Robert Hanssen

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Catch Me If You Can: The Story of Robert Hanssen

Kevin Hoke
HLS 402- Counterintelligence
February 29, 2012

Robert Hanssen joined the FBI as an agent on January 12, 1976 and was transferred to the Gary, Indiana, office. In 1978, Hanssen and his family moved to New York when the FBI transferred him to its office there. The next year, Hanssen was moved into counter-intelligence and given the task of compiling a database of Soviet intelligence for the Bureau. It was then, in 1979, only three years after joining the FBI, that Hanssen began his career as a Soviet spy. In 1979, Hanssen approached the GRU and offered his services. Hanssen never indicated any political or ideological motive for his activities. During his first espionage cycle, Hanssen told the GRU a significant amount, including information on FBI bugging activities and Bureau lists of suspected Soviet intelligence agents. His most important leak of information was the betrayal of Dmitri Polyakov, code named TOPHAT. Polyakov was a CIA informant for more than 20 years and passed large amounts of information to American intelligence while he rose to the rank of General in the Soviet Army. The Soviets did not act on their intelligence about Polyakov until he was betrayed a second time by CIA mole Aldrich Ames in 1985 (Wise, 2003). Hanssen was nearly exposed in 1981, when Bonnie Hanssen caught her husband in their basement writing a letter to the Soviets. Hanssen admitted to her that he had been giving information to the Soviets for monetary gain and that he had received $30,000 as payment. Hanssen then stopped spying for the Soviet Union until 1985 (Wise, 2003). Hanssen was transferred to the Washington, D.C. office in 1981. His new job in the FBI's budget office gave him access to information involving many different FBI activities. This included all the FBI activities related to wiretapping and electronic surveillance. He became known in the Bureau as an expert on computers. In 1983, Hanssen transferred to the Soviet analytical unit, which was directly responsible for studying, identifying, and capturing Soviet spies and intelligence operatives in the United States. Hanssen's section was in charge of evaluating Soviet agents who volunteered to give intelligence to the US, to determine if they were genuine or double agents. In 1985, Hanssen was again transferred to the FBI's office in New York, where he continued to work in counter-intelligence against the Soviets. While on a business trip back to Washington, he resumed his career in espionage. This time, he became an operative for the KGB (Wise, 2003). On October 1, 1985, he sent an anonymous letter to the KGB offering his services and asking for $100,000 in cash. In the letter, Hanssen gave the names of three KGB agents in the United States secretly working for the FBI: Boris Yuzhin, Valery Martynov, and Sergei Motorin. Since the FBI attributed the leak to Ames, the trail to Hanssen was diverted. The October 1st letter was the beginning of an active espionage period for Hanssen. He remained busy with KGB correspondence over the next several years (Wise, 2003). In 1987, Hanssen was recalled yet again to Washington. He was given the task of making a study of all known and rumored penetrations of the FBI in order to find the man who had betrayed Martynov and Motorin. This meant that he was looking for himself. For obvious reasons, Hanssen ensured that he did not unmask himself with his study (Wise, 2003). In 1989, Hanssen handed over a large amount of information about American planning for Measurement and Signature Intelligence, a term for intelligence collected by a wide array of electronic means, such as radar, underwater hydrophones for naval intelligence, spy satellites, and signal intercepts. When the Soviets began construction on a new embassy in 1977, the FBI dug a tunnel beneath the Soviet embassy, right under their decoding room. The FBI planned to use it for eavesdropping, but never did for fear of...
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