Robert Hanssen is a former FBI agent notorious for committing treason and selling state secrets to the Soviets (later the Russians).
Hanssen was born in Chicago, Illinois on April 18, 1944 to a family of German and Polish origins. His Father, Howard Hanssen, was an officer with the Chicago police department and his mother, Vivian Hanssen, was a housewife. Throughout his childhood Hanssen’s father belittled and disparaged his son. The abuse that he sustained during his childhood followed him throughout his adult life.
Despite his rough upbringing Robert graduated from Knox College in 1966 with a degree in chemistry, and excelled in his Russian elective. After his graduation he applied for a cryptographer position at the National Security Agency (NSA), but was turned down due to budgetary constraints. After being rejected from the NSA he went to Northwestern University to eventually receive a Masters degree in accounting.
In 1972, Robert, like his father, joined the Chicago Police Department, but as a forensic accountant for internal affairs. He was assigned to investigate police officers suspected of corruption. After 3 years in the department Hanssen quit his job and applied to the FBI.
Upon being accepted Hanssen was sworn in as a federal agent January 12, 1976, swearing to “bear true faith and allegiance to” the United States. Robert was assigned to a field office in Gary, Indiana, investigating white collar criminals. Two years later Hanssen was transferred to New York and soon began working counter intelligence against the Russians. It was at this point after only three years of working for the FBI he approached an agent from Soviet military intelligence and offered to become a double agent. In 1985 he became an official agent of the KGB.
On October 4, 1985 Robert Hanssen mailed a letter to the KGB. The letter informed KGB leaders of three Soviet KGB officers that were actually double agents working for the United States. Another mole had already exposed the three agents, and Hanssen was never investigated for the crime.
In 1987 Hanssen was called in to search for the mole who had betrayed the agents working for the FBI in Russia. Unbeknownst to his supervisors, Hanssen was searching for himself. He steered the investigation away from his own activities and the investigation was closed without making any arrests.
In 1977 the Soviet Union began construction on a new embassy in Washington D.C. The FBI planned to build a tunnel under the embassy and bugged the entire building. Because of the amount of money it had cost the bureau, Hanssen was allowed to review the plans. In 1989 he sold the plans to the Soviets for $55,000, who promptly counteracted all attempts at surveillance.
When the Soviet Union broke apart in 1991 Robert Hanssen became very anxious that his life of espionage against his own country was going to be uncovered. After almost a decade Robert Hanssen got back into contact with his handlers. He resumed spying under the new Russian Federation in 1992.
Despite a long history of suspicious activity from reports of large piles of cash in his home to attempting to hack into FBI databases, no one at the FBI or in his family knew what Hanssen had been doing.
After falsely accusing a CIA operative named Brian Kelley of being the mole for the Russians the FBI switched tactics and bought a file about the mole from a former KGB officer for $7 million.
The information on the file matched Robert Hanssen’s profile. The file included times, dates, locations, voice recordings, and a package with a trash bag that had Hanssen’s fingerprints on them. The FBI placed Hanssen on surveillance 24/7 and soon realized that he was in contact with the Russians.
Even though he knew he was under surveillance because of static interfering with his car radio from the bugs, he decided to do another drop. This would be his last. He went to his drop off point in Foxstone Park in Virginia. He placed a white piece of tape around a sign to notify the Russians that he had left them information. He then proceeded to place a garbage bag full of classified material under a bridge. Immediately afterward the FBI swarmed in and arrested him. When he was finally caught Robert Hanssen simply said “What took you so long?”
On July 6, 2001 Hanssen pleaded guilty to 15 counts of espionage to escape the death penalty and he was sentenced to 15 consecutive life sentences in prison. He is currently serving time at a super max prison in Florence, Colorado and is in solitary confinement for 23 hours each day. It was discovered that throughout his 22 year career as a double agent he had amassed a fortune of $1.4 million in cash and diamonds.
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