DCI Statement on the Ames Damage Assessment
October 31, 1995
For the past year and a half, an independent team of Intelligence Community analysts and operations officers has conducted a Damage Assessment of the actions of Aldrich Ames, who, while a CIA Directorate of Operations officer from 1985 to 1994, committed espionage for Soviet (and later Russian) intelligence. This Damage Assessment, commissioned by my predecessor, is now complete. I testified before the House and Senate Permanent Select Committees on Intelligence on October 31st and laid out the findings and actions that I have put in place to remedy the shortcomings it identified.
The Ames case is one of those landmark events which defines the course of an organization. It requires some public discussion because the American people need to know that the Central Intelligence Agency has drawn the right lessons from the incident, and is moving determinedly to make fundamental changes which will reduce the chance that something like this will happen again. Smart organizations use every experience -- whether good or bad -- as motivation to improve. I am determined to use the Ames case as the basis for bringing bold management changes to the CIA.
I have provided the congressional intelligence oversight committees with details concerning the damage caused by Aldrich Ames' treachery. But let me describe a basic outline of the damage that was done, the weaknesses in the CIA which the incident revealed, and the corrective actions which have been and are being taken.
The damage which Aldrich Ames did to his country can be summarized in three categories:
-- By revealing to the Soviet Union the identities of many assets who were providing information to the United States, he not only caused their executions, but also made it much more difficult to understand what was going on in the Soviet Union at a crucial time in its history;
-- By revealing to the Soviet Union the way in which the United States sought intelligence and handled assets, he made it much more difficult for this country to gather vital information in other countries as well;
-- By revealing to the Soviet Union identities of assets and American methods of espionage, he put the Soviet Union in the position to pass carefully selected "feed" material to this country through controlled assets;
The damage done by Aldrich Ames is documented in the Damage Assessment Report which I have submitted to the intelligence committees. I endorse the Report. I have also made this painstaking work of many months available to other agencies of government so that damage control actions can be taken.
While Ames damaged our intelligence activities in a number of areas, his betrayal of our most important assets is particularly egregious. In a single disclosure, he revealed the identities of CIA's most valuable Soviet/Russian assets.
The Report also revisits deficiencies in the organization, procedures, and management of the Central Intelligence Agency. These deficiencies fall into two major categories:
-- The counterintelligence function in the CIA had become neglected by management compared to other functions. It was poorly staffed and organized, and characterized by lax procedures. Its coordination with the Department of Justice was badly flawed by turf-tending and bureaucratic infighting.
-- Most troubling of all was an important new finding of the Assessment, which is substantiated by a Special Inspector General Report I requested this summer, that consumers were not informed that some of the most sensitive human intelligence reporting they received came from assets that were known or suspected of being controlled by the KGB/SVR. This finding disturbs me greatly, and this deficiency is one of the first I have moved to correct.
These are the major issues underlying the damage done and the shortcomings that were revealed by Aldrich Ames' espionage activities, and are documented in the thorough report which has been submitted to the intelligence committees.
What is critically important in this incident is the future. What is the Central Intelligence Agency doing as a result of this incident, and its aftermath, to reduce the chance that this happens again?
My most urgent task is to re-establish credibility with our consumers. I will establish a new, independent Customer Review Process for sensitive human reporting that will be managed by the National Intelligence Council. Both the Directorate of Operations and our customers agree with this mechanism to improve customer knowledge without excessive intrusion into operations.
When I took office six months ago, I found that many corrective actions in the wake of the Ames case were underway, well documented in a strategic plan for change. I have taken additional actions in my time as Director of Central Intelligence, particularly in the areas of personnel, organization, and accountability.
The major categories of the corrective actions and improvement are these:
-- A major changeover in the management of the Central Intelligence Agency, including the replacement of the top three levels of Agency management and much of the fourth level with new leadership committed to change. This new management team includes a new Deputy Director for Operations, as well as Associate Deputy Directors for Operations,Counterintelligence, and Human Resources, and seven Directorate of Operations component chiefs.
-- The establishment of the National Counterintelligence Center at CIA, headed by a senior FBI officer;
-- Significantly increasing the application of counterintelligence to operations, and emphasizing counterintelligence awareness and training in all activities;
-- New guidelines for Agency managers on handling employee suitability issues and strengthening internal discipline procedures;
-- Policies to ensure that new emphasis is placed on the quality of agent recruitments and agent handling, rather than on the quantity of recruitments. This includes a complete scrubbing of standards and criteria for personnel evaluation as well as a system of rewards that moves away from quantity to quality in asset recruitment as the prime measure of success;
-- A revitalized system within the Directorate of Operations to validate assets, bringing in a team approach involving analysts and counterintelligence officers from the very beginning of cases;
-- Clearly defined standards and expectations for the performance of Chiefs of Station along with a clearly defined policy for their selection;
-- Initiatives aimed at improving the Agency's records management system and bolstering computer security; and,
-- Perhaps most important, insistence from the top down on integrity and accountability in the Central Intelligence Agency. This includes the establishment of component-level accountability boards within the Directorate of Operations and a senior Directorate-level accountability board.
I also considered the accountability of certain CIA officers in connection with the Damage Assessment Team Report and the Inspector General Report on the same subject. In making my determinations I applied the following standards:
-- That the performance deficiency at issue must be specific;
-- That, unlike military practice, the individual being held accountable must have had a direct responsibility and role -- that is, the individual, by virtue of his/her position, had the opportunity or responsibility to act; and,
-- That high levels of professionalism are required.
The Inspector General, in the special report provided to me last month, recommended 12 CIA officers be held responsible for their roles in this matter. All but one of those individuals has retired, thereby restricting my options for disciplinary action. Based on the information in the Damage Assessment Team Report as well as the IG report, if these officers were still employed, I would have dismissed two individuals from CIA and taken no disciplinary action against five. I have reprimanded the one officer who is currently employed. As for the two I would have dismissed, both now are banned from future employment with the Agency. Four other former officers have been given reprimands or warnings.
I want to emphasize that the Ames Damage Assessment, in all of its detail, does nothing to shake my conviction that we need a clandestine service. Of all the intelligence disciplines, human intelligence is, indeed, the most subject to human frailty, but it also brings human intuition, ingenuity, and courage into play against the enemies of our country. Often there is no other way to penetrate a terrorist cell or a chemical weapons factory or the inner circle of a tyrant. At critical times human intelligence has allowed our leaders to deal with the plans and intentions -- rather than the weapons -- of our enemies.
I believe that the right actions are underway for the Ames incident to become the most powerful catalyst for change in the history of the Central Intelligence Agency. The key is drawing unflinchingly the right lessons and making the necessary changes. It will take time to implement all these reforms and accomplish required changes to some aspects of the CIA's habits, practices, and attitudes. The United States must have the best intelligence capability in the world, and that capability includes the Operations Directorate of the Central Intelligence Agency.
The Directorate of Operations must be staffed by top- notch people. This means that first-class people are hired, their careers are managed properly, and the promotion system rewards those who maintain the highest standards of integrity, but also who are prepared to take risks. By clearly defining the rules and management expectations, we will encourage these officers to take the risks necessary to produce the critical intelligence needed by our Nation.
It must have solid procedures which ensure a quality product for decision-makers throughout government. This means emphasizing quality and authenticity over numbers and volume. This also means that safeguards against false information are comprehensive and effective.
I believe that the changes which were taken before my watch, and the additional measures I have taken -- coupled with the desire for fundamental, positive change by the overwhelming majority of CIA officers themselves -- ensure that we are on the right track.