Late in October the Senate Intelligence Committee was treated to revelations about Soviet deception of U.S. intelligence during the latter stages of the Cold War. According to Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director John M. Deutsch, deception became effective because the CIA’s major traitor, Aldritch Ames, provided a complete list of CIA agents in the Soviet Union. Emphasis until now has been on the damage done when the Soviets executed many of these agents, cutting the CIA off from information at a critical time.
Now it turns out that this was the least of the damage done. The Soviets always tried to feed the CIA disinformation via double agents; as long as the CIA also had agents actually working for it, however, the doubles were unable to sway its picture of the Soviet Union—hence Ames’s value, not merely for safeguarding Soviet secrets, but even more for making it possible to pervert the CIA’s views. Readers aware of the famous World War II British double-cross game will find the idea familiar.