Robert Hanssen, a turncoat American spy whose leaks to Moscow the FBI dubbed “possibly the worst intelligence disaster in U.S. history,” was found dead in prison Monday.
Hanssen, 79, was found unresponsive at the supermax prison in Florence, Colo., about 6:55 a.m., according to the Justice Department. Medical staff tried and failed to save Hanssen, a news release stated.
The former FBI agent was sentenced to life in prison for espionage in 2002. His actions were so damaging that two decades later, the FBI has a webpage explaining what Hanssen did and how the agency uncovered his ruse.
From 2001 | Hanssen Admits Spying, Avoids Death Penalty
Hanssen was arrested in February 2001 for spying on behalf of Russia and the former Soviet Union, according to the FBI. He used the alias “Ramon Garcia” with his Russian handlers, with whom he exchanged highly classified national security information for $1.4 million in cash and diamonds.
Eric O’Neill, an FBI agent who helped bring down Hanssen, told The Washington Post on Monday that he was still processing the death of a man who has defined so much of his life and career. When asked why he believed Hanssen betrayed his country, O’Neill said the man was a patriot but also a disgruntled employee who wanted to be a field agent instead of an analyst.
“He wanted to be James Bond, and he thought they’d made him a librarian,” O’Neill said.
The federal government established the Commission for the Review of FBI Security Programs in the wake of the scandal. In its review of security programs published in March 2002, the commission described Hanssen’s espionage as “possibly the worst intelligence disaster in U.S. history.”
A 2007 report from the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General traced the start of Hanssen’s espionage activities to 1979, about three years after he joined the FBI.
“Hanssen compromised some of this nation’s most important intelligence and military secrets, including the identities of dozens of human sources, at least three of whom were executed,” according to the report. “Hanssen gave the KGB thousands of pages of highly classified documents and dozens of computer disks detailing U.S. strategies in the event of nuclear war, major developments in military weapons technologies, information on active espionage cases, and many other aspects of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Soviet counterintelligence program.”
Hanssen faced the death penalty when he was arrested thanks to another turncoat.
Aldrich Ames had been spying for the Russians since 1985 and revealed the names of at least 10 agents supplying information to the United States. After being arrested in 1994, Ames cut a deal to plead guilty to espionage and lay out what he had done in exchange for a more lenient sentence for his wife, Rosario, who served five years because she knew about the scheme and used the money.
After Ames — whose actions are believed to have led to the deaths of at least 10 Russians recalled to Moscow — the espionage law was changed to allow for execution, The Post reported in 2019.
Even with Ames’ arrest, the FBI and CIA knew there was still a mole sharing information with the Russians. After much investigation, the FBI and CIA acquired a Russian document that indicated Hanssen was working for Moscow.
He was close to retirement, so the FBI worked fast.
At the time, Hanssen was serving as a detailee to the Office of Foreign Missions at the Department of State. So the FBI created a bogus assignment for Hanssen to become a special assistant for a technology project to get him back to headquarters. In January 2001, he moved into a small office secretly outfitted with surveillance cameras and microphones.
A month later, according to the FBI, there were about 300 personnel tasked to the investigation. Hanssen was watched from the moment he left his house in Fairfax, Va., to the time he returned.
Despite being tech-savvy, he used decidedly old-school ways of communicating with his Russian handlers.
The FBI’s artifacts department still has pieces of white chalk and thumbtacks that Hanssen used to communicate about dead drops — leaving and receiving packages at prespecified locations — for his Russian handlers.
Investigators learned that Hanssen had planned to make a dead drop on Feb. 18, 2001, at a park near his Fairfax home.
The FBI described watching Hanssen park on a residential street and walk down a wooded path to a footbridge with the classified materials wrapped in a plastic bag. Agents arrested Hanssen on his way back to his car.
His presence looms so large that the Fairfax Parks Department maintains a webpage about his arrest at Foxstone Park, where he left packages under a bridge. “The bridge was discovered to have been a site for several ‘dead drops,’ or exchanges of confidential information,” according to the parks website.
Money, religion, the rush
There’s much debate about why Hanssen started spying. But what is clear is that the financial pressures on the family man were great.
He was transferred to the Manhattan office of the FBI in 1985 as a way to advance his career, but New York is expensive — especially with six children.
He and his wife Bonnie sold their four-bedroom, 2.5-bath house in Fairfax County for $175,000, only to spend almost as much on a cramped three-bedroom, 1.5-bath ranch house about 90 minutes north of Manhattan, The Post reported in 2001.
Staff at the FBI’s Manhattan office were leaving at a rate of seven per month, with most complaining they couldn’t make a living wage, according to The Post. The assistant FBI director who headed the Manhattan office publicly warned that his agents were vulnerable to being enticed. Hanssen’s salary was about $46,000, or about $132,000 today when adjusted for inflation.
Within nine days of joining the Manhattan office, Hanssen mailed the first of his letters to the KGB, the FBI has said. He offered stolen secret documents in return for $100,000.
Those who knew Hanssen described him as a frugal man, one who favored hamburgers for lunch and drove his family to Florida on vacation to visit their grandmother. The Post reported that, over the years, all six of the Hanssen children attended private schools affiliated with Opus Dei — a controversial international organization of Catholics with strict orthodox church doctrine. The tuitions ran about $10,000 a year.
In one of his first communications with his KGB handler, the FBI said Hanssen asked for payment in diamonds “as security to my children,” according to The Post.
But his time as a traitor couldn’t have been all about the money, according to those who knew him.
Many believe that Hanssen enjoyed the gamesmanship of outsmarting his employer, one of the most powerful spy agencies.
“It’s not a story about gain. It’s a story about game,” David G. Major, a former FBI counterintelligence official who knew Hanssen for more than two decades and was once his boss, told The Post in 2001.
Hanssen was an unlikely ally of Russia. He was conservative — having attended antiabortion demonstrations and gun shows — and he also decried communism for being “godless.” He was the only son of a Chicago police lieutenant who kept a crucifix on the wall behind his office desk.
John J. Hamre, a former deputy defense secretary, said in 2001 that Hanssen’s letters to the KGB start businesslike and end sounding sycophantic.
“It sounds like a guy who was living further and further into this deception,” Hamre said at the time, “and was starving for the attention he felt he deserved.”
To avoid the death penalty, Hanssen pleaded guilty to fourteen counts of espionage and one of conspiracy to commit espionage. He was sentenced to fifteen life terms without the possibility of parole, and was incarcerated at ADX Florence until his death in 2023.Is Robert Hanssen still alive? › Is Robert Hanssen still married? ›
Bernadette Hanssen, previously Bonnie Wauck, was married to Robert Hanssen, an FBI agent who gained notoriety for his espionage activities. When Bernadette Hanssen learned of her husband's extramarital activities, she faced several challenges. The couple has been married since 1968.How accurate is the movie breach? ›
Accuracy. The filmmakers fictionalized much of Eric O'Neill's story, as mentioned in the end credits. Among the major changes made for the film: The real O'Neill knew going in that Hanssen was the subject of a counterintelligence investigation.Why did Hanssen become a spy? ›
It was later discovered by an undercover agent that Hanssen had dreamed about spying against his country since the age of 14 after reading a book about Kim Philby, the British intelligence officer who was also a Russian double agent.How much money did Hanssen make? ›
WASHINGTON — Robert Hanssen, a former FBI agent who took more than $1.4 million in cash and diamonds to trade secrets with Moscow in one of the most notorious spying cases in American history, died in prison Monday.Who was the FBI agent who sold secrets to Russia? ›
Robert Hanssen was one of the most damaging spies in the history of the FBI. The former US agent, who has died in prison, leaked top secrets to Moscow for nearly 20 years - betrayals that the agency says cost lives. It took 300 agents to finally bring him down.What movies are based on Robert Hanssen? ›
Master Spy: The Robert Hanssen Story was filmed in Moscow, Hong Kong, Hawaii, Toronto, and Washington, D.C. The film was produced by Oakdale Prods. and distributed by Fox Television.How was Aldrich Ames caught? ›
On November 1, special agents observed him and, separately, his Russian handler in Bogota. When Ames planned foreign travel, including a trip to Moscow, as part of his official duties, a plan to arrest him was approved. Aldrich Ames is arrested outside his suburban home in Virginia in 1994.What is Robert Hanssen's wife doing now? ›
Today, Mrs. Hanssen is teaching at a Catholic school in suburban Virginia and is living in the house she shared with her husband and their six children. Under Mr. Hanssen's plea bargain, she will receive the survivor's part of his bureau pension, as well as the right to keep the home.
Indeed, he paid regular visits to strip clubs throughout his marriage to Bernadette 'Bonnie' Wauck, a devout and strait-laced Catholic for whom he had converted from Lutheranism. Born in 1944, Hanssen was the only child of a Chicago police officer father who emotionally abused him as a boy.Who is the actor that played Robert Hanssen? ›
Eric O'Neill (Ryan Phillippe), a low-level surveillance expert with the FBI, believes he is accomplishing his dream of becoming a full-fledged agent, with his unexpected promotion and assignment to work with renowned agent Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper).What is the difference between Breach and breech? ›
Breech refers either to pants or to the hind end of things (buttocks, the rear of a firearm). Breach is a violation of something (such as a contract) or a split or gap (as in "once more unto the breach").What is the movie about selling secrets to Russia? ›
FBI upstart Eric O'Neill enters into a power game with his boss, Robert Hanssen, an agent who was put on trial for selling secrets to the Soviet Union. FBI upstart Eric O'Neill enters into a power game with his boss, Robert Hanssen, an agent who was put on trial for selling secrets to the Soviet Union.Is Breach a sequel? ›
Breach 2 is a science fiction strategy video game developed by Omnitrend Software in 1990 for the Amiga, Atari ST and MS-DOS. It is the sequel to the 1987 game Breach, and was itself followed by Breach 3 in 1995.Who was the biggest FBI spy? ›
On January 12, 1976, Robert Philip Hanssen swore an oath to enforce the law and protect the nation as a newly minted FBI special agent. Instead, he ultimately became the most damaging spy in Bureau history.Who was the first American spy? ›
Often dubbed “America's first spy,” Nathan Hale was a Yale graduate who served in Knowlton's Rangers, a short-lived Continental reconnaissance unit.Who was the real spy? ›
Ravindra Kaushik (11 April 1952 – 21 November 2001) was an Indian Research and Analysis Wing agent, who spied for India from 1975 to 1983. Also named as The Black Tiger, he is considered as one of India's greatest spies.Who is the most famous Soviet spy? ›
Oleg Antonovich Gordievsky, CMG (Оле́г Анто́нович Гордие́вский; born 10 October 1938) is a former colonel of the KGB who became KGB resident-designate (rezident) and bureau chief in London, and was a double agent, providing information to the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) from 1974 to 1985.How much money do FBI spies make? ›
How much does a Special Agent make at Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States? Average Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent yearly pay in the United States is approximately $110,076, which is 14% above the national average.
As of May 29, 2023, the average hourly pay for a Spy in the United States is $25.40 an hour.Who was a CIA agent who became a KGB mole? ›
Aldrich Hazen "Rick" Ames (/eɪmz/; born May 26, 1941) is a former CIA counterintelligence officer who was convicted of espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union and Russia in 1994. He is serving a life sentence, without the possibility of parole, in the Federal Correctional Institution in Terre Haute, Indiana.Who was the FBI agent that turned Russian spy? ›
Robert Hanssen, one of the most notorious spies in U.S. history, died in prison this week. Hanssen was an FBI agent, but for years, he turned over classified information to the Soviet Union.Who is the red head Russian spy? ›
Anna Vasilyevna Chapman (Russian: А́нна Васи́льевна Ча́пман; born Anna Vasilyevna Kushchenko on 23 February 1982) is a Russian intelligence agent, media personality and model who was arrested in the United States on 27 June 2010 as part of the Illegals Program spy ring.How much of Bridge of Spies is true? ›
“While many things have been embellished, the big picture is historically accurate,” Powers said of the movie, which is based on Donovan's book, “Strangers on a Bridge,” and his father's autobiography “Operation Overflight.” Powers' father was a former Air Force fighter pilot recruited by the CIA to fly the U-2.What movie is based on a true story sniper? ›
American Sniper is a 2014 American biographical war drama film directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Jason Hall. It is loosely based on the memoir American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History (2012) by Chris Kyle, with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice.Is the movie The FBI story true? ›
The FBI Story depicts several real cases investigated by the FBI, over a span of decades. James Stewart plays "Chip" Hardesty, a fictional character, who, in the film, happened to always be at the center of things.How much do CIA assets get paid? ›
The average Cia Spy in the US makes $112,028. Cia Spies make the most in San Francisco, CA at $169,023, averaging total compensation 51% greater than the US average.What is the KGB called now? ›
The KGB was succeeded by the Federal Counterintelligence Service (FSK) of Russia, which was succeeded by the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB).How many spies are in the US? ›
The U.S. employs more than 100,000 spies, consultants and foreign nationals to support its national security information needs.
Espionage is defined as the act of spying or using spies, agents, assets, and intelligence officers, as well as technology, to collect secret information, usually through illegal means.Where can I watch Master Spy? ›
Watch Spy/Master (Intangiblul) - Stream TV Shows | HBO Max.Where was Robert Hanssen from? ›
“What took you so long?” he reportedly asked when arrested. Robert Philip Hanssen was born on April 18, 1944, in Chicago to Vivian and Howard Hanssen, a career Chicago police officer who did intelligence work for the department.What is the podcast about Robert Hanssen? ›
A Cup And Nuzzle production. Series producer: Gemma Newby. Music by Nick Ryan. Hayley Atwell describes the hunt for the infamous FBI mole Robert Hanssen, with Eric O'Neill, the agent tasked with catching him.Who played Bridget Rapp on FBI International? ›
Margo Seibert: Bridget Rapp.Why do breech babies happen? ›
Causes of Breech Baby
A previous sibling or either parent who was in breech presentation. Uterine abnormality (bicornuate or septate uterus, fibroid) Placental location (placenta previa, cornual placenta) Extremes of amniotic fluid volume (polyhydramnios, oligohydramnios)
Most breech babies are born healthy, although there is a slightly elevated risk for certain birth defects. Your baby's movements may feel a little different.Can a breech baby be birthed? ›
Most babies who remain breech after an attempt at turning them will be delivered by C-section. Your provider will explain the risk of delivering a breech baby vaginally. Today, the option to deliver a breech baby vaginally is not offered in most cases. The safest way for a breech baby to be born is by C-section.What is a Russian house called? ›
Dachas are common in Russia, and are also widespread in most parts of the former Soviet Union and in some countries of the former Eastern Bloc.What Hallmark movie has a Russian spy? ›
"Pack of Lies" is the story of the tragic effect that Soviet spy Lona Cohen had on an innocent lady who thought she'd found a friend.
Robert Hanssen, a former FBI agent who took more than $1.4 million ($2.3 million NZD) in cash and diamonds to trade secrets with Moscow in one of the most notorious spying cases in American history, died in prison today.Is there a secret ending in security breach? ›
Unlock the Secret Ending
To get it, you'll need to complete the main story levels and collect all the collectibles. You'll also need to complete the bonus levels and find the secret items hidden throughout the game. Once you've done this, you'll be able to unlock the secret ending.
To get the Good ending you must obtain Level 7 Security Clearance prior to it reaching 06:00. When you reach that time at the main doors, choose to 'Stay' when prompted by Freddy and then make your way together to the Loading Docks.What is the creature in breach? ›
John Suits' Breach focuses on a parasite infecting an ark, the Hercules, that's leaving Earth with hundreds of thousands on board.Who was the most successful Russian spy? ›
Oleg Antonovich Gordievsky, CMG (Оле́г Анто́нович Гордие́вский; born 10 October 1938) is a former colonel of the KGB who became KGB resident-designate (rezident) and bureau chief in London, and was a double agent, providing information to the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) from 1974 to 1985.Who were the most famous spies in Russia? ›
- Cambridge Four.
- Donald Maclean.
- Klaus Fuchs and the Soviet Atom Bomb.
- KGB Agents in Germany.
- Anatoli Sudoplatov And His Claims.
- KGB and Lee Harvey Oswald.
- Melita Norwood.
The Committee for State Security (KGB; Russian: Комитет государственной безопасности (КГБ), romanized: Komitet gosudarstvennoy bezopasnosti, IPA: [kəmʲɪˈtʲet ɡəsʊˈdarstvʲɪn(ː)əj bʲɪzɐˈpasnəsʲtʲɪ] ( listen)) was the main security agency for the Soviet Union from 13 March 1954 until 3 December 1991.How much do spies get paid? ›
|Annual Salary||Monthly Pay|
Capital punishment is a legal punishment under the criminal justice system of the United States federal government. It can be imposed for treason, espionage, murder, large-scale drug trafficking, or attempted murder of a witness, juror, or court officer in certain cases.What is the punishment for espionage? ›
Penalties for Espionage
If you are convicted of gathering and delivering defense information in order to aid a foreign government, you could be sentenced to life in prison or face a death sentence. Economic espionage can also lead to 15 years imprisonment and a fine up to $5 million.