Robert Hanssen, ‘Most Damaging Spy’ in FBI History, Found Dead in Prison Cell

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robert hanssen; fbi; double agent; gru; soviet union

robert hanssen; fbi; double agent; gru; soviet union

Robert Hanssen, an FBI agent who secretly passed intelligence to the Soviet Union and later the Russian Federation, has died at the age of 79. He was serving 15 consecutive life sentences for espionage and conspiracy to commit espionage – charges to which he pleaded guilty in 2002.

The US Bureau of Prisons confirmed reports on Monday that Hanssen had passed away in his cell at ADX Florence, a supermax prison facility in Colorado.

“Responding staff immediately initiated life-saving measures. Staff requested emergency medical services and life-saving efforts continued. The inmate was subsequently pronounced dead by outside emergency personnel,” the BoP said in a release.

Hannsen has been called “the most damaging spy in Bureau history” by the FBI. He obtained a job with the FBI in 1976, and three years later approached the Soviet Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) with an offer to spy for them. He passed the Soviets intelligence until 1981, when a transfer affected his ability to do so, and resumed his espionage when he received a new position in 1985.

The double agent repeatedly passed the Soviets complete lists of double agents known to the FBI, including numerous CIA contacts, as well as a variety of other information, such as a secret tunnel the FBI built underneath the Soviet embassy in Washington, DC, to use for spying purposes. He also passed the Soviets signals intelligence information.

Hanssen escaped detection for years in part because he worked in the bureau’s section that hunted down double agents, but also because much of his espionage period overlapped with that of Aldrich Ames, a CIA agent who passed the Soviet Union enormous amounts of information, some of which Hanssen also gave them, ignorant of Ames’ work. Of all known moles in US intelligence, only Ames has surpassed Hanssen’s damage.
Spy - Sputnik International, 1920, 09.12.2022

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In the end, an FBI mole hunt zeroed in on Hanssen because he told the Soviets several things about which Ames could not have known, such as the spy tunnel and an internal FBI probe into another agent who was also working for the Soviets, who then severed connections with the person.

Hanssen continued his work after the collapse of the Soviet Union, approaching the new government of the Russian Federation. Ironically, the Russian embassy reported Hanssen to the FBI because they believed he was a triple agent, but the bureau inexplicably dropped the case.

Hanssen was eventually arrested in 2001 during a “dead drop” of intelligence for his Russian handlers, by which time he had been paid some $600,000 in cash and diamonds, along with two Rolex watches and another $800,000 he had been promised was deposited in a bank on his family’s behalf. It’s believed that Russian intelligence never knew Hanssen’s true identity and only dealt with him via his code name, Ramon Garcia.

He escaped execution by pleading guilty to 14 counts of espionage and one count of conspiracy to commit espionage, for which he was given 15 consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.





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