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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ames Case Blamed for Spy Snatch

LONDON -- Russia's announcement that it had captured its first post-Cold War British spy was probably a tit-for-tat reaction to the arrest of a CIA officer who spied for Moscow, officials and espionage experts said on Wednesday.


Russian officials denied any connection between Tuesday's statement and a parallel announcement last week in the United States that top-ranking CIA official Aldrich Ames and his wife had been detained on charges of spying for the Kremlin.


But one British official said: "The timings do suggest that this has been in the fridge for a little while. The obvious thought is have they, in the wake of the Ames business, felt the need to take some action against Western intelligence?"


Allan Rogers, the opposition Labour Party spokesman on intelligence affairs, said: "There is a large element of tit-for-tat in these arrests and exposures. Russia has probably known about this man for a long time."


In contrast to Moscow's detailed account of the spy's activities, Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), retained its familiar Cold War silence on the subject.


On Tuesday, in Alexandria, Virginia, the Ames were ordered held in jail until their trial after a U.S. prosecutor called them traitors who sold out their country.


Magistrate Barry Poretz ruled that Ames, a 31-year CIA veteran, and his Colombian born wife Rosario might flee the United States or posed a danger to the country if freed from jail.


Poretz also ruled that the prosecutor had produced enough evidence backing up the charges that the couple had spied for the Soviet Union and then Russia since 1985 in return for more than $2.5 million -- said to be the most Moscow has ever paid one of its U.S. spies.


They were returned to jail in the Washington suburb pending a decision by prosecutors on when to lodge formalespionage charges against them and proceed to trial in what may prove one of America's gravest spy scandals.


Prosecutor Mark Hulkower portrayed the couple as allegedly spying for Moscow not for ideology, but for personal gain to finance a lavish lifestyle.


Aside from money, he cited a promise of a river front to be used for a dacha.


"They have sold out their country to support that lifestyle," he said, calling the pair traitors.


FBI agent Leslie Wiser testified that a nine-page letter from Soviet intelligence in the late 1980s told Ames, a CIA counter-intelligence expert, that his top priority was to identify any U.S. agents who may have penetrated the KGB.


Wiser said many of the agents were arrested and executed.