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Ames & Hanssen give KGB the mother lode of intel info on US
on 17 March 2005
In the words of Victor Cherkashin, "Aldrich Ames (CIA) was worth every penny of the $2.7 million he was paid." Moreover, Ames was indeed the "deadliest" KGB spy because he unmasked the CIA's intelligence network in the Soviet Union. However, Robert Hanssen (FBI) "was much more important (to the KGB) because he allowed the KGB to penetrate U.S. intelligence to such a degree that the KGB came to regard him as the greatest asset, surpassing Aldrich Ames," according to the author. Ironically, both Americans were "walk-ins," and were never actively recruited to betray the United States.
"Spy Handler: Memoir of a KGB Officer," by Victor Cherkashin is an outstanding narrative of how former CIA agent Ames and how former FBI agent Hanssen gave the KGB the "mother lode" of information on the United States intelligence efforts against the former Soviet Union. To America, Ames and Hanssen were monsters...but the author demonstrates how in the eyes of the KGB both men were heroes. Interestingly enough, Ames declares he cooperated with the KGB because, "he worked for an agency that deliberately overestimated Soviet Union capabilities to wrangle more money for its own operations." Hanssen basically cooperated with the KGB because he loved the danger of it and truly thought he was much too smart to get caught.
This book covers much territory. The author reports the unmasking of Soviet spies Ronald Pelton, the NSA cryptologist, former Navy sailor John Walker, and CIA drop-out Edward Lee Howard. Cherkashin makes mention of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard but only in his description of 1985 as the "year of the spy." In conclusion, the author does an excellent job of describing how a series of lucky breaks dramatically altered the landscape of U.S. - Soviet espionage. He also does a professional job of explaining the Soviet spy strategy of observation, orientation, decision and action. Highly recommended.