The Dangers of Bad Tradecraft

By Robert D. Chapman
Wednesday, December 31st, 2014 @ 9:32PM

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Review of Kai Bird: The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames. Crown Publishers, New York, 2014, 430 p., $26.00

Kai Bird’s The Good Spy, The Life and Death of Robert Ames is more than a book about Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer Robert Ames. It is about the Near East with all of its intrigues and bloodshed and the entrapment of men and women to do its bidding. There is also the lesson of what intelligence is and what it is not. And, finally, we are left to wonder to what end?

Robert Ames was born in a working-class neighborhood of Philadelphia. In 1958 he was drafted into the U.S. Army and ended up in the Signal Corps in Kagnew, Eritrea. He liked the hot, dusty land and things Arabic and began to study the language. On his return home, he married and told his wife he wanted to go to the Middle East. He took the Foreign Service exam but failed. He then went to New York City for a CIA interview. This time he was successful.

His first posting was Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Although a “hardship” post, he was allowed to take his family. He learned the language and read books and histories of the area. He roamed the desert, talking to Bedouins, and said he would love to spend thirty years in the Arabian Desert and then retire. It would be a perfect life. But he was transferred to Beirut, Lebanon, for language training.

A hardship tour to Aden interrupted schooling in Beirut. With the incessant warfare in Aden, he was not permitted to take his family. He remained entranced by the culture and the people.  Bird portrays Ames as a good, kind man, never taking offense, always going out of his way for others, literally a man who walked on water.

He met Abdl’al Fattah Ismail, a Communist leader of the National Liberation Movement (NLM), who talked to him, and Ames listened enthralled. Ismail told him of the tactics taught to him in Moscow and how he used them to rise in position in the party. He became the NLM’s secretary-general and later a member of the President’s Council. He was South Yemen’s de facto leader.

Ames’s fellow officers and even his superiors were impressed that Ames managed a meeting with Ismail. But Ames was not a recruiter. He knew from his time in training that recruitment was a difficult art. Failure was almost inevitable so he never tried to recruit. By nature, he was a schmoozer – smiling, glad-handing clients, selling himself as a friend. In the end, in intelligence, that becomes a risky business.

In Beirut he met Mustafa Zein, a bright Lebanese, who was educated in the states. An enterprising young man, Zein would become Ames’s life-long friend, not an agent but again a friend. According to Bird, another CIA officer described Ames’s personal appeal: “Bob didn’t see the need to formally recruit people. They just became friends.” (pg 82)` Zein was valuable as he knew important people. He mentioned a close friend, a young man, Ali Hassan Salameh, who was Yasir Arafat’s right-hand man. Ames immediately said he wanted to meet him.

Zein arranged a recognition meeting. Bird reports that Zein and Salameh were seated in an outdoor café when Ames walked by. Both Ames and Salameh were accompanied by hidden security guards. Ames could see Zein and the man with him. Salameh could see Ames and would then recognize him in the future. Zein arranged a clandestine meeting.

The real story begins at this first meeting of Ames and Salameh.  Before the recognition meeting it’s questionable whether Ames knew much about Salameh. Kai Bird is vague on this point.

When Ames and Salameh met in a CIA safe house, according to Bird, “A PLO source told David Ignatius [of the Washington Post] that Ames had told Salameh he’d been authorized by the National Security Council to open up a channel to the PLO. The gist of his message was: “You Arabs claim your views are not heard in Washington. Here is your chance. The president of the United States is listening.” (pg 92)

Again according to Bird, “This was somewhat of a calculated embellishment. Ames would have reported the initial contact and requested permission to develop the relationship.” (pg 92). Bird offers nothing to verify this. It was either Ames’s plan, solely his, or doubtfully that of the Beirut Station’s.

Immediately, the PLO accepted the back channel to Washington. Since the PLO’s inception in 1964 – and six years had passed – it had no means to communicate with Washington. American State Department and intelligence officers were forbidden to contact the PLO. The Good Spy makes a reference to a “pact’ but never explains. Michael Bar-Zohar and Eitan Haber’s The Quest for the Red Prince states that the United States pledged it would have no contact with the PLO until it recognized Israel’s right to exist. Recognition did not occur until the Madrid Conference of 1991. Meanwhile, “the pact” was a dilemma.

The Agency could recruit Salameh as a terrorist source which might solve the matter, but Ames was not willing to make a recruitment pitch to Salameh. As he disliked recruitment pitches, he also knew Salameh would reject it.  In fact, as Bird relates, an Agency officer, Vernon Cassin, was later instructed to recruit Salameh. The pitch failed, and, notes Bird, Cassin “also claimed that Salameh had angrily refused to cooperate with the Agency in combating terrorism. This was a lie, but one that conveniently explained the failed recruitment.” (pg 107) Later in the book Bird claims that Salameh would never become a terrorist source as he refused to tell Ames of the impending assassination of two American diplomats in Khartoum.

The other way out of the dilemma was to tell the Israelis the Agency had opened a liaison channel to the PLO, but because of the pledge made to Israel, it was out of the question. A de facto back channel now existed. The higher Agency authorities could now be told it had established PLO contact at the highest level. In fact, its Near East (NE) Division officers were pleased. The overwhelming majority sympathized with the Palestinians.

But the truth was that Salameh was a terrorist, a top leader of the Black September terrorist organization. He was near the top of the Israeli hit list for having planned the Munich Massacre which resulted in the deaths of nine Israeli athletes, and the Israeli rationale was that no terrorist with blood on his hands could be left in peace. Ames never acknowledged that he knew of Salameh’s part in the Munich Massacre, but, according to Bird:

“Sam Wyman – who later took over from Ames as Salameh’s case officer – categorically says that Salameh was involved. ‘Ali Hassan (Salameh) was the tactical planner,’ Wyman said. He went to Munich and organized  the casing out of the Olympic Village. Abu Daoud was the strategic  planner. It was his idea. But Ali Hassan made it happen. Bob Ames knew that Ali Hassan was involved with Munich. And Ali Hassan knew that I knew he was involved in Munich – but we just didn’t talk about it.” (pg 134)

In March 1973 Black September captured American Ambassador Cleo Noel, Jr., and George Curtis Moore, the charge d’affaires – in Khartoum. They took the captives to a basement where they machine-gunned them to death. Reports Bird, “Salameh told Ames, ‘Khartoum has made its point of causing the USG [United States Government] to take Fedayeen terrorist activity seriously.’” (pg 139)  Salameh implicitly defended the Khartoum operation as a necessary evil: “No blackmail was intended, the men would have been killed in any event.” (pg 139)

Bird rightly comments that “[s]ome Americans may be astonished that a CIA officer chose to meet with a man like Salameh so soon after his organization killed two American diplomats.” (pg 139) But, Bird tellingly reveals,

“To say that Bob Ames was sympathetic to the Palestinian cause is an  understatement. He empathized with them deeply and admired Ali Hassan  [Salameh] to a degree that is hard to explain.  He knew that Salameh had done some terrible things. ‘It’s hard to believe our friend was what he was,’ Bob wrote to [his wife] Yvonne. ‘But that’s what comes of  frustration. If the Palestinians could only have a country, they would be a  great asset to the world.’” (pg 188)

Although not stated as such, Ames committed a major intelligence mistake: he fell in love with his agent. Doing so was bad tradecraft,  and certainly bad management for Headquarters to allow it to continue.

As the back channel and the Agency’s sole conduit into the PLO, (pg 188) what did Salameh tell the Americans?  Liaison is a two-way street of information and cannot sustain itself if one party to it is not receiving commensurate information or intelligence in return for what it gave. Though Bird states that Ames and Salameh traded bits hard information, that statement that is hard to fathom. Salameh did not disclose to Ames beforehand that the Black September was to kill two American diplomats in Khartoum. Nor did he pass information of Black September’s assassination of Jordan’s prime minister. Exactly what kind of information did pass between the two?  The answer is not known.

Throughout his book, Kai Bird points out that the officers of the Near East Division were “Arabists” to a man, opposed to Israeli policies and actions in the area. Thus, it was surely known, and seemingly accepted at every level of the CIA, that without supervision, a pro-Arabist was in control of the one channel of communication between the CIA and the PLO.

Nevertheless, all was not peaches and cream with Ames. He had his detractors. One was Duane “Dewey” Clarridge, the deputy chief of the Near East Division for Arab Operations. He was frustrated with Ames. According to Bird, “he couldn’t understand why Ames wouldn’t at least try to pull the trigger [recruit] with Salameh. ‘If you can’t ask the question,’ said Clarridge, ‘you shouldn’t be in the business.’” (pg 167) He adds:

“Clarridge had developed doubts about the Salameh channel. If the  Palestinian couldn’t be recruited, maybe something else was going on. He  eventually questioned whether even having a ‘liaison relationship with this murderer’ (Salameh) was worth it.  He wondered if  ‘we, the CIA, were  being had by Fatah.’  Perhaps, he thought, Arafat was manipulating the ‘Salameh setup and [we] were being fed information – which in reality  was precious little – to influence U.S. policy and nothing else.’”

Though Clarridge thought Salameh’s intelligence was inflated, he did nothing, or could do nothing, to rectify the situation. (pg 167)  Clarridge also always thought that Bob’s career as a DO (Operations Directorate) officer was “mediocre.” (pg 169)

“On the other hand,” Bird states, “few DO case officers ever recruit anyone. It’s an extremely rare event.  A CIA survey, covering the three decades prior to 1985, concluded that less than 5 percent of DO case officers recruited someone capable of producing protected, significant information.”

Clarridge agreed that recruiting agents is very hard, projecting that “if only 5 percent of all case officers ever recruited an agent, he would judge that in 25 years no more than 100 agents were recruited. (pg 169)

Bird points out that many unrecruited “sources” are assigned cryptonyms, “ostensibly so their information could be disseminated without revealing their identities. This sometimes had the effect of misleading policy makers, who might easily assume that the reports attributed to a crypt came from a fully recruited and controlled agent. According to Bird, Dewey said this became an inside joke.” (pg 169)

Alan Douglas Wolfe, the chief of the Near East Division – Ames’s boss – was another person who had doubts about Ames.  Wolfe was ill-fitted for the job. Among other quirks, he did not advocate language training for Agency officers because he believed that anyone worth recruiting in the Near East would speak English. Bird quotes Wolfe as saying that “Learning a wog language [is] a waste of time.” Prickly, egotistical, and overly self-confident, some officers thought he had a Napoleon complex and could be rather crude.

In 1975, CIA director William E. Colby had decided to remove the Israeli desk from James Angleton’s control and put it in the NE Division.  Because the Israelis regarded the NE Division with profound suspicion, Tel Aviv lodged an official protest of Colby’s decision, arguing that they shouldn’t be lumped with the Arab world – and shouldn’t have to liaise with the Agency’s Arabists, who were liable to be critical of Israel.  Bird continues:

So upon meeting Wolfe, the Israeli diplomat asked, “Alan, I understand you will have the Israeli account?”

“Yes,” replied Wolfe, “and it is about time.”

“Well,” said the Israeli charge, “I understand you are an anti-Semite.”

“That’s damn right,” Wolfe charged back. “I’ve dealt with Semites and none of you are worth a damn.”

Wolfe was clearly a strange choice to be put in control of liaison with what was, and is, considered America’s best ally in the Near East. (1)

From 1975 to 1979 Ames was stationed mostly in Washington in charge of the Arabian Peninsula Branch. In 1976 he persuaded the new CIA Director, George H.W. Bush, to extend an invitation to Salameh to visit Washington. How a relatively low-ranking branch chief could contact the DCI, requesting him to issue an invitation to an agent is not known, but he did.  The invitation included Salameh’s girlfriend, Georgina Rizk, and the two went to New Orleans, California/Disneyland, and Hawaii. The Agency’s top echelon now knew about the back channel to the PLO. By this time, so did Israel’s Mossad.

In 1978, Ames received a promotion to National Intelligence Officer (NIO) for the Near East. Now an Agency analyst and no longer part of the DO, he was free of Dewey Clarridge and Alan Wolfe.

After Ames had become an NIO, a Mossad officer approached Wolfe in London, asking him directly whether Salameh was a CIA asset. Although he knew the import of the question, Wolfe brushed it aside and walked away. When Ames learned of Mossad’s approach he knew Salameh was in danger. He asked Wolfe to send to an explicit statement to the Mossad to not touch Salameh, but Wolfe refused to do so. Mossad’s deputy director, David Kimche, then approached Ames, specifically asking if Salameh was on the CIA’s payroll. Bird reports that Kimche “made it clear that Salameh was being targeted…[that] his life could be spared only if Mossad was given an explicit assurance that he was working for the CIA. Ames couldn’t give him an answer.”

Ames contacted Salameh in Beirut some time in 1978, and, according to Mustafa Zein, who had introduced Ames to Salameh, he tried hard to get permission from Yasir Arafat – through Salameh – to tell the Israelis that Salameh was working for the CIA. Salameh refused and the two men argued. Salameh knew that if he were named a CIA asset, he would be killed by some other Palestinian revolutionary organization as a traitor. He understood his dilemma.

The elite Israeli hit team, named Caesarea, slowly moved in for the kill. They made an in-depth surveillance of Salameh’s activities and movements. Eventually, they discovered the location of Salameh’s apartment and the route of travel he regularly used between the apartment and visits to see his mother. Knowing this, they decided to kill him with a car bomb along a street he traveled. It would be easier and less messy than a confrontational assassination.

The operation required fifteen Caesarea officers. The first of the team to arrive in Beirut was Erika Mary Chambers, who was to trigger the bomb. Several previous operations had failed because the triggerman was late in setting off the bomb.  For this venture Caesarea officers would rely on a woman’s touch and timing. As directed, she rented an apartment on Beka Street, which was on Salameh’s route of travel.

In mid-January two Mossad officers checked into a Beirut hotel and later rented a Volkswagen Beetle. From a boat several miles offshore, two frogmen delivered the explosives onshore, which were then packed into the Beetle.  The officers then drove away and parked the car on Beka Street just below Chambers’s apartment.

At mid-afternoon on 22 January 1979 Salameh left his apartment, intending to drive to his mother’s house. As he inched into Beka Street and was under Chambers’s apartment, she pushed a remote-control switch which exploded the car bomb. The Israelis had their man. Salameh, the “Red Prince,” was rushed to a nearby hospital but he soon died on the operating table.

Dewey Clarridge later said some debate must have taken place within the Agency on whether to protect Salameh. “And obviously, they decided to fudge it. Just stupid! They should have protected him.” (pg 208)


Salameh was dead. Despite the loss of his source, Ames’s career as an NIO rose rapidly. After the 1979 Iranian revolution had seemingly settled down, he was selected to brief top Iranian officials, who were showing signs of moderation.  He traveled to Iran using a diplomatic passport issued in his own name.  Bird cites former CIA analyst and Obama administration official Bruce Riedel as saying that Ames’s goal was to disabuse Iranians of their long-standing suspicions of America’s intentions. He was successful. They asked for additional meetings every two months.

The war and revolution in Beirut continued. Through Ames, the PLO was helpful. PLO security personnel provided protection for American diplomats in Beirut, and the U.S. in turn provided training for PLO guards. As the fighting in Lebanon intensified, Americans were evacuated under the protection of PLO security forces. Yasir Arafat even intervened with Iranian authorities and, in the spring of 1980, helped efforts to retrieve the bodies of American servicemen who were killed in Desert One, the disastrous U.S. rescue operation in Iran.

Ames’s star rose spectacularly in Washington. He received promotion upon promotion, and developed close relationships with CIA directors and U.S. presidents.  As an NIO, Ames was required to liaise with his Israeli counterparts. They knew that he had created the back channel to the PLO and were curious to meet him. Ostensibly, they were friendly, even laudatory, towards him, but there were arguments, sometimes ugly.  But in the mornings the conflicts appeared resolved. The Israelis were hardly in a position to be disagreeable. They were in a basically hostile Near East Division, and Ames, who had the ear of the DCI as well as the President, was sympathetic to the Arabs. In such a situation minding one’s Ps and Qs is best.

On 6 June 1982, Israeli General Ariel Sharon led a massive ground force into Lebanon. For years, the Israelis had looked for a pretext to eliminate the PLO from Lebanon.  According to Bird, President Reagan’s Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig, Jr., had given Sharon “a tacit green light” to invade Lebanon and expel the PLO as a geographical “lobotomy.” By July, Reagan had replaced Haig with George P. Shultz.

Shultz became disturbed to learn that Ames had been carrying on a dialogue with the PLO’s leadership through envoys and intermediaries for at least a year. And, in his memoir, Shultz recalled that when Ames indicated he was going to see his PLO contact, “I instructed that there must be no such meeting.” (2) (pg 266)  But just a few days thereafter, Ames went ahead and saw his PLO contact. He did so with the specific approval of CIA director William J. Casey.

Shultz later wrote that he saw then that Bill Casey and the CIA acted independently. (pg 266) The war in Lebanon did not abate, and the President, along with Shultz and Ames, came up with a peace initiative.  Notes Bird, “Shultz would have been shocked to learn that Ames had also arranged that Arafat see a summary of the peace plan even before Reagan unveiled it.” (pg 274)

In the end, the Israelis accomplished what they had set out to do; on 30 August 1982 Arafat boarded a ship in Beirut and sailed for Tunis, Tunisia.  Some 8,500 PLO fighters were also evacuated. By then the U.S. Marines and the multinational peacekeepers had been pulled out of Beirut, even though the Reagan administration had promised Arafat that they would remain for a decent interval to protect Palestinian civilians after the departure of the PLO militia.

At nearly the same time August, the Phalangist warlord, Bashir Gemayel, was elected president of Lebanon. He was the only candidate, but everyone knew he was the candidate of Israel and America. Hardly a week after the election, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin berated Bashir, demanding that he sign a peace agreement as soon as he was inaugurated. But Bashir was determined that he wasn’t going to be an Israeli puppet. Such a status definitely turned Bashir off.

But Syria’s dictator, Hafez al-Assad, was apparently not up-to-date with intelligence and still believed that Bashir was too aligned with the Israelis. He decided that Bashir had to be killed.

On 14 September 1982, a Syrian agent planted a massive bomb in the Phalangist party’s headquarters. When the assassin detonated the bomb, Bashir and twenty-six other party members were crushed to death.

The next day, under Sharon’s orders, the Israeli army moved into the inner city and setup checkpoints.  Tanks and artillery fire then began to decimate parts of West Beirut. When Morris Draper, a ranking U.S. diplomat, tried to stop the bombardment, he was told that the PLO had left behind some 2,500 terrorists in the Sabra and Shatila camps for Palestinian refugees. Draper heatedly demanded that Sharon prove that terrorists were in the camps and challenged Sharon to give him their names, which Sharon could not do.

Bird reports that Draper “was shocked to learn that the Israelis were going let the Phalangist militia into the camps.” But the Phalangists believed that the Palestinians, not the Syrians, had murdered Bashir Gemayel.

Draper argued that there were only a few armed men in the camps. “But,” Bird relates, “they were all men sixty or seventy years old. They may have had old shotguns, but they were not a threat. Essentially, the camps were disarmed.”

Even as Draper and Sharon were arguing early on the evening of 16 September, 150 Phalangist fighters entered the two camps, under the command of Eli Hobeika, Bashir’s personal bodyguard, who one American ambassador called a “pathological killer.” Hobeika supervised the operation from the Israeli forward command post. For two days and nights, the Sabra and Shatila camps were flaming pits of screams and death. Unbelievably, the Israelis, under General Sharon, guarded the perimeters of the camps and set up floodlights to assist Hobeika’s fighters.

When it ended, 2,463 men, women and children had been killed.  Bird reports that after Arafat “was shown a videotape of the massacre, he angrily told reporters that Phil Habib [the President’s envoy] had personally signed a paper pledging [the Americans] to protect the Palestinians living in the refugee camps.” Habib admitted this, and said he had received personal guarantees from Bashir and Sharon that this be honored. Thus, blame for the Sabra and Shatila massacre fell upon Sharon and the United States.

In the streets of Tel Aviv 300,000 Israelis protested the massacre. Their action forced Begin’s government to convene the Kahan Commission to investigate the massacre. Its finding was that Sharon “bears personal responsibility” and should be fired. Sharon initially refused to resign but he later did. Shorn of his title, he, nevertheless, remained in Begin’s cabinet.

Nineteen years later, he became Israel’s prime minister, and the fires of the Near East remain unquenched in his memory.

The Israel invasion of Lebanon and the camp massacre created a new political and military force: Hezbollah, the Party of God.

An Appointment With Death

Early in 1983,  Robert Ames saw Clair George, then the CIA’s liaison to Congress and later the Agency’s Director of Operations. George remembered, “He gave me a five-or six-minute sermon on how the Arab-Israeli conflict could be solved. I thought it was naïve.” (pg 290) This was possibly the peace plan which the President, Secretary of State Shultz and Ames were working on.

After meeting with President Reagan on 17 March, Ames decided to plan a trip to the Near East, to which he hadn’t been back for five years. He met a close Agency friend and they had a firm debate on policy. Ames had told him of the Reagan peace initiative. According to Bird, his friend told him it was a nonstarter – it was a “’Jordanian solution’ in disguise…I told him he was going on a fool’s errand, trying to push a Jordanian solution that he knew was not viable.”(pg 292) The friend later said when he looked back on that conversation he regretted it.

As Kai Bird relates the final sequence of events, Ames checked into a Beirut hotel on Sunday morning, 17 April.  That evening, a dinner party was given for Ames by the chief of station and the station personnel. The party did not go well. Ames voiced the Reagan initiative, and the atmosphere became tense and gloomy. One guest wrote in her diary that “Ames seems to have [had] bad news, as if he was not happy with the work these people were doing .” Another attendee had similar recollections: “There was tension because Washington saw things one way and the people in Beirut saw things another way.” (pg 298) Everyone knew that, in this case, Washington meant Ames. Bird adds that

“[A]ll the officers that evening knew that Ames was the ghostwriter of  the Reagan peace initiative. It was his plan, his idealism, his innate optimism that had persuaded the president to put his prestige behind a plan for Israel to exchange the territories occupied in the June 1967 war for a  comprehensive peace with its neighbors.” (pg 298)

The next morning Ames walked to a neighboring hotel to have breakfast with his friend, Mustafa Zein. Ames told him of the previous night’s argument with the station chief, and showed him an unofficial summary of the proposed peace initiative. Ames asked Zein what he thought of the plan. Bird reports the ensuing conversation:

Mustafa smiled mischievously and said, “These are very thick papers. It  would be very practical and wise to type the agreement on very thin  paper.”

Bob said, “I know something is coming and I hate to ask why. But I am asking, why?”

“In case someone wanted to wipe his ass with it,” replied Mustafa, “he doesn’t get hurt.” (pg 301)

Everyone Ames told about the Reagan peace initiative – his close friends, colleagues, the station case officers – dismissed it out-of-hand. Ames had lost something along the way. A plan he sold to the President was not viable.

Ames returned to the U.S. embassy. At 1:04 PM, a young Lebanese Shi’ite man drove a truck, laden with explosives, into the embassy. Eight CIA employees, including Ames, were killed.

The Reasons Why

This is the longest review I’ve ever written, not because The Good Spy is a good book or a bad book, but because its author, Kai Bird, tells of bad intelligence practices as though they were good. Good intelligence operations require strict discipline. A CIA officer – or any other intelligence practitioner – does not do what he wants to do, but does what he’s told to do.  Robert Ames was, in essence, a loose  cannon. He did what he wanted to do and the unfortunate part is that, ultimately, nobody seems to have cared.

While he was expected to have an open, objective mind, he was filled with his own prejudices. He was opposed to Jordan’s Hashemite regime, ostensibly because of Palestinian and Israel relations; he was unrelentingly critical of Israel, many times justly so; historically, he was even angered at the recollection of the British Raj; but above all, he was passionately devoted to the Palestinian cause, even to the point of condoning the murder of Americans.

He cultivated one man, Salameh, whoM he could never control, and no other. Yet, despite being biased to one cause and unfriendly to the other, he became the intelligence advisor to DCIs and Presidents. How was this possible in professional intelligence and analytical ranks?

Without authority, he invoked the name of the President in breaking a long-standing pledge to a friendly country, specifically to not establish a back channel communication link to a terrorist organization. Whether the pledge should or should not have been made is one issue, but a junior officer should not have, under penalty of law, broken a pledge made by the highest officials of the government. His action was a gross lack of discipline; even more so was the Agency’s acquiescing to its use.

Once Salameh agreed to creation of a back channel and became party to it, he signed his own death warrant. There was no way out. One way or another, he was going to die, either by an Israeli gun or bomb, or by those of another revolutionary organization.  No one raised a hand to save him. Instead, everyone, Ames included, took cover.

Robert Ames’s extreme loyalty to the PLO was known, and yet he was the one using the back channel. He wasn’t monitored. What did he say, what did he tell Salameh?  No one knows.

On another score, who would knowingly, even irresponsibly, put an anti-Israeli in charge of liaison with a Jewish-led country that is generally called “America’s best ally in the Near East?” Would an alternative have made any difference in dealing with the massacre in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps? Would a more balanced CIA-Israeli relationship have made any difference?

Despite Bird’s attempt to put a gloss on his career, Ames’s role in the Middle East led to bad intelligence from top to bottom.


1. Later, after completing his assignment as chief of the NE Division, Wolfe became chief of the Rome station.  During that time Aldrich Ames, the notorious Soviet spy and no relation to Robert Ames, was a case officer at the station and was under investigation by Headquarters.  Wolfe neglected to report that Aldrich Ames had a well-known drinking problem, and for his failure to do so, he was officially reprimanded. Wolfe died in 2002.

2. Bird quotes from George P. Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1993), p. 50.

* A version of this review have been published in the International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence. Volume 28, Issue 1, 2015



Categories: ACD/EWI Blog, Israel, MENA Region, Middle East Conflicts, Mideast, U.S. Foreign Policy, U.S. Policy

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