(Panel report faults CIA on Ames case) (580)


CIA Director R. James Woolsey's reprimands of 11 senior managers for their

handling of the Aldrich H. Ames spy case were "seriously inadequate" for a

"disaster of unprecedented proportions," the Senate Intelligence Committee


In a November 1 report on the CIA's handling of the Ames case, the 17-member

committee asserts there was "gross negligence -- both individually and

institutionally" within the CIA's Operations Directorate that enabled Ames

to remain undetected for so long.

The report says the CIA could have caught him earlier if its managers had

been paying adequate attention to signs, such as apparent alcohol abuse,

that indicated he was unfit for his job.

The report calls Woolsey's disciplinary actions against the 11 senior

managers too mild, and it says "many professionals within the intelligence

community" have contacted the committee to express the same view.

It says the CIA inspector general had recommended that 23 current and former

CIA employees be held accountable for the agency's failure to detect Ames'

activities earlier.  Woolsey chose to issue letters of reprimand to 11

employees -- seven of whom were retired -- but no one was fired, demoted,

suspended or reassigned.

"If there is not a higher standard of accountability established by

(directors of central intelligence), then a repeat of the Ames tragedy

becomes all the more likely," the report says.

The report also asserts that congressional oversight committees were not

notified "in any meaningful way" of the devastating loss of foreign agents

in 1985-86 that Ames now admits he caused.

By the fall of 1986, several months after Ames began working for the

Kremlin, the CIA was aware that it was suffering a sudden and stunning loss

of foreign agents that could not be explained by known espionage cases, the

report says.  "Within a matter of months, virtually its entire stable of

Soviet agents had been imprisoned or executed," the report says.

The report says those in charge of the CIA during the 1986-91 period --

before an intense and focused investigation got underway -- "must

ultimately bear the responsibility" for the lack of an adequate response to

the agent losses.  It names former CIA directors William Casey, William

Webster and Robert Gates, as well as former acting director Richard Kerr.

Ames, who was arrested in February and sentenced in April to life in prison,

has admitted that he sold U.S. national security secrets to Moscow for more

than eight years, starting in 1985.  He was a 31-year veteran of the spy


The report stops short of suggesting Woolsey should be removed from his

post.  But Senator Howard Metzenbaum, who has previously called for

Woolsey's resignation because of his handling of the Ames case, wrote a

separate note in the committee's report recommending that Woolsey should be


Woolsey, speaking in Pittsburgh November 1, defended the agency's response

to the Ames case.  While no CIA employees were fired, he said, "there were

four CIA employees, all retired, whose neglect was such that if they were

employed, they would have been dismissed or told to retire."

"I believe my decisions were fair and just.  We should put cases and

decisions behind us and move on to the challenges of managing

1ounter-intelligence," he said.

He also noted that most of the Senate panel's recommendations for change

have either been implemented or are being implemented.