Undercover with FBI Counterintelligence
Moscow, July 1994
After emptying my head of notes while inside my Radisson hotel room, I descended to the lobby to reconnect with Edward Lee Howard.
We drove to Howard's office so he could check on incoming faxes.
Howard told me his wife and son would arrive in Moscow five days hence and stay a month. They wanted to visit St. Petersburg, he said, so he intended to accompany them and play tour guide.
"That's right. My in-laws are coming, too," Howard added.
"They have to," I said, "to protect themselves from accusations of receiving and publishing classified material."
Cars veered around the mess; some motorists jumped out of their vehicles to loot the few bottles that lay unbroken in the street.
A few yards on, first door on the left, Howard keyed a single lock and we entered.
The drab, two-room office was illuminated by dim wattage. It reeked of stale tobacco. Cigarette smoke had permeated the carpets, the furniture, and stained the walls brown.
"Some Germans, Swedes. A Spaniard. He paid for me to meet him in Vienna last month."
"They've only been open four months but doing pretty well," said Howard. "It's a good thing we're eating early. It'll be packed later, with a line to get in."
The maitre’d sat us with menus printed in English, priced in U.S. dollars.
"To convince you not to take the trip."
|Col. Igor Batamirov|
"Yeah, they knew he was in trouble," said Howard. "Last September, one of my KGB contacts, a man named Batamirov, showed me a picture of Ames when we were at a restaurant on the river. He asked me, 'Do you know this man?' I said I didn't. I should have known then something was going on. They knew Ames was in trouble."
"Because it would have been too sticky politically," said Howard. "Look, when there was a $400 million aid package for Russia working its way through Congress, some Congressman tacked on a rider saying it was contingent on the Russians giving me back! Yeltsin didn't want another one like me messing up aid packages. It was more politically expedient to let Ames get caught than bring him here, where'd he'd become a major political and economic issue.
"And I'll tell you something else about Ames," continued Howard. "He wasn't the incompetent fool they made him out to be in the American press. My KGB contacts say he was a brilliant spy, very professional."
"They asked what I wanted," said Howard. "I said, Just give me a new car. They said fine."
"In the old days," said Howard, "I had a little book, and in it were special vouchers and phone numbers for getting seats at the Bolshoi [ballet] or anywhere else in Moscow."