Hanssen (Robert) Espionage Case

Hanssen (Robert) Espionage Case


Robert Phillip Hanssen, a 25-year FBI veteran, was one of the most successful double agents to ever steal secrets

Photo released by the FBI February 20, 2001, showing FBI agent Robert Philip Hanssen, who was arrested under the accusation of spying for Russia. ©AFP/CORBIS.
Photo released by the FBI February 20, 2001, showing FBI agent Robert Philip Hanssen, who was arrested under the accusation of spying for Russia. ©

from the United States government. Hanssen used his position in the FBI to sell classified information to the Soviet KGB and later Russian Intelligence. A complex and often contradictory portrait emerged in the 109-page federal affidavit that detailed Hanssen's activities. The FBI alleged that Hanssen intentionally stole secret documents and sold them for private financial gain to the KGB over a period of 15 years. Like most double agents, a different social portrait of the man emerged. Friends, neighbors, and family described Hanssen as quiet, frugal, and devout.

Born in April 1944, Hanssen was the only child of Vivian and Howard Hanssen, a Chicago police lieutenant. He studied Russian and earned degrees in chemistry. After flirting with various career interests, Hanssen joined the Chicago Police Department in October, 1972. His first post was in a new undercover unit called C-5, which sought out corrupt police officers.

Hanssen's intelligence and ability stood out even in the elite C-5 group. A colleague suggested he join the FBI. On January 12, 1976, he joined the FBI, working in Indiana and New York City before being transferred to the Washington, D.C., headquarters in 1981. He initially tracked white-collar crime and monitored foreign officials assigned to the United States. Hanssen also spent two years as a member of a high-level analytical unit that monitored Soviet intelligence. While working as an analyst, Hanssen gathered and copied classified materials and began making contact with the Soviet KGB.

In 1985, Hanssen transferred to the FBI's Manhattan bureau to head a foreign counterintelligence squad. At that post, Hanssen could more readily funnel information to his Soviet handlers. Though his motives remained unclear, within nine days of joining the New York office Hanssen allegedly mailed a letter to the KGB offering stolen classified documents in exchange for $100,000. Over the next 15 years, with varying frequency, Hanssen sold information to rival foreign intelligence services.

In February 2000, Hanssen was arrested on espionage charges at a "dead drop" at a park near his home. The FBI accused him of receiving more than $600,000 in cash and diamonds for delivering 6,000 pages of documents and 26 computer discs to his Russian handlers. It was also alleged that $800,000 more was waiting for him in a Moscow bank. The FBI built its case against Hanssen by collecting, from unidentified sources, packages that bore Hanssen's fingerprints, and the apparent KGB file on Hanssen, which detailed his drops and letters to the Russian intelligence agency. Upon further investigation, the FBI compiled evidence of Hanssen's decades-long career as a double agent.

On May 10, 2002, Hanssen was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In his trial, he plead guilty to all counts of espionage and conspiracy that were levied against him.



The Center for Counterintelligence and Security Studies. < http://www.cicentre.com/Documents/DOC_Hanssen_1.htm > (April 2003).

United States Federal Bureau of Investigation. < http://www.fbi.gov/libref/historic/famcases/hanssen/hanssen.htm#anchor26 82 > (April 2003).


Ames (Aldrich H.) Espionage Case
Dead Drop Spike
Dead-Letter Box
FBI (United States Federal Bureau of Investigation)
KGB (Komitet Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti, USSR Committee of State Security)
Russia, Intelligence and Security

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