The Spy in the FBI
Robert Hanssen's Ego Led to Betrayal of Country, Author Says

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Dec. 17, 2001 -- To say that Robert Hanssen led a secret life would be an understatement. The story of the FBI agent-turned-Russian spy is well known. For 20 years, Hanssen sold the nation's secrets to Moscow. In return, he received more than $1.4 million in cash and diamonds.

Robert Hanssen

Robert Hanssen
Photo: FBI

Robert Hanssen Timeline

April 18, 1944: Robert Philip Hanssen is born in Chicago. His father was a Chicago police officer involved in anti-communist intelligence work.

Aug. 10, 1968: Hanssen marries Bonnie Wauck in Chicago.

1972: Hanssen joins the Chicago police department internal affairs unit.

April 1976: Hanssen completes FBI training.

1978: After two years in Indiana, Hanssen is transferred to the FBI's New York City field office.

1979-80: Hanssen sells U.S. secrets to Soviet military intelligence.

Oct. 1, 1985: Hanssen mails a letter to the KGB offering his services as a spy.

1990: Hanssen's family discovers he has hidden thousands of dollars in his home. His brother-in-law, FBI agent Mark Wauck, tells bureau superiors that he suspects Hanssen of spying for the Russians. The FBI fails to investigate.

1990: Hanssen begins a relationship with stripper Priscilla Galey, whom he meets at a Washington club. He gives her a diamond-and-sapphire necklace, a $10,000 used Mercedes and other luxuries.

Late 1990s: Hanssen posts sexual story about his wife on adult Internet sites.

Feb. 18, 2001: The FBI arrests Hanssen after a massive multi-year mole hunt.

May 1, 2001: FBI Director Louis Freeh resigns.

May 16, 2001: Hanssen is indicted on 21 espionage-related counts, most of which carry a maximum sentence of death.

July 6, 2001: Hanssen pleads guilty to 13 counts of espionage in exchange for a life sentence.

Source: The Bureau and the Mole

It was previously revealed that Hanssen had a relationship with a stripper whom he showered with jewelry and other luxury gifts, even as he led a home-for-dinner family-man lifestyle.

Hanssen was arrested last February after the FBI discovered "dead drops" where he exchanged classified information with his Russian handlers a short distance from the home he shared with his wife and six children in a Washington suburb.

But a new book, The Bureau and the Mole by the Washington Post's David Vise, discloses more about Hanssen than even the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter could at first believe.

As Vise tells Alex Chadwick on Morning Edition, Hanssen gave away the store of national security secrets:

He told the Russians about the "Continuity of Government Plan" for how the president, Congress and U.S. government would survive and continue to operate in the event of a nuclear attack.

He disclosed the identities of at least nine Soviet officials who were spying for the United States. Three of them were subsequently executed.

He revealed to Moscow the existence of a spy tunnel beneath the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C.

He presented the Russians with information about COINS, an online system shared by various U.S. intelligence agencies.

He gave up what Vise calls the "holy of holies" -- the national intelligence budget which contains U.S. intelligence plans.

The book also looks behind the spying at the darkest secrets of Hanssen's personal life. Like the fact that while his Russian handlers never knew his real identity, Hanssen posted stories about his sexual fantasies on adult Internet sites. And put his real name on the postings.

As Vise says: "(Hanssen) was out there. He was a risk taker. He was (British traitor spy) Kim Philby. He was not only willing to spy, he was willing to post stories about his sexual fantasies... on the Internet."

It didn't stop there, Vise says. According to the author, Hanssen invited his best friend to secretly watch -- via closed-circuit video -- as Hanssen and his wife Bonnie were having sex in their bedroom. "Bonnie Hanssen had no idea any of this was going on," Vise says.

While "financial pressures" played a role in getting Hanssen started in the spy game, Vise says, "the main reason he spied wasn't about money. It was about ego."

The author describes Hanssen's personality as a "fractured ego seeking recognition." Vise says that as a young boy, Hanssen was abused physically and emotionally by his father, a Chicago police officer.

Vise says Hanssen "got to the FBI and he felt that the FBI didn't recognize his brilliance, and so he went to prove to the bureau, to the world, that he was a player. That he was an important guy, that the mole inside the FBI couldn't be caught and wouldn't be caught... "

Bridge drop site

This footbridge near Vienna, Va., served as one of the "dead drop" sites where Hanssen left packages of classified materials for the KGB in exchange for money.
Photo: FBI

NPR News Coverage

search Earlier NPR News radio coverage of Robert Hanssen.

Other Resources

Read about the Hanssen case on the FBI's Web site.

Read the May 16, 2001, indictment against Hanssen.

Read the FBI's Feb. 16, 2001, affidavit in support of an arrest warrant for Hanssen.