One of the most famous Soviet spies dies in the USA
June 5th in federal prison in Florence, Colorado at the age of 79 died one of the most famous Soviet spies in the United States, former FBI special agent Robert Hanssen. For more than 20 years, Hanssen managed to quietly cooperate first with the Soviet and then with Russian intelligence, while holding a fairly high position in the FBI - and at the same time remain completely above suspicion.
Hanssen's activities are regarded by intelligence researchers as the greatest failure in the history of the FBI. An exemplary family man, a father of many children, a respectable practicing Catholic, a deeply religious person, Hanssen seemed to absolutely sincerely hate the Soviet regime. Colleagues recalled with what indignation the FBI officer spoke of the “godless” Soviet regime and even predicted its collapse. Nothing in his behavior could suggest that Hanssen by that time had been working for that same godless regime for many years, betraying his own colleagues every day.
According to some reports, Hanssen's cooperation with Soviet intelligence began as early as 1979, moreover, on his own initiative. The mole's first contact was with the GRU, to whom the American passed on a significant amount of information, including details of the FBI's wiretapping of Soviet citizens and lists of suspected Soviet intelligence agents. It was he who first reported working for the CIA Dmitry Polyakov - the general of the Soviet army, who transmitted a huge amount of information to American intelligence. It was also Hanssen who gave the USSR information about American electronic intelligence and about the tunnel dug by the FBI under the new building of the Soviet embassy.
Hunting for yourself
Information about the next contact of Soviet intelligence with Hanssen appeared already in 1985. This time, the American got in touch with the KGB and worked for him regularly until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. At that time, Hanssen worked in a field office in New York and was engaged in investigating the activities of Soviet spies. In 1987, he was transferred to Washington, where he was assigned to conduct an important investigation - to find a traitor who had passed information to the Soviets about several KGB officers recruited by the Americans. Hanssen diligently studied all possible channels of information leakage, withholding only one main fact - that traitor was himself.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Hanssen ceased cooperation with Moscow for several years, while the American counterintelligence continued to stubbornly search for the “mole”. As a result, suspicion fell on an innocent person - a CIA officer. Brian Kelly, which was under investigation for three whole years. As Kelly's close friend, a psychiatrist, noted in a conversation with me David Charney, he was extremely upset by the suspicions against him, and, perhaps, it was the prolonged stress that led to his premature death.
Hanssen, meanwhile, resumed work for the now Russian intelligence service in 1999. It is not known how long his spy career would have lasted this time if it were not for the Russian defector who turned over a huge amount of material to the FBI, including Hanssen's correspondence with his handlers from Moscow. In order to collect the necessary evidence of the betrayal of their employee, the FBI introduced as his subordinate agent Erica O'Neillwho was assigned to keep an eye on his boss.
This operation formed the basis movie "Breach" (in the Russian version - "Treason"). In it, Hanssen appeared as a conflicted, rude and harsh fanatic, but FBI veterans who were "fortunate" to work with him strongly disagree with this image.
«In fact, he was a very timid and shy person. It was felt that he was embarrassed to talk to people”, - one of the former FBI employees shared his memories with me.
Be that as it may, as a result of this "special operation" Hanssen was eventually arrested in 2001, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment. At the same time, Americans are still trying to understand the motives that prompted Robert Hanssen to lead a double life for so long. While Hanssen himself calls money the main goal of his crime, researchers are inclined to believe that his motivation was much more complicated.
According to already mentioned Dr. Charney, Hanssen was an extremely contradictory nature, and it was this duality that allowed him to successfully combine two lives. After his arrest, the psychiatrist conducted a series of lengthy interviews with Hanssen, trying to understand his motives. After talking with him and with several other Americans convicted of espionage, Dr. has concludedthat the main motive that pushes people to betray their country is a deep sense of personal failure and an absolute sense of hopelessness.
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In working for foreign intelligence, they see a long-awaited way out of the impasse, however, according to Dr. Charney, they quickly become disillusioned with their decision and would like to stop espionage, but fear blackmail from their new masters. Knowing these patterns, the American psychiatrist even suggested considering the possibility of "forgiving" the spies and sentencing them without imprisonment if they repented. According to him, this would allow many people to voluntarily stop espionage and stop damaging the country. At the same time, Dr. Charney himself admits that the American intelligence community is unlikely to ever agree to forgive those who went against him.
Meanwhile, the story of Robert Hanssen is far from the only scandal in the FBI. Just at the beginning of this year, the highest-ranking official of the bureau from among those who have ever been charged was arrested. Former head of New York counterintelligence Charles McGonigal suspect in corruption and receiving huge money from representatives of many countries, including Russian oligarchs. It is possible that the future trial of Charles McGonigal will lead to new revelations that are unpleasant for the FBI.
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