The Robert Philip Hanssen Case
Excerpt From "The Bureau And The Mole" by David A. Vise
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc. - Pub. Date: December 2001
Excerpt: pages 239-245
The Betrayals of a Spy
Robert Philip Hanssen was a traitor of unparalleled dimension. His access to national security and intelligence secrets was broad and deep, and his betrayal of those secrets was far-reaching, given his computer expertise and access to secret FBI, CIA, National Security Agency, National Security Council, and Pentagon documents. Aided by the efforts of federal agencies to share more information with one another, Hanssen obtained an extraordinary array of classified materials. Several counterintelligence experts, including former FBI and CIA director William Webster, have equated Hanssen's treachery with a "five-hundred-year flood." He compromised thousands of pages of intelligence sources and methods; cryptology' communications and technical surveillance programs; counterintelligence operations and military, logistical, and political strategy for surviving a nuclear attack.
In the world of espionage, there is an acronym MICE - that helps to explain why Hanssen and others spy. MICE stands for Money, Ideology, Compromise, Ego. In Hanssen's case, ego was considered the most important factor, though money also played a contributing role.
Nearly everything that Hanssen passed along to the Soviets and Russians during his espionage career was "classified." The classification system used by the U.S. intelligence community is based on the damage that would ensue if information were compromised. Data that would cause "serious" damage is classified SECRET, and information that would cause "exceptionally grave" damage is TOP SECRET. Highly sensitive information at any level may be further restricted as SENSITIVE COMPARTMENTED INFORMATION, OR SCI. Access to material bearing an SCI designation requires specific additional security clearances. Hansen held TOP SECRET clearance from his first day at the FBI in 1976. He received his initial SCI clearance in June 1980, roughly one year after his first counterintelligence assignment, and would be cleared for at least five more SCI programs over the course of his FBI employment.
According to court documents and interviews, while working as a double agent for the GRU, the KGB, and its successor intelligence services in Russia, Robert Philip Hanssen:
- increased the prospect of nuclear war by compromising the Continuity of Government Plan, the super secret program to ensure the survival of the president and U.S. government operations in the event of a nuclear attack.
This crown jewel of U.S. national security was an important element of the 'mutually assured destruction" (MAD) theory, in which both the United States and the Soviet Union refrain from using nuclear weapons because a retaliatory strike would prove as deadly as a first strike. However, with knowledge of the U.S. continuity program, the Soviets believed they could win a nuclear war and began to devise an offensive nuclear strategy.
- divulged the identities of at least nine Soviet officials recruited to spy for the United States. In the 1979-80 period, Hanssen revealed the identity of Dmitri Polyskov, a Soviet general code-named the TOP HAT who was executed by the U.S.S.R. in 1988 for espionage. In his initial letter to the KGB in 1985, Hanssen also exposed theValery Martynov and Sergei Motorin, were ordered to return to Moscow and were put to death.
- related the existence of the "spy tunnel" constructed beneath the Soviet embassy un Washington, D.C., to eavesdrop on conversations and communications. The tunnel, orchestrated by the FBI and the NSA, was installed in the 1980s as the Soviets were completing an expansive new diplomatic compound on a hilltop just north of Georgetown. Hanssen's tip rendered the several-hundred-million-dollar tunnel a completely worthless intelligence tool that the Russians in turn manipulated to feed disinformation to the FBI.
- disclosed the National Intelligence Program, which detailed everything that the U.S. intelligence community planned to do for a given year, and how money would be spent. Hanssen compromised this "Holy of Holies" of the U.S. intelligence community in September 1987, covering that year in progress, and again in May 1989, for the upcoming 1990-91 period.
- severely hampered the U.S. intelligence community's ability to recruit foreign double agents, by revealing both overall strategies and key operational details, such as the identities of potential targets. Hanssen divulged a document entitled "The FBI's Double Agent Program," which included an internal evaluation of double agent operations worldwide, including joint operations with other U,S. intelligence agencies, and he later handed over another management review of U.S. double agent recruitment efforts.
- divulged information about at least five Soviet defectors, including high-ranking KGB officers Victor Sheymov and Vitaliy Yurchenko, Hanssen passed along debriefing reports on Sheymov and disclosed the defector's whereabouts in the United States, making him susceptible to reprisal from the KGB.
- revealed the ongoing FBI espionage investigation of Felix Block, a State Department officer who was believed to be spying for the Soviet Union. Hanssen's revelation allowed the KGB to alert Block to the investigation, foiling the Bureau's attempts to arrest him.
Between 1985 and 2001, Robert Hanssen also: