Despite a steady disappearance of assets against the Soviet Union, many in the CIA refused to believe there was a traitor. However, the Chief of the Soviet/East European Division, cabled the CIA counterintelligence agent Jeanne Vertefeuille to come work on his “Soviet problem.”
Vertefeuille led a five-person team determined to find out what was behind the troubling loss of assets, some of whom were executed. Some people even thought that outsiders had intercepted CIA communications.
However, perpetrator Aldrich Ames’ extravagant lifestyle was to be his downfall. Ames started spying for the Soviet Union in 1985 and received great sums of money. In fact, he made the most money of any individual known to have penetrated the US government.
It took nearly three years after he came under suspicion, but Sandy Grimes—a member of the team—found out that Ames made large bank deposits every time he met with a particular Soviet official.
Although Ames’ job entailed meeting with Soviet officials, this evidence was so damning that the FBI took over the investigation and used surveillance to build a case. After discovering additional incriminating evidence in his house and home computer, authorities arrested Ames on February 21, 1994.
Ames plead guilty to federal charges and is serving life in prison. Ironically, he had told his Soviet handlers that Vertefeuille was someone who could be framed for his treason.
Jeanne’s fame was such that TIME Magazine finally persuaded her to do a photo shoot even though some members of her own family did not know whom she worked for.
Considered an “icon,” Vertefeuille paved the way for women to work in the Directorate of Operations. Hired as a typist in 1954, Jeanne rose steadily through the ranks of the CIA.