne Vertefeuille and Sandra Grimes were at the center of the CIA's counterintelligence effort from beginning to end and personally suffered the vicissitudes of the multi-year task but never flagged in their efforts. Both are veterans of the Cold War CIA and bona fide experts on the KGB. Several books, some good, some bad, have been published on the Ames case, but until now none has provided the inside information and accurate rendering of the story. Vertefeuille and Grimes quite rightly, and for the first time, give pride of place in the story to the individual agents who died, penetrations of the KGB, GRU, and other Soviet entities. The story of GRU General Dmitriy Fedorovich Polyakov, who worked for the CIA for 20 years until he was betrayed by Ames, is especially touching. The respect CIA officers hold for such agents is brilliantly explained in this one-of-a-kind tour de force. The very real dismay upon learning of the brutal deaths of the people betrayed by Ames is palpable. Operational details, the personalities involved on both sides, and the bureaucratic struggles of the authors are quite frankly breathtaking. No espionage novel, not even fine ones, such as Le Carre's "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," come even close to the complexities involved in this real-life drama. This book is a must read for anyone interested in espionage, the KGB, the Cold War, or counterintelligence.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alicia Brooks

    For a book that could have been a fascinating cat and mouse capture the spy underneath our noses, it was an incredibly dry read. Far too much minutiae detailing of the day to day.

  5. 4 out of 5

    John

    I am not usually into these books written by people who have passed through CIA, FBI, or other government agencies. However, this book I think is told with humility and after a long fight to allow enough factual information to make it compelling and informative. It is a timely insight into the clandestine spying activities of the CIA, as the Soviet animal tries to resurrect itself into what is more recognizable as our old, cold-war enemy. Well-written and easy to read, I recommend it highly.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    To read this book is to enter a dense thicket of spycraft, bureaucratese,Russian names and a zig-zagging chronology. My eyes glazed over, but I'm glad the two clever CIA women bagged their prey. Of course, they did the lion's share of the work and certain men took the lion's share of the credit. So what else is new? To read this book is to enter a dense thicket of spycraft, bureaucratese,Russian names and a zig-zagging chronology. My eyes glazed over, but I'm glad the two clever CIA women bagged their prey. Of course, they did the lion's share of the work and certain men took the lion's share of the credit. So what else is new?

  7. 5 out of 5

    Marc Liebman

    Book was fascinating. It brought to life the enormity of damage done to the U.S.'s ability to gather information about the Soviet Union (and now Russia) by Aldrich Ames. The process to find and document his treason took longer than suspected because no believe the spy was internal. Once they started looking, Ames popped to the top of the list. Book was fascinating. It brought to life the enormity of damage done to the U.S.'s ability to gather information about the Soviet Union (and now Russia) by Aldrich Ames. The process to find and document his treason took longer than suspected because no believe the spy was internal. Once they started looking, Ames popped to the top of the list.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    Obviously, you can't have even the most marginal interest in Cold War espionage matters without knowing the name Aldrich Ames. As those following my reviews might have noticed, I have a somewhat more than marginal interest in that particular subject. Thus, while I was familiar with a lot of Ames's story as well as those of many of the agents whose deaths can be laid at his doorstep, this book detailing the hunt for Ames written by the two female CIA officers who led the team that finally uncover Obviously, you can't have even the most marginal interest in Cold War espionage matters without knowing the name Aldrich Ames. As those following my reviews might have noticed, I have a somewhat more than marginal interest in that particular subject. Thus, while I was familiar with a lot of Ames's story as well as those of many of the agents whose deaths can be laid at his doorstep, this book detailing the hunt for Ames written by the two female CIA officers who led the team that finally uncovered his identity and saw to his arrest has been on my TBR for quite some time. Despite it not telling me all that much I didn't already know from a variety of other sources, definitely an interesting read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Eric Puente

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Great (true) account of 2 determined women finding a mole. It was a bit hard to follow at times for me....with the take down details held until the end. I would have liked it better if some of the mole hunting was sprinkled in the beginning and middle, while we were learning about assets being compromised.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    This book was written by two members of the CIA task force that identified Aldrich Ames as the KGB mole who had betrayed numerous double agents in the period between 1985 and 1994. I had high expectations for this book, but they were disappointed. The first part consists of career biographies of Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille- of very limited interest. Then there are pages and pages of overviews of the careers of the moles who were betrayed by Rick Ames and were recalled to the USSR and ex This book was written by two members of the CIA task force that identified Aldrich Ames as the KGB mole who had betrayed numerous double agents in the period between 1985 and 1994. I had high expectations for this book, but they were disappointed. The first part consists of career biographies of Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille- of very limited interest. Then there are pages and pages of overviews of the careers of the moles who were betrayed by Rick Ames and were recalled to the USSR and executed. This was interesting reading, because it provided a good overview of the types of KGB and GRU officers that would consent to spy for the USA. But all these mini-biographies followed the same pattern, and it became rather monotonous reading. You are halfway through the book before it starts to focus in earnest on the hunt for the mole. And instead of being a lucid account of how the CIA/FBI moved from an observation (inexplicable unmasking of numerous spies in 1985-1986) to a hypothesis (there must be a high-ranking mole in the CIA) to an identification (Aldrich Ames is the man), the story is written in a very process-oriented way. Pages and pages are dedicated to the bureaucratic processes in the CIA, and dozens of people are introduced, only to disappear again after one or two mentions. There is much description of what happened, but not of why it happened and so I did not find it useful in reconstructing the thought process. There was much activity, but little productivity, it seems. At the end of the book, the authors are clearly defensive about being raked over the coals by Congress about why it took so long to identify Ames. And while I understand their frustration, I have to say that there was nothing in the book that really explained why it took so long.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    Why were so many agents in the USSR being compromised to the KGB and executed? Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille, longtime veterans of the CIA were in the forefront of a small group assigned to the mission, in early 1991 to expose the traitor (mole) in their midst. They give a detailed step by step account of the hunt and the arrest of Aldrich Ames. Ames was a 30 year veteran of the CIA and Directorate of Operations. They give credit to the people both CIA and FBI that worked with them on th Why were so many agents in the USSR being compromised to the KGB and executed? Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille, longtime veterans of the CIA were in the forefront of a small group assigned to the mission, in early 1991 to expose the traitor (mole) in their midst. They give a detailed step by step account of the hunt and the arrest of Aldrich Ames. Ames was a 30 year veteran of the CIA and Directorate of Operations. They give credit to the people both CIA and FBI that worked with them on the project. They also discuss some of the other traitors uncovered during the time. I found it interesting that in the beginning of the book it was revealed that both women were college graduates, spoke several languages, but the only jobs open in the CIA to women at the time was as typist and secretary. They were hired and had to work their way up as areas were opened to women as the years went by. As I am from the same time frame I was well aware of this problem. It is nice to have the note in passing, written in a book, cause a look back at how far women have come in the work place. The book reveals it was the tedious attention to detail and the following of the money that finally caught Ames. They note Ames was a man that thought women were of no value in the work place so it was great he was caught by two women. I am sure that a lot of information was censored by the CIA but this book is of interest to us history buffs. I read this book in audio book format. Janet Metzger did a good job narrating the book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ed Callahan

    I met Sandy Grimes years ago on a Sun Microsystems sales award trip to Vienna, around 1992 pr 1993. It is only when we all took a side trip to Budapest that we learned from her husband Gary that Sandy worked for the CIA. She stayed behind that day presumably because of the residual Soviet influence in Hungary. I heard about the book from Gary. I bought it because of the connection and the thought that finding out how real "mole hunters" worked would be interesting. It was. Unfortunately, the con I met Sandy Grimes years ago on a Sun Microsystems sales award trip to Vienna, around 1992 pr 1993. It is only when we all took a side trip to Budapest that we learned from her husband Gary that Sandy worked for the CIA. She stayed behind that day presumably because of the residual Soviet influence in Hungary. I heard about the book from Gary. I bought it because of the connection and the thought that finding out how real "mole hunters" worked would be interesting. It was. Unfortunately, the constraints of national security prevent Sandy and her co-author from being as forthcoming as possible and for that reason I thought the first half of the book was more filler than pertinent to the hunt and capture of Aldrich "Rick" Ames. A worthwhile read for all seeking insight into this strange world that exists around us.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Florence

    This is a fascinating insider's account of the CIA during the cold war and immediately after. It is focused on discovering the identity of Aldrich Ames, the infamous CIA traitor who provided information to the KGB for personal enrichment. Finding the mole took years of winnowing the list of suspects, painstaking tracking the eventual principle suspect's every movement and the tracing of his bank deposits. It also took more than a little bit of luck. Too bad the FBI claimed most of the credit! OK This is a fascinating insider's account of the CIA during the cold war and immediately after. It is focused on discovering the identity of Aldrich Ames, the infamous CIA traitor who provided information to the KGB for personal enrichment. Finding the mole took years of winnowing the list of suspects, painstaking tracking the eventual principle suspect's every movement and the tracing of his bank deposits. It also took more than a little bit of luck. Too bad the FBI claimed most of the credit! OK, so there is some discord between the two agencies. I was fortunate in being able to attend a presentation by the surviving author and retired CIA agent, Sandy Grimes, at the Virginia Book Festival this year. She is a consummate professional and a great reconteur.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Gabriel Schoenfeld

    This authoritative book contains many fascinating details about Ames's treachery and gives an excellent account of the CIA's part in the joint CIA/FBI investigation that identified and then nabbed him. Unfortunately, it is marred by needless and frequent repetitions of key facts and arguments. In the hands of a professional editor, it could have been a far better book. Still, the story is gripping and the book is highly informative. This authoritative book contains many fascinating details about Ames's treachery and gives an excellent account of the CIA's part in the joint CIA/FBI investigation that identified and then nabbed him. Unfortunately, it is marred by needless and frequent repetitions of key facts and arguments. In the hands of a professional editor, it could have been a far better book. Still, the story is gripping and the book is highly informative.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tracey

    I was a young Air Force officer when all this stuff was happening, so it kind of took me back to the days of my youth. The Sovs and the Eastern Bloc, oh my. The authors even mention towards the end about how the intelligence world was a lot simpler then - one big enemy who played by rules we understood.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jerry

    Some interesting stuff here, but a pretty amateurish piece of writing. Way too much irrelevant detail and obvious effort at CYA.

  17. 5 out of 5

    James Cobb

    Although the book centers around the Ames case, the insights into the CIA and FBI are more informative.

  18. 4 out of 5

    B.szoke

    A flawed, but fascinating look at the hunt for Aldrich Ames, written by two of the women who led the search for him. A fascinating look inside the world of the CIA and the actual day to day life within the agency. However, this book is definitely not without its downsides, namely the sometimes poor organization and flow of the narrative. The book begins with a look at the careers of each of the authors, which is great, and then meanders into a series of tangentially related case studies about so A flawed, but fascinating look at the hunt for Aldrich Ames, written by two of the women who led the search for him. A fascinating look inside the world of the CIA and the actual day to day life within the agency. However, this book is definitely not without its downsides, namely the sometimes poor organization and flow of the narrative. The book begins with a look at the careers of each of the authors, which is great, and then meanders into a series of tangentially related case studies about some of the men whom Ames sent to his death. The hunt for Ames doesn't actually begin until the halfway point of the book. In addition, the authors are somewhat inconsistent in how they refer to themselves, sometimes using "we", sometimes using "I" and most strangely of all sometimes referring to themselves in the third person "Sandy and Jeanne". In terms of writing it is both a bit frustrating and endearing. Namely, it is clearly the work of two women who are absolutely not professional authors. At the same time, it remains one of the best looks inside the CIA, and a truly fascinating look at what it was like to be a female intelligence agent at a time when misogyny was still part and parcel of government service. Overall, an enjoyable read, especially if you are interested in the topic.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Martin

    Very good book. I liked three things about it. --It interesting to hear about two women, for whom doors were closed because of gender, rising through the ranks of the CIA based on their own merits. Their rise was in step with the CIA moving with American society with regards to gender equality in the workplace. --I learned a ton about how the CIA is organized and what it's doing day-to-day. --I learned a lot about the Ames investigation. The book confirmed something I've long suspected, CIA's info n Very good book. I liked three things about it. --It interesting to hear about two women, for whom doors were closed because of gender, rising through the ranks of the CIA based on their own merits. Their rise was in step with the CIA moving with American society with regards to gender equality in the workplace. --I learned a ton about how the CIA is organized and what it's doing day-to-day. --I learned a lot about the Ames investigation. The book confirmed something I've long suspected, CIA's info net is not nearly as tight as shown in the media or that we'd like to believe. Hearing about Russian contacts being out of touch, their whereabouts unknown, for years is completely divorced from the media's presentation of spies knowing everything all the time about where people are located and what they are doing. It surprised me the CIA couldn't get banking and investing records easily. I wonder if that's still true. This really shocked me. The book's biggest weakness is that it's written by two women who have had important careers writing intelligence reports. They should have injected more emotion and more dramatic quotes here. Good narrator.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Gatherum Scott

    As told by those involved, this book Covers the fascinating case and surrounding lives of those involved with discovering Aims to be a mole selling US secrets. Extremely fact based with very little personal interjection. It reads as a summary of case notes. The authors cover the facts of the case very throughly but leave a lot to be desired from the reader. It can be a bet dense with acronyms and CIA lingo. My biggest critic is the writing style. It reminded me of a high school book report that As told by those involved, this book Covers the fascinating case and surrounding lives of those involved with discovering Aims to be a mole selling US secrets. Extremely fact based with very little personal interjection. It reads as a summary of case notes. The authors cover the facts of the case very throughly but leave a lot to be desired from the reader. It can be a bet dense with acronyms and CIA lingo. My biggest critic is the writing style. It reminded me of a high school book report that retells the story of the book it covers. The authors fail to paint the picture of the geopolitical environment that occurs during the late 70s and 80s that would provide meaningful context and background. Although they provide glimpses of the internal political challenges within the CIA and their joint work with the FBI, the authors do so in Avery clinical fashion. I enjoyed reading it, but wanted more.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lou Florio

    It’s an interesting history, but I believe it doesn’t flow very well. It reminded me of many government essays - direct but clunky, also sometimes choppy or repetitive. A lot of the first half of the book deals with other Cold War cases to provide context, then the authors address the case at hand, and finally provides more personal background on the suspect and a wrap up. If you are very interested in history of the Cold War and espionage, I recommend it. If you aren’t, it might be a tougher, l It’s an interesting history, but I believe it doesn’t flow very well. It reminded me of many government essays - direct but clunky, also sometimes choppy or repetitive. A lot of the first half of the book deals with other Cold War cases to provide context, then the authors address the case at hand, and finally provides more personal background on the suspect and a wrap up. If you are very interested in history of the Cold War and espionage, I recommend it. If you aren’t, it might be a tougher, less enjoyable slog for you. Focusing more on the story of the suspect and hunt for a mile, I think the authors would have offered a more gripping yarn, but perhaps CIA restrictions had a part in that shortcoming.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Michael McCormick

    Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille have done a great service to our Nation in writing this book. It was a great process to read the book while asking myself about all the things that were going on in the world, and even in my own personal life, while the events of "Circle of Treason" took place. I carefully read the timeline at the end of the book and discovered that George Tenet was promoted to DCI just weeks after I graduated from Columbia University. I also discovered that the death penalt Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille have done a great service to our Nation in writing this book. It was a great process to read the book while asking myself about all the things that were going on in the world, and even in my own personal life, while the events of "Circle of Treason" took place. I carefully read the timeline at the end of the book and discovered that George Tenet was promoted to DCI just weeks after I graduated from Columbia University. I also discovered that the death penalty has been reinstated for espionage convictions. When Tenet is finally outed publicly as a traitor, he should be executed for his crimes.

  23. 5 out of 5

    D. B.

    Do you like facts? If so, you'll love Circle of Treason! It reads like a long, dry CIA report describing the investigation into Aldrich Ames. If you're looking for a nonfiction book that tells the story in a linear, dramatic way, this ain't it. I don't have a problem with the "Just the facts, ma'am" approach so much as the scattershot structure. The authors, both retired CIA agents who led the team that uncovered Ames's treason, begin with a detailed recap of each major asset Ames compromised. I Do you like facts? If so, you'll love Circle of Treason! It reads like a long, dry CIA report describing the investigation into Aldrich Ames. If you're looking for a nonfiction book that tells the story in a linear, dramatic way, this ain't it. I don't have a problem with the "Just the facts, ma'am" approach so much as the scattershot structure. The authors, both retired CIA agents who led the team that uncovered Ames's treason, begin with a detailed recap of each major asset Ames compromised. I liked learning about these people, their contribution to ending the Cold War, and the sometimes amusing details of miscommunication and other spy-related mishaps. I appreciate that Grimes and Vertefeuille wanted to focus more on telling the story of the people who died so Ames could buy a nice house, because in this type of story, the victims are often overshadowed by the excitement of double agents and betrayal and secret payoffs and all that crap. However, it gets a little muddled when they almost totally set aside the mole investigation until the compromised assets have been detailed. A summary of the mole hunt follows, and after that is a brief biography of Ames (finally explaining his background and motivations), and the aftermath of the arrests. Although the ostensible selling point of the book is hearing the story directly from agents responsible from Ames's capture, I think the book could have benefited from a ghostwriter who might have given the book a more linear narrative structure and a bit of suspense. I wasn't looking for a novel, rich with sensory detail and fictionalized dialogue; rather, I wanted to feel the sadness and loss when the agents lost their assets, feel the fear and danger as the agents closed in on their mole suspects, and understand what was going through the minds of all involved. Overall, the book lacked these details, which only agents in the thick of the investigation could understand and relay to readers. Circle of Treason merely presented facts: some interesting, some not. Occasional bursts of wit enliven it at spots, and it's short enough to not be too much of a tedious slog. It's an interesting story, definitely factual; it's just not told very well.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Dedrick

    While this book eventually told an interesting story, it wasn't until chapter 12 that things really focused in on the investigation. It was a rough beginning largely because it felt more like a technical report with a lot of exact facts and detailed forewarnings of things to come. It's made clear late in the book that other accounts of this same incident may have other biases in them. I think that explains why exactness was used so much. While this book eventually told an interesting story, it wasn't until chapter 12 that things really focused in on the investigation. It was a rough beginning largely because it felt more like a technical report with a lot of exact facts and detailed forewarnings of things to come. It's made clear late in the book that other accounts of this same incident may have other biases in them. I think that explains why exactness was used so much.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Evelina

    Good overview of ames’ mole hunt and insights into a cia politics From the number of books I read about the year of the spy, the and Pete Early’s books are the most worth reading. The introduction is a bit too dry, but the book goes in a good level of detail. (Though sometimes some of the explanations should have been in footnotes).

  26. 4 out of 5

    Matt Mahoney

    Spy vs spy A very nice book about how the CIA uncovered an internal spy among loyal agents. An easy read with lots of insight into the agency. It also talks about the cooperation between the agency and the FBI. It sets the record straight on who actually caught Ames.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Joyce Schroeder

    Very Dry Very fret and hard to follow. Obviously not professionally written and on the whole a bore to read. I think actually paid for this, have read much better books in the subject for free.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Interesting perspective of two that were in CIA during Cold War era with narrative focused on how a traitor was discovered and captured. Fascinating account of specific assets that US used against Soviets.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    Read this for a uni course on espionage, loved the course. However, the women writing this book are way too salty about Ames. It is really biased.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Vern

    Interesting topic. Quick read. Writing mediocre.

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