Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin continued to reap the benefits of Aldrich H. Ames' treason against the United States long after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Russian leader used information from the spy to make it difficult for the United States to figure out his intentions on critical foreign policy issues, CIA Director John M. Deutch revealed Friday. Offering newly declassified information from the CIA's internal damage assessment on the Ames spy scandal, Deutch disclosed that Ames' betrayal complicated the nation's ability to predict Yeltsin's intentions on such issues as nuclear proliferation and Moscow's role in other former Soviet republics.
Deutch said the United States suffered from diminished understanding of the extent of the decline of Russian military technology in the late 1980s and early 1990s and had a harder time grasping the true relationship in the late 1980s between Communist hard-liners and former Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
Deutch's report underscored the broad and long-lasting damage to U.S. intelligence caused by Ames, a career CIA officer who is serving a life sentence for his spying for the Soviets and Russians from April 1985 until his arrest in February 1994.
Ames' betrayal of U.S. agents who were operating within the heart of the Soviet government denied Washington valuable intelligence that could have guided policymakers during the Soviet breakup and its aftermath.
To give some human scale to Ames' treachery, Deutch noted that during one assignment, Ames gave the KGB a stack of documents estimated to be 15 to 20 feet high.
And Deutch made it clear that Ames' 1985 betrayal of 10 U.S. agents within Soviet intelligence and elsewhere in the government--which Deutch said Friday resulted in the deaths of at least nine people--was just the beginning of the damage.
"Over the next decade," Deutch said, "Ames disclosed the identities of many U.S. agents run against the Soviets and later the Russians, disclosed the techniques and methods of double-agent operations, details of our clandestine trade craft, as well as communication techniques and agent validation methods.
"And he went to extraordinary lengths to learn about U.S. double-agent operations and to pass information on them to the Soviets. . . . He identified CIA and other intelligence community personnel. . . . He provided finished intelligence reports, arms control papers and State and Defense department cables."
And he aided the Soviet, and later Russian, effort to engage in "perception management operations" by feeding carefully selected information to the United States through agents whom they were controlling without our knowledge," Deutch said.
Ames also provided the Soviets with U.S. intelligence reports prepared for arms control negotiations, including the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks and the Conventional Forces in Europe talks.
Deutch insisted, however, that the CIA's damage assessment team found "no major instance where the Soviets maneuvered U.S. or NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] arms control negotiators into giving up a current or future military capability or agreeing to monitoring or verification provisions that otherwise would not have been adopted."
Deutch's lengthy public report--providing far more detail than his initial announcement of the results of the Ames damage assessment on Oct. 31--resulted from a behind-the-scenes tussle between the CIA and the Senate over how much information to release to the public about the controversy. That dispute delayed release of the report and of a separate statement by CIA Inspector General Fred Hitz.
Sources said that the CIA--humiliated by disclosures in the damage assessment that agency officials had knowingly passed on information from Soviet double agents to U.S. policymakers--had been reluctant to publish a more detailed account.
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, had demanded more disclosure by the CIA after critics within the intelligence community charged that he was exaggerating the extent of the damage done to U.S. national security by the distribution of tainted information from double agents.
When news of the double-agent fiasco was revealed in October, Specter said that "controlled information" from Soviet double agents had given the United States an inflated view of Soviet military capabilities and may have cost billions in needless purchases of weapons systems by the Pentagon.
U.S. intelligence officials quickly dismissed Specter's assertions, however, saying that the Pentagon would never develop or acquire new weapons systems based solely on information from a Russian spy.
In his statement, Deutch tried to walk a fine line between endorsing Specter's charges and playing down the controversy. He said that the CIA's damage assessment found that the effect of the controlled information from double agents "varied from program to program. In some cases the impact was negligible. In other cases the impact was measurable but only on the margin."
Specter and Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), vice chairman of the intelligence committee, countered that the CIA still is not certain of the full extent of the damage.
The CIA took "an enormous risk that may have jeopardized U.S. national security interests" by failing to disclose to policymakers that the information came from Soviet agents, the two senators said.
They added that not all of the reports containing information from KGB double agents were fully reviewed by the CIA. What is more, the State Department did not participate in the CIA's survey of "intelligence consumers" who had received the reports, they said.
Still, Deutch's report seemed to offer some cautious support for Specter's assertions that the controlled information from the double agents may have compromised the U.S. intelligence system.
Under the CIA's rules, officials could pass on information from double agents if the reports clearly spelled out that the intelligence had come from questionable sources or double agents.
Deutch said that the CIA has identified 35 intelligence reports sent to U.S. policymakers in which the agency did not properly disclose that the information came from Soviet double agents.
Another 60 reports were improperly distributed from agents about whom the CIA was suspicious. Of the total of 95 reports, three went to the president.
The Soviet double agents probably offered the controlled information to influence U.S. research and development and buying decisions at the Pentagon, Deutch said.
Deutch said that distribution of the tainted reports "had the potential to influence U.S. military R&D; [research and development] and procurement programs costing billions of dollars" but added that the real cost is hard to determine and probably was limited to a small number of cases.