'Breach' Captures an FBI Traitor in the Act

Actors Ryan Phillippe and Chris Cooper. Credit: Michael Gibson / Universal Pictures. i i

hide captionFBI trainee Eric O'Neill, played by Ryan Phillippe (left), is lectured on becoming a godly man by FBI colleague Robert Hanssen, played by Chris Coooper.

Michael Gibson/Universal Pictures
Actors Ryan Phillippe and Chris Cooper. Credit: Michael Gibson / Universal Pictures.

FBI trainee Eric O'Neill, played by Ryan Phillippe (left), is lectured on becoming a godly man by FBI colleague Robert Hanssen, played by Chris Coooper.

Michael Gibson/Universal Pictures

Scenes from 'Breach'

Courtesy: Universal Pictures

Web-Extra Audio

Former FBI agent Eric O'Neill and movie director Billy Ray speak with Rebecca Roberts about "Breach."

On Feb. 18, 2001, the FBI's Robert Hanssen was arrested for selling government secrets to Russia. His betrayal has been called the "worst breach of U.S. intelligence in the history of the FBI."

Hanssen's treachery took place in banal spots like Foxstone Park, a suburban Washington green space. Hanssen used it as a place to exchange information with his Russian handlers, as Spy Museum historian Thomas Boghardt explained during a recent trip there.

In a little over a week, the Hanssen case will be re-told on the silver screen in a new film called Breach. It stars Chris Cooper as Hanssen and and Ryan Philippe as FBI rookie Eric O'Neill, who helped bring Hanssen in.

The real O'Neill and the film's director, Billy Ray, spoke with Rebecca Roberts. O'Neill said that he didn't set out to turn his time at the FBI into a movie script.

This story was produced for Weekend Edition Sunday by Jesse Baker.

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