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In a twisted career that lasted almost two decades, Robert Philip Hanssen became a mole inside the FBI, ending his career in prison serving a life sentence. Beginning in 1985, Hanssen started out as a person who was known as a hardworking man by his neighbours, colleagues and friends. This man who appeared to be a hardworking family man had a dark side that some say simply manifested itself as greed. This FBI agent who admitted to being a spy for the Soviet Union and later, Russia, traded the secrets of his country for cash that amounted to almost 1. 4 million dollars as well as jewels and diamonds.
He said he did it for his children – as if that was enough of an excuse for the lives that were lost due to his perfidy. During the many years of betrayal, Hanssen provided the Soviets with key information that included documents of almost six thousand pages, as well as twenty six computer diskettes that contained information on top secret programs. This information had been catalogued for the Soviets and generously placed into their hands by Hanssen. Ironically, the very Soviets he chose to help were the ones who turned him in. It is said that someone from Russia itself had tipped off the FBI that there was a spy in their midst.
An investigation ensued and it wasn’t long before Hanssen was hauled up on fifteen counts of espionage and conspiracy charges. He pled guilty to all charges in the indictment in a plea agreement that excluded the death penalty. On May 10, 2002, at the age of fifty eight years, he was sentenced to a life in prison without the possibility of parole. (CNN, 2002) Many people still wonder what motivated a man like Hanssen to sell out his country and betray the national trust. They also wonder how he could spy for this nation’s prime enemy for fifteen years before he was caught.
Was he the first and biggest blunder in the history of America’s security? Discussion FBI Director Louis Freeh called Robert Hanssen’s crimes “the most traitorous actions imaginable against a country governed by the rule of law” in a government affidavit. This same affidavit describes the beginning of Hanssen’s career as a spy. The document states that Hansen most probably began with a letter that was sent in October 1985 to Viktor Ivanovich Cherkashin, the Komitat Gosudarstvenoi Bezopasnosti (KGB) chief of foreign intelligence at the Soviet Embassy in Washington.
The affidavit mentions how he sent across the most sensitive projects of the intelligence community in the United States of America. The package was exchanged for what was thought to be the first payment in Hanssen’s spying career ? $100,000 that would add to his collection. In the same letter, Hansse, along with Aldrich Ames, also alerted the Soviets about the Russian spies that had been recruited by the United States. Three Soviet officers ? Boris Yuzhin, Sergey Motorin and Valeriy Martynov ? were the people who were being used as double agents by the U.
S. This information put the lives of these three officers at stake. Martynov and Motorin were arrested, tried and executed in Moscow itself, while the third, Boris Yuzhin was imprisoned and released after six years. Interestingly enough, both Ames and Hanssen both started working for the USSR in 1985. Hanssen began his journey with Russia by informing them of these three agents in his very first letter to the KGB, as an indication of his trustworthiness. The damage that Hanssen did, as outlined in the indictment, was a severe blow to American intelligence.
He blew the cover on several secret top intelligence programs and operations that included the National Measurement and Signature Intelligence Program, involving acoustic intelligence, radar intelligence and nuclear radiation detection; the FBI Double Agent Program; the Intelligence Community’s Comprehensive Compendium of Future Intelligence Requirements; a study on recruitment operations of the KGB against the CIA; an assessment of the KGB’s effort to gather information on U. S. nuclear programs; a CIA analysis of the KGB’s First Chief Directorate (FCD), its international intelligence division; and the FBI counterintelligence techniques, sources, methods and operations. (Rodriguez, 2001) In one case, According to the FBI’s affidavit, Hanssen compromised “an entire technical program of enormous value expense and importance to the United States Government”.
Hanssen is also accused of tipping off the KBG to the FBI’s secret investigation of Felix Bloch, a Foreign Service Officer suspected of spying for Moscow in 1989.
The KGB warned Bloch who then skipped the country, according to the FBI. Justice Department prosecutors were never able to find key evidence that Bloch passed secret documents. (Rodriguez, 2001) Reports show that Robert Hanssen did more than just that. To begin with Hanssen’s espionage is known to have increased the possibility of a nuclear war. (Robert Hanssen – Affidavit, 2001) Hanssen apparently compromised what is known as the Continuity of Government Plan. This plan was a highly secret back-up plan that would guarantee that the president and the U. S.
government’s operations would remain secure, in case of a nuclear attack. Hanssen also revealed to his contact the presence of the spy tunnel that had been built under the Soviet embassy located in Washington D. C. , which was being used to over hear conversations as well as find out existing communication plans. When Hanssen tipped off the Russians it resulted in the loss of a several hundred million dollar tunnel and the expensive tunnel proved to be a useless tool to the FBI. (Rodriguez, 2001) Hannsen also leaked the U. S. National Intelligence Program.
This program laid out for the Russians every single detail of the U. S. intelligence community’s plans for the following year, including how the budgets were going to be spent. Hanssen compromised what was known internally as the “Holy of Holies” and what was shocking is that he went on to do this for a few more years. (Rodriguez, 2001) Hanssen destroyed the effectiveness of the foreign double agents scene either for the intelligence field in the United States of America. He spoiled every plan there was by revealing strategies and operation, both of which were essential to the FBI.
Hanssen leaked key target areas and zones, and gave the Russians an important document titled The FBI’s Double Agent Program. This completely interfered with recruiting efforts as well as management reviews of the whole process. Telling his Russian contact that he thought Block was a snook, he helped Bloch anyway because he said he knew the Soviets were fond of him. (Robert Hanssen – Affidavit, 2001) Hanssen prevented the arrest of Felix Block, an officer who was allegedly spying for the Soviet Union. Hanssen tipped off the Russian government, who were able to alert Block in time for him to elude capture by the FBI. (Rodriguez, 2001)
Hansen also described the location, methods, and technology involved in FBI eavesdropping and surveillance of a particular Soviet spy station; warned the KGB of a successful new intelligence operation by the NSA against a Soviet target ; disclosed that the United States was listening in on Soviet satellite transmissions by exploiting a technical vulnerability in the Soviets’ communications systems; shared top secret documents from the National Security Council, which advises the president on intelligence and national security matters; handed over details about a meeting between the United States and “M”, a potential Soviet double agent; the accused agent, Gennadiy Vasilenko, was nearly beaten to death by the KGB after Hanssen’s betrayal but was ultimately released after convincing his captors that he wasn’t a turncoat; provided a technical document describing the U. S.
intelligence community’s classified intranet system, called COINS-II; disclosed specific NSA limitations in reading certain soviet communications, giving the Russians secure channels through which to pass information; divulged a document from the director of Central Intelligence entitled, “Stealth Orientation”; disclosed intelligence relating directly to the United States’ preparations and means of defense and retaliation against a large-scale conventional or nuclear attack ; released a document prepared for the director of Central Intelligence entitled “Compendium of Future Intelligence Requirements: Volume II,” which contained a comprehensive listing of data sought by the United States, including information about the military capabilities and preparedness of Russia and other nations; divulged information that Soviet spies and defectors had provided to the United States about Soviet intelligence successes against the United States; disclosed what the United States knew about KGB double agent recruitment operations targeting the CIA; revealed details of a U. S. technical program to penetrate Soviet communications intelligence; handed over the transcript of a meeting of the CI Group, and association of senior counterintelligence officials from all U. S. intelligence agencies that sets national priorities; released documents regarding the National HUMINT (human intelligence).
Collection Plan; divulged, on at least two occasions, intelligence reviews of the Russian armed forces and their capabilities for conducting strategic nuclear war during the 1990s; revealed, on at least two occasions, that the United States was targeting a particular category of Soviet communications in an operation related to American national defense. (Vise, 2001) On further analysis it is seen that Hanssen, in one of his many letters to the Soviets, also wrote that he was very inspired by the story of the British Soviet double agent Kim Philby. Considering that Hanssen’s admiration for Philby began at the tender age of fourteen, it wouldn’t be too far away from the truth to presume that Hanssen could have entered the FBI, not only for the sole purpose of learning how to be a spy, but also using the tricks of the trade to become who his childhood role model was ?
a double agent and a spy. While it is interesting to note how books like the one on Kim Philby could have influenced a boy to become a spy, the words of U. S. Attorney Paul McNulty should also be kept in mind. McNulty commenting on how Hanssen’s life sentence ought to be a warning to potential traitors who were yet to climb out of the woodwork said, “Robert Hanssen was trained to catch spies. He was an expert at what it took to avoid being caught. And he was caught. And he was punished. And that’s what will happen to anyone who betrays this country. ” (Law Center, CNN) Hanssen’s way of operating in the highly secure environment of the FBI is worth mentioning.
Robert Hanssen refused to tell his Russian contacts who he was and did a pretty good job in hiding his identity. While some have asked if this could be because he enjoyed the pleasure that came from manipulating both ends of the equation, Robert Hanssen clearly had his own reasons for doing so. In Hanssen’s own words, he claimed “I am much safer if you know little about me. Neither of us are children about this. ” Before long, Hanssen’s sound logic in keeping his identity secret grew slightly faulty. Adrian Havill in his article titled The Last Day in the Sun explains, “Ramon Garcia was one of Robert Hanssen’s code names. He thought he had been cautious, never giving Moscow his real name and never meeting with the KGB.
But he had not been careful enough. His biggest mistake had been leaving his fingerprints on the plastic garbage bags in which he delivered state secrets. When his file was sold by a former KGB higher-up in September 2000, the FBI lab had asked for everything. Surprisingly, the Russians had kept the Hefty bags and once the prints had been dusted and traced, his fate was sealed. (Havill, 2003) His tactical reasons for keeping mum however showed that Hansen was fully aware of the fact that the FBI itself had its sources within what was formerly known as KGB. Hanssen’s positions of trust and authority in the FBI gave him enough access to pursue his devious ways.
Spending the larger part of his career in counterintelligence, Hanssen was given access to the most sensitive of cases as well as documents. Together with this advantage, Hanssen began to work in the State Department Office of Foreign Missions and the State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. In 1995 this added to Hanssen’s ability to spy for Russia. In the 27 letters that he sent out to his Russian counterparts in crime, Hanssen always took care to keep himself safe. None of the Russians had a clue of who he was and all they knew about him was the several aliases he was known by “B” and Ramon Garcia to begin with. Soon after his plea agreement, Hanssen was heralded as the most destructive traitor in the history of the United States.
Called a traitor of unparalleled dimension, Hanssen was entrusted with highly classified information and he betrayed that trust. . (Vise, 2001) Robert Hanssen was definitely aided by his expertise in the field of computers as well as the access he had to secret documents from all data points that an FBI official could want, such as, FBI, CIA, National Security Agency, National Security Council, and the Pentagon. Hanssen’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect, he was spying at a time when federal agencies were prepared to share more information with one another. . (Vise, 2001) Robert Hanssen soon had at his disposal an extensive list of classified and exclusive material.
Experts within the FBI itself have compared Hanssen’s disastrous effects to that of a five-hundred year flood. He compromised thousands of pages of intelligence sources and methods; cryptology’ communications and technical surveillance programs; counterintelligence operations and military, logistical, and political strategy for surviving a nuclear attack. The system used by the U. S. intelligence community is based on the damage that would ensue if information were compromised. Data that would cause “serious” damage is classified SECRET, and information that would cause “exceptionally grave” damage is TOP SECRET. Highly sensitive information at any level may be further restricted as SENSITIVE COMPARTMENTED INFORMATION, OR SCI.
Access to material bearing an SCI designation requires specific additional security clearances. Hansen held TOP SECRET clearance from his first day at the FBI in 1976. He received his initial SCI clearance in June 1980, roughly one year after his first counterintelligence assignment, and would be cleared for at least five more SCI programs over the course of his FBI employment. (Vise, 2001) His neighbours and colleagues knew him to be a hard working man, even a quiet family man. While building up such a reputation for himself, Hanssen was also sneaking classified documents out of his own country into the hands of proven enemies and threats to his very homeland.
He was a veteran in the FBI and served as a liaison to the State Department Office of Foreign Missions. Considering his status within the FBI, Robert Hanssen’s frequent movement within the building was an easy game and usually went unnoticed, or to say the least, was not prone to suspicion of any kind. David Major, Hanssen’s supervisor, commented that Hanssen’s crimes could not have possibly been entirely for money. Major suggested that the game itself, and not the gain that came out of it, could have been responsible for Hanssen’s behaviour. The affidavit contains the letters Hanssen wrote to the Soviets where he says he is not doing it for money.
Paul Moore, a known acquaintance of Hanssen for almost twenty years, commented that for Robert Hanssen there was just one ultimate goal in life. And that was to be able to play the game better than anyone else had ever played it before. (Vise, 2001) During Robert Hanssen’s spying years, he went on to educate Russia about various methods of intelligence that the U. S. was using. That by far, was one of the worst things he could have done. Technical operations and strategies were no longer safe and had been given over to another country. From something as fine as eavesdropping to an operation as complicated as surveillance or the interception of communications, Hanssen had given it all away.