The Assets, based on Circle of Treason

The Assets, an eight-part ABC miniseries event based on Circle of Treason is back! The remaining six episodes will air on Saturday nights at 9 PM ET beginning on June 21. The series looks inside the true, personal stories of the conclusion of the Cold War as told by the keepers of the nation’s secrets: the CIA. The series is produced for ABC by Lincoln Square Productions. Morgan Hertzan, Rudy Bednar, and Andrew Chapman are executive producers for the series.
More Details on ABC


About the Book

From May through December 1985 the CIA experienced the unparalleled loss of its stable of Soviet assets.  There was no indication of the impending disaster, which all but wiped out human source reporting on the Soviet Union.  Whatever the nature of the problem, something was seriously wrong. Circle of Treason is the story of Sandra Grimes’ and Jeanne Vertefeuille’s personal involvement in the CIA’s effort to identify the reason for the losses and to protect future Soviet assets from a similar fate of execution or imprisonment.  In 1991 the quest led to their hunt for a Soviet spy in the CIA and to their identification of the “mole” as case officer Aldrich “Rick” Ames, a long-time acquaintance and coworker in the Soviet-East European Division and Counterintelligence Center of CIA.  That identification allowed the FBI to take the necessary law enforcement steps that led to Ames’ arrest in February 1994 and, two months later, a conviction and life sentence.  One of the most destructive traitors in American history, Ames provided information to the Soviet Union that led to the deaths of at least eight Soviet intelligence officers who spied for the United States.

Not only is this the first book to be written by two of the CIA principals involved in identifying Ames as the mole, but it is also the first to provide details of the operational contact with the agents Ames betrayed, as well as similar cases with which the authors also had personal involvement—a total of sixteen operational histories in all.  Of particular note is GRU General Dmitriy Fedorovich Polyakov, the highest-ranking spy run by the U.S. government during the Cold War.  Described as the “Crown Jewel,” Polyakov provided the United States with a trove of information during his twenty-plus-year history of cooperation.  The book also covers the aftermath of Ames’ arrest, including the congressional wrath for not identifying him sooner, the FBI/CIA debriefings following Ames’ plea bargain, and a retrospective of Ames the person and Ames the spy.  Now retired from the CIA, Grimes and Vertefeuille are finally able to tell this inside story of the CIA’s most notorious traitor and the men he betrayed.

About the Authors

About the Authors

Sandra Grimes

Sandra Grimes was a twenty-six year veteran of CIA’s Clandestine Service who spent the majority of her career working against the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. She joined the CIA in July 1967 shortly after graduating from the University of Washington with a degree in Russian. A mother of two grown daughters and four grandchildren, she currently lives in Great Falls, Virginia, with her husband of forty-plus years.

Jeanne Vertefeuille

Jeanne Vertefeuille was a CIA officer during the Cold War 1954-1992, specializing in the Soviet target, particularly in the Counterintelligence area. She led the small task force which resulted in the arrest of Soviet mole Aldrich Ames in 1994. Subsequently she served on contract as an analyst 1993-present and died just after the publication of the book in hardcover.


Related Interviews

Related Interviews

  • The Assets' Revisits Real-Life Cold War Espionage Case

    Former CIA agent Sandy Grimes and actor who plays spy Aldrich Ames discuss new ABC TV mini-series.
    Watch Now

  • 1997: Sandy Grimes on Catching Spy Aldrich Ames

    Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille explain how CIA officer Aldrich Ames was caught spying for the Soviet Union.
    Watch Now

  • Espionage Book Fair

    Sandra Grimes’ talk at the Espionage Book Fair at the National Archives, 20 April, 2013
    Watch Now

  • Presentation at USNI

    Sandra Grimes’ Presentation at the 139th Annual Meeting of the U.S. Naval Institute
    Watch Now

  • Fox Files Episode

    Sandra Grimes talks about the Ames mole hunt on Fox Files
    Watch Now

  • Interview on "Let's Talk Live"

    Sandra Grimes is interviewed on “Let’s Talk Live” on NewsChannel 8 in Washington, D.C.
    Watch Now


Praise for Circle of Treason

Praise for Circle of Treason

  • “…[A] fine book which is gripping without any pyrotechnics, a story that could not be told except by the women who brought Ames down.” — The Dispatch (Columbus, MS)
  • “All in all, Circle of Treason is a disturbing read, but an essential one for anyone interested in the intricate detail work involved in a counterintelligence investigation -- and a tribute to two women who helped push it to a conclusion.” — The Washington Times
  • Circle of Treason is an enormously important account of a complex, often frustrating, case written by those who did much of the work to break it.” — Studies in Intelligence, 2013
  • “The authors provide intriguing insights into the background and tradecraft of a number of productive operations the CIA ran against the GRU and KGB from the 1960s through the 1980s. They also show how, when operations went wrong or were compromised by traitors, sources paid with their lives. Circle of Treason has the advantage of being written by two intelligence professionals, not by academics or journalists, and thus is an authoritative account of the Soviet sources that were providing the U.S. with invaluable information during the Cold War until Ames betrayed them. Because classified material on operational cases was going to be made public, the CIA took over three years to approve the book's publication. T he authors note that 90% of the disputes were resolved in their favor.” — The Wall Street Journal
  • "In a brutally frank account of CIA traitor Aldrich Ames's career, Grimes, a 26-year veteran of the CIA's Clandestine Service, and Vertefeuille, a long-time CIA counterintelligence officer, pull back the curtain on the hunt for an American who spent years working for the KGB without being discovered. Espionage buffs will love the details taken from previously classified CIA files, as well as a penetrating view of him as an "All-American boy" and spy. Well-researched and written in a clear, no-frills style, this fascinating Cold War saga will allow any American without a security clearance to better understand how Aldrich Ames could have become one of the most damaging moles in U.S. intelligence history." — Publishers Weekly
  • “What makes this volume interesting is that it was written by longtime CIA insiders, who saw firsthand how the agency’s network inside the Soviet Union crumbled. They write authentic sketches of agents working for the CIA who were betrayed by Ames, such as Dmitriy Polyakov, a general in the GRU (Soviet military intelligence), the highest-ranking Soviet official in uniform to spy for the United States during the Cold War, who was arrested and executed after Ames identified him. This book adds an insider perspective to the bookshelf…” — The Washington Post
  • Circle of Treason, written by two women CIA employees—Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille—is an extraordinary tribute to their training, ingenuity, years of service and access to CIA top secret files, Soviet agents collaborating with the CIA, and FBI colleagues. It took them years to uncover the CIA mole in their midst. The book is a tribute to their work.” — Betty McIntosh, retired CIA officer and author of Sisterhood of Spies'
  • “This is an important contribution to the field of literature.  Although there are a half dozen books dealing with the Aldrich Ames case, they are of very differing quality and none contains all the background information on sources which CIA recruited inside the KGB and GRU that this book contains.  Also, this is an ‘insider’ story.  These two women actually participated in the running of some of these operations, watched their sources being arrested and executed by the Soviets, and then spent years of their lives uncovering Ames, the ‘mole’ who gave it all away.  Very engagingly written.  For me it was a page-turner!” — RADM Thomas A. Brooks, USN (Ret.), former Director of Naval Intelligence

  • “Only the authors of Circle of Treason could write this fascinating insider account, which not only deals with their tenacious, painstaking pursuit of the CIA's most damaging spy but also reveals the extraordinary efforts the CIA took to ensure the safety of its sources fighting the oppressive Soviet regime.  This is essential reading for intelligence professionals and for anyone interested in the day-to-day reality behind Cold War espionage.” — Michael Sulick, former Director of CIA’s National Clandestine Service


Spy Museum Event Gallery

Spy Museum Event Gallery


Conferences and Events

WEST 2017

Tue, 2017-02-21 - Thu, 2017-02-23

San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, CA

Tuesday, 21 February - Thursday, 23 February 2017 Co-Sponsored by AFCEA International and the U.S. Naval Institute. Registration...

2017 U.S. Naval Institute Member Event

View All

From the Press

Guest Speaker & Book Signing

Wed, 2017-01-25

Guest Speaker & Book Signing

Wed, 2017-01-25

Dwight Sturtevant Hughes

Why Become a Member of the U.S. Naval Institute?

As an independent forum for over 135 years, the Naval Institute has been nurturing creative thinkers who responsibly raise their voices on matters relating to national defense.

Become a Member Renew Membership