Ten years ago: The Senate Intelligence Committee released a report saying CIA Director R. James Woolsey’s response to the Aldrich Ames spy case was “seriously inadequate,” but that his predecessors were ultimately to blame for the scandal.
The original Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report is here. A news report issued ten years ago today is fascinating to read and full of bluster towards Woolsey:
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 says.
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.

I have often wondered if it was this wound that embittered Woolsey and sent him reeling towards the war-mongering faction of neocons. He seems to be waging a war not so much against Hussein and al Qaeda but against the Democratic Party infrastructure that stabbed him in the back on the Ames case.
I find some irony in the following. Aldrich Ames knowingly committed treason, using his access to secrets to pass them on to the Soviets in exchange for payment.
Former CIA Director R. James Woolsey has cloaked himself in patriotic language, of course, but has used his access to power and government to personally profit from firms investing in homeland security and defense — while at the same time serving as a proponent of this war as a policy pundit.
During World War II Harry Truman referred to war profiteering as “treason.”
In other WOOLSEY WATCH news, James Woolsey and Henry Kissinger appeared on October 29th on Fox’s On the Record with Greta van Susteren.
Here are excerpts of Woolsey’s comments, replying to a question about Osama bin Laden:
JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well, he’s either in that very wild area along the Pakistani-Afghan border or, as Mansoor suggested, possibly — I think less likely, but possibly along the Iranian-Afghan border. There’s been some thought in the past that he might be back in his home area, a wild area of the Yemeni-Saudi border. But I think the Pakistan-Afghanistan area is the most likely. And it’s very hard to find individuals. One…
VAN SUSTEREN: But he’s 6-foot — Director Woolsey, he’s 6-foot-5. He’s somewhat of a — I imagine somewhat of a folk hero in the area to, certainly, his followers. I mean, there must be some way that he stands out. And we want him. You know, everybody here in the United States wants this man, and yet, you know, we don’t have him.
WOOLSEY: Well, these are not open societies where people go off on their own to do things. These are clans. And they’re very close knit. And if you are being protected by one of these clans, you can be, I think, held very much to their bosom, so to speak. I think $25 million, $50 million, it doesn’t really mean in that part of the world anything because people, A, don’t believe that they’re going to get it if they turn him in, and, B, they’re not ready to be taken out of their own structure, their own village, their own clan, their own family. I think it’s likely he’s in that rugged border area of Pakistan and Afghanistan, has been all along.

Woolsey sounds ridiculously speculative to me. I find the comment that $25 to $50 million has no meaning to those around bin Laden slightly bizarre, at least in saying that it has no meaning within a clan context. This would indicate a complete surrender by this CIA Director, if he had the job again, of getting human intelligence from circles in and around al Qaeda. Perhaps money is the wrong motivator, but there are probably other levers.
And his comments on where bin Laden might be seem to be as uninformed and speculative, but seemingly authoritative, as his comments on September 11, 2001 that Saddam Hussein was probably linked to al Qaeda and the terrorist attacks.
No matter who wins the White House tomorrow, people who have been pundits and proponents of costly ventures that have undermined American interests need to be held accountable.
— Steve Clemons