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Friday, January 15, 2010

Robert Hanssen, American Spy

Hard to believe that an American FBI agent could betray his country and spy for the Russians for more than 20 years. Robert Hanssen did more to harm America than any other spy in their history. He was arrested in 2001 near his home in Vienna, Virginia and they traded him a prison sentence instead of the death penalty in exchange for information. He is serving a life sentence in a maximum security prison and spends twenty three hours a day in solitary confinement.

He sensed the end was near. Just before daybreak he had a feeling that someone or something was getting close. He suspected his car may be bugged because it was making a strange crackling noise. He was right - his phone was tapped, the FBI bought a house across the street from his and he was being followed everywhere.

The FBI agents staked out the park where they knew he made his drops. They watched him walk into the wood, stop at the footbridge and place a package underneath it. "Freeze, FBI" yelled one of ten young men who surrounded him.

Born on 18th April 1944, to everyone who knew him he was a devoted husband, father of 6 and a devout Catholic who went regularly to mass, sometimes every day. The family belonged to Opus Dei, a small but powerful faction of Catholicism. He said later that he confessed his sins to priests in confession over the years and was told to stop his spying activities but of course he never did.
Hard to image why a priest armed with such information did not go to the authorities with it.

He secretly videotaped he and his wife having sex and shared the videotapes with a close friend. He also explicitly described the sexual details of his marriage on Internet chat rooms and hid a video camera in his bedroom and hooked up a clossed circuit television line so that his friend could spy on the Hanssons having sex from his own living room. He also liked to visit DC strip clubs and had an affair with a stripper.
Pulitzer prize-winning author and journalist David Vise has covered the FBI for the Washington Post and wrote the book 'The Bureau and the Mole'. He says the worst single betrayal by Robert Hanssen was the sale of something called 'The Continuity of Government Plan' - the super secret plan for how the President, Vice-President and Congress would survive a nuclear first strike. By giving this information to the Russians, he single-handedly increased the risk of nuclear war.
There is one piece of intelligence Hanssen sold to the Russians which according to US intelligence sources ended up in the hands of Al Qaeda terrorist network. An individual Russian for two million dollars sold Al Quaeda a software tracking package which was passed along to Osama bin Laden which enabled him to evade detection by the United States for a number of years, he had advanced kowledge of what the FBI and CIA were working on. Robert Hanssen was the most damaging spy in American history, no other spy comes close.
They said it was all his father's fault, a tough cop who never gave the boy enough priase but I don't buy that one. I guess we'll never know, some stories are stranger than fiction.