CIA hunt for Cold War spies sparks row

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The Independent Online
WASHINGTON - The United States seems destined for a bout of 'mole-mania', following an extraordinary admission by CIA director James Woolsey that the authorities are investigating several possibly serious cases of espionage during the Cold War - in addition to that involving Aldrich Ames, the CIA official accused of spying for the Soviet Union and Russia since 1985, writes Rupert Cornwell.

Mr Woolsey dropped his bombshell on a breakfast television show. On the basis of leads from ex-agents and files of former Communist intelligence services, he said: 'A number of counter-intelligence investigations are under way.' The suspects are officials who have worked at the CIA, the State Department, the Pentagon and the White House over the last 15 years.

The remarks caused an immediate uproar. Dennis DeConcini, an Arizona Democrat and head of the Senate Comittee on Intelligence, was astounded at Mr Woolsey's revelation of 'very, very sensitive information'. He said: 'It shouldn't be disclosed and I don't know what got into him.' Mr DeConcini accused the CIA director of trying to divert attention from the Agency's embarrassment over Mr Ames, who, if convicted, would arguably be the most damaging spy in post-war US history.

New Jersey Congressman Robert Torricelli, another intelligence specialist, predicted that after the inquiries had run their course, 'the American intelligence community will never be the same. There is going to be a national catharsis about loyalty and betrayal.'

Mr Woolsey is not alone in stirring controversy. Once top- secret Soviet and East European archives, especially those of the former East German Stasi, are a rich source of information. Ex-agents too are getting into the act - among them Yuri Shvets, a former KGB official who worked in the US. In a book to be published shortly, he claims his prize catch was a mole, 'Socrates', who worked in the State Department and the Carter White House.

The search for 'Socrates' - if he is not the mischevious product of a Soviet/Russian disinformation machine - is being pursued by a somewhat sceptical FBI. Complicating matters is the fraught relationship between the Bureau, responsible for catching spies inside the US, and the CIA. Poor liaison was a key reason why Ames went undiscovered for so long.