Thursday, January 02, 2014

ABC's "The Assets": catching Aldrich Ames

On January 2, 2013 ABC premiered with the first episode of its eight-part series, “The Assets”, based on the book “Circle of Treason: A CIA Account of Aldrich Ames and the Men He Betrayed” by (retired) CIA officers Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille. The pilot episode was called “My Name Is Aldrich Ames”.

The series begins in April 1985 and emphasizes the idea that the Cold War was soon to come to a head, as the Soviets were very concerned about Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” proposal from 1983.

It switches to Moscow in September, with fall colors (OK) and snow (no, not likely), as an asset leaves the US Embassy and gets caught in a trap, the first sign that a mole within the midst is betraying assets.

I recall the news reports of the arrest of Ames at his home on President’s Day Monday in February 1994.
It’s interesting to see how eavesdropping worked back in the 1980s – there are a lot of shots of teletype machines spewing out code.
The first episode is directed by Jeff T. Thomas and written by Andrew Chapman.
I remember reading a book about the spy world in the 1980s called “The Red Fox” by Anthony Hyde.
The teleseries so far gives the impression that CIA work at Langley is more about manipulating and trading assets and spies than about the actual content of the intelligence (so completely encrypted).  It seems as though the deterrent was to show you could find out any enemy plans, and that it did not matter so much what those plans actually were as the idea you could find them out.
But Ames is said to have been responsible for the deaths of a number of American assets and could have hindered the end of the Cold War at the end of 1991.

ABC’s site is here
Paul Rhys looks true as the mustachioed, stiff and mannered Ames (like he got off the Orient Express), and Jodie Whitaker is passionate as Sandy Grimes.  

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