FOR SELLING secrets to Moscow, CIA counterintelligence operative Aldrich Ames, 52, has now pleaded guilty and been sentenced to life with no chance of parole. His confederate wife's sentence, due in August, will hinge on whether he delivers on his plea bargain to fully inform authorities about a hidden record in which he betrayed nearly a dozen Soviets who had become American spies -- at least four of whom were executed. His case is being presented as one of the gravest blows American intelligence has ever suffered. At his trial, Mr. Ames revealed himself as a money-grubber prepared to casually betray his country, service and family. As might be expected from someone trolling for court favor, he dismissed the importance of his deeds: "These spy wars are a sideshow which have had no real impact on our significant security interests over the years." Showing a basic dishonesty, he shrugged away the deaths he had caused as simply following from the risks that he and the victims were taking ostensibly in equal measure. In the United States the principal fallout of the Ames case is descending on the CIA. Its supposed indulgence of a "culture" of secrecy, elitism and self-protection is being blamed for Mr. Ames's evasion of detection for a full nine years. Why did his sudden new wealth ($ 2.5 million), reflected in his lifestyle, trigger no alarms? Was there excessive reliance on polygraphs, which he passed? How did he acquire internal documents outside his area of responsibility? The high-passion issue of who polices the CIA is again in play. On Capitol Hill an effort is moving to correct by legislation what the intelligence committees regard as a longtime fatal flaw: the agency's reluctance to bring the FBI in early on serious security leaks. Already on the defensive, CIA Director R. James Woolsey undercut his own resistance to this structural intrusion with his sensational announcement that there are "a fair number of espionage cases" -- later amended to "leads" -- still in the pipeline. The Ames case was a shocker. This is the right time for careful further review, and not just by the agency, of CIA operations and roles.