Written by Peter Fitzgerald
History of War - Spies
Robert Hanssen had it all; he was a senior FBI agent who had a long and illustrious career in the FBI organization. Something his family would be proud of but not something that would make many people sit up and take notice. But this was all before Robert Hanssen was found to have been a long time informant for the Soviet Union and Russia, thus making him a spy for a foreign government.
Robert Hanssen was arrested for his crimes in 2001 as you are about to find out.
Robert Hanssen before the FBI
Robert Hanssen did not have a great upbringing. While being the son of a Chicago Police Officer sounds idyllic, it was far from it as his father was emotionally abusive towards him in his younger years.
Robert Hanssen believes his father’s motives were to make him an emotionally and mentally stronger individual.
In education Hanssen did well so upon graduating he started working as an internal affairs investigator at the Chicago Police Department. After four years in the Chicago Police he then joined the FBI, this was in 1976.
Robert Hanssen in the FBI
In January 1976 Hanssen joined the FBI and was initially stationed in Gary, Indiana. Within two years he was then transferred to New York, here he was tasked with compiling a database of Soviet intelligence. Only a year after starting this project Hanssen took it upon himself to contact the GRU (the Soviet military intelligence agency) and offer to give US information in exchange for cash.
Hanssen set about giving lots of information to the Soviet Union until 1981, two years later. The reason he stopped at this point was because his wife caught him writing a letter to the Soviet Union and when pressed he told her he was making money selling false information. Being a devout Catholic she made him go to confession which some say he did and others say he didn’t.
At the same time as stopping his espionage activities Hanssen was moved to Virginia to the FBI's budget office, this pretty much gave him free reign on a mass of different FBI information. By 1983 Hanssen moved again, this time to the Soviet analytical unit where he evaluated information from Soviet agents giving information to ensure they were not playing the United States for the Soviet’s gain.
In 1985 Hanssen found that he was back in the New York office, this put him back on counter-intelligence against the Soviets. Not long after this he decided to resume his espionage for the Soviet Union on behalf of the KGB this time.
This time the spy activities Hanssen was carrying out went on unchecked for many years. It was not until 1990 when his own brother in law who worked for the FBI asked the FBI to investigate him. Nothing happened and no investigation took place.
In the early 1990’s as the Soviet Union was being broken up and Russia emerged out of the ashes Hanssen decided to break ties so he would not be found out. This meant a period where he worked hard for the FBI and climbed the promotional ladder.
It was 1999 when Hanssen resumed his spy career with Russia, but unbeknownst to Hanssen another FBI employee caught spying for Russia had put his name forward as a possible spy.
At this point Hanssen was put under constant surveillance and the FBI found he was still working with the Russians. Eventually they gathered enough information to arrest and charge him on the 20th February 2001. At this point Hanssen pleaded guilty under the condition that he doesn’t receive a death sentence, something the judge agreed and Hanssen was given life in prison with no possibility of release.