The selling of secrets to the Soviet Union that plagued the United States during the Cold War continues. The only difference is that now the buyer is Russia rather than the failed U.S.S.R.
During the past few years two CIA officers, Aldrich H. Ames and Harold J. Nicholson, and FBI special agent Earl E. Pitts have been charged with espionage. Ames, pleading guilty, has been sentenced to life imprisonment; the trials of Nicholson and Pitts are pending. The defense strategy of Nicholson and Pitts undoubtedly will assert that some of the "secrets" they divulged were, in fact, public knowledge or, at the very least, classified improperly. And many U.S. officials will agree with the latter point.
In the 1980s, Robert M. Gates, then Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, identified one reason for this apparent plethora of spies. "I think that looking at first causes," Gates said, "one is a serious problem of overclassification of documents and lack of stringent use of compartmentation. . . . There's too much classified stuff floating around [out] there."1