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

Appendix I

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:

  • described the location, methods, and technology involved in FBI eavesdropping and surveillance of a particular Soviet spy station.

  • warned the KGB of a successful new intelligence operation by the NSA against a Soviet target

  • disclosed that the united States was listening in on Soviet satellite transmissions by exploiting a technical vulnerability in the Soviets' communications systems

  • shared TOP SECRET documents from the National Security Council, which advises the president on intelligence and national security matters

  • handed over details about meeting between the United States and "M", a potential Soviet double agent; the accused agent, Gennadiy Vasilenko, was nearly beaten to death by the KGB after Hanssen's betrayal but was ultimately released after convincing his captors that he wasn't a turncoat.

  • provided a technical document describing the U.S. intelligence community's classified intranet system, called COINS-II (COMMUNITY ONLINE INTELLIGENCE SYSTEM)

  • disclosed specific NSA limitations in reading certain soviet communications, giving the russians secure channels through which to pass information

  • divulged a document from the director of Central Intelligence entitled, "Stealth Orientauon"

  • disclosed intelligence relating directly to the United States' preparations and means of defense and retaliation against a large-scale conventional or nuclear attack

  • released a document prepared for the director of Central Intelligence entitled "Compendium of Future Intelligence Requirements: Volume II," which contained a comprehensive listing of data sought by the United States, including information about the military capabilities and preparedness of Russia and other nations

  • divulged information that Soviet spies and defectors had provided to the United States about Soviet intelligence successes against the United States.

  • disclosed what the United States knew about KGB double agent recruitment operations targeting the CIA

  • revealed details of a U.S. technical program tp penetrate Soviet communications intelligence

  • handed over the transcript of a meeting of the CI Group, and association of senior counterintelligence officials from all U.S. intelligence agencies that sets national priorities

  • released documents regarding the National HUMINT (human intelligence) Collecion Plan

  • divulged, on at least two occasions, intelligence reviews of the Russian armed forces and their capabilities for conducting strategic nuclear war during the 1990s

  • revealed, on at least two occasions, that the United States was targeting a particular category of Soviet communications in an operation related to American national defense

  • provided the Soviets with a highly specific and technical document regarding the MASINT (measurement and signature intelligence) program, which monitored keystrokes and other elements of communications in a clandestine fashion

  • revealed that the United States had the capability to read certain Soviet communications

  • handed over a report for the director of Central Intelligence entitled, "The Soviet System in Crisis: Prospects for the Next Two Years"

  • divulged the identity of a particular NSA employee and the sensitive office where the person worked

  • passed along documents about nuclear and missile weapons proliferation

    divulged how the United States planned to conduct surveillance of a Soviet intelligence officer

  • disclosed the specific methods the NSA employed to read communications of foreign countries

  • alerted the Soviets to an FBI "dangle" operation initiated at a U.S. military facility that aimed to entice the KGB into recruiting an apparent FBI informant who actually would supply disinformation

  • suggested that the KGB recruit his best friend, Jack Hoschouer, who was serving in the U.S. Army in Germany (They didn't.)

  • divulged to the Soviets what the United States knew about the KGB's foreign intelligence and counterintelligence operations by providing a CIA report entitled, "The KGB's First Chief Directorate: Structure, Functions, and Methods"

  • disclosed budget planning of the FBI's foreign counterintelligence program for 1992, giving the Russians detailed information about counterintelligence programs and resources

  • revealed that the United States was successfully intercepting the communications of a specific foreign country

  • disclosed how FBI counterintelligence probed a suspected Soviet penetration of U.S. intelligence

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