The spying of CIA operative Aldrich Hazen Ames and his wife Maria del Rosario Casas Ames—who have been accused by the FBI of working for the Soviets and later the Russians—is significant for reasons that have escaped the Establishment press. Republican Senator Dole and Democratic Senator DeConcini and many others should think twice before denouncing the manifest incompetence of a federal agency, the gross treachery of Mr. and Mrs. Ames against the nation, or the regressive deceptions practiced by a “new” Russia.

Never mind that the CIA let Ames sell his country down the river for nearly a decade, as he betrayed numerous Soviet “assets” to their death. During this same period, the CIA missed the breakup of the Soviet Union and the attempted coup against Yeltsin. Whatever the mission of the CIA is, providing intelligence is not it. For that, we have CNN, which was how the White House found out about Russia’s involvement in the Bosnia mess. Boris wouldn’t answer the phone.

Never mind that the SVRR (formerly the KCB) runs spy networks in our country, even penetrating our counterintelligence. Since our “assets” in Russia were paid to betray their country, what grounds do we have for complaint? We paid the Soviet double agents, paid Ames to control them, paid his salary while he betrayed them, and helped fund Russia as its government paid him some more—but this is not a new situation.

Since the American people have so often been told about the benignity of Boris Yeltsin and the Russian yearning for McDonald’s, Pepsi, and Michael Jackson, an unpleasant and inappropriate reaction would be extreme and irresponsible. President Clinton and Robert Strauss and others have already sagely called for a steady course, continuing to provide foreign governments with money that is then used to subvert the American people who provided the funds. The American government and the Russian government have the same policy, proving that they have more in common with each other than they do with the constituencies they affect to represent and serve. Don’t rock the boat.

America’s foreign policy is foreign in more than one sense; indeed, its domestic policy is foreign as well. It’s rather confusing to impute treachery to a man whose job it was to supervise the treacheries of others. Besides, what country did Ames betray? Since we have porous borders, it’s hard to say who is a citizen and who is not, and therefore hard to say that the United States is literally a nation. The GATT and NAFTA agreements indicate that the government regards foreign lobbyists and not the American people as its constituency. Why should we withhold from hostile nations what we grant to rootless and exploitative corporations?

The American government has long known better than the people upon whom it battens. Franklin D. Roosevelt, for instance, knew quite well that the “Man Called Intrepid,” William Stephenson, was spying on America Firsters before Pearl Harbor. That President had no problem with foreign agents—British ones, in this case—interfering in his country. Maybe that was because he knew he would later betray Britain.

One unfortunate by-product of the Ames ease—as Wolf Blitzer has implied—has been to derail the ponderous movement to pardon Jonathan Jay Pollard, the Navy intelligence analyst who was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for passing secrets to Israel, is most distressing. The Clinton administration had recently floated balloons about a pardon for Pollard, fulfilling a commitment made during the 1992 campaign. The Israeli head of state, furnishing a new definition of chutzpah, actually wrote to Clinton asking for such a pardon, and there have been well-publicized American petitions seeking such a pardon. After all, the country Pollard sold secrets to is our ally, so what’s the problem? Don’t we want Israel to know what it needs to know? Of course, the Israeli spy network in the United States is second only to Russia’s in size and seriousness, and that is not surprising, since both of them have been subvented by American money. One hand washes the other. Seymour Hersh convincingly argues that some of the material Pollard showed to Israel was then passed by Israel to the Soviets. You might say that Ames, by dealing directly with Russia, only cut out the middleman. Since Ames is accused of doing something similar, and since calls for Pollard’s pardon have already been floated by the government that he betrayed as well as by the government that recruited him and lied about it, I don’t think it’s too early to call for a pardon of Ames—and his spouse. After all, no one wishes to hear nasty taunts like “Who does Russia think she is—Israel?” Actually, a Russian diplomat said something similar on CNN: If Israel could do it, why couldn’t Russia? Aren’t we all allies now?

Of course we are. That’s why my forthright and preemptive call for a pardon of the Ameses will be supported nationally. It wouldn’t do to single out the Ameses for punishment while pardoning Pollard. Pardoning the Ameses would establish a sure basis for pardoning Pollard, which is obviously a national as well as international priority, though not one that President Clinton is in a position to act on—yet. Anyway, why withhold aid from Russia for spying on us with our own money, when we’ve opened the national coffers to Israel for doing the same? The only fair thing—fair to Russia, fair to Israel, fair to Pollard, and fair to Mr. and Mrs. Ames—is to pardon everybody and then to pretend that nothing ever happened. That way there will be no embarrassment, and the money to finance more extractions of intelligence from our country will continue to flow to Russia and Israel. That way we can give up the exhausting pretense that the United States has a national interest or that, if we do, the government knows what it is. And that way Russia and Israel will have as much money and even more intelligence than we do (as if that were not already demonstrated), thus relaxing international tensions.

A pardon for Ms. Ames will even rob the horde of feminist commentators of their fodder, since Lorena Bobbitt has already proved that a Latin woman can’t be convicted of anything if she cries on the witness stand. A pardon for both she and her husband will also show that if greed justifies the betrayal of the nation by corporate lobbyists, then the franchise can be extended. Finally, a pardon for Ames will assure at least one person that Rick Ames is not lonely. Doesn’t every traitor need and deserve an organized constituency trying to get him out of jail?