Oddly, on the night I watched a fictional CIA operative work for years to kill Osama bin Laden, I come home to read the obituary of an actual CIA operative, who used traditional (non-torture*) methods to catch the worst traitor in CIA history, Aldrich Ames. Jeanne Vertefeuille joined the agency in 1954 as a typist, and, as a mid-level worker in the 80s, was chosen as part of a small team tasks to find a potential mole. It took eight years. There’s this from the obituary:
In a debriefing after his arrest, Mr. Ames told his interrogators that when K.G.B. officials had asked for the name of a C.I.A. official whom they might plausibly frame as a mole, he said he gave them Ms. Vertefeuille’s name, adding that she was the principal mole hunter.
His admission surprised her. “At first, I wanted to jump across the table and strangle him,” Ms. Vertefeuille said. “But then I started laughing. It really was funny, because he was the one in shackles, not me.”
*Having seen Zero Dark Thirty, I’ll note that I couldn’t characterize it as “pro-torture,” or as suggesting that torture was key in identifying bin Laden’s courier. The largest breaks depicted come from standard-non-torture methods– information that had been neglected in existing files sent by friendly intelligence agencies, telephone intelligence, and dogged work on the ground to find and then follow the courier. I hope to write more about the movie, which I would recommend, in a later post.