Thursday, February 2, 2012

Robert Philip Hanssen: The Spy who Stayed out in the Cold (Part1)

The Last Day In the Sun - Robert Hanssen Story

Robert Philip Hanssen
Robert Philip Hanssen
Bob Hanssen was about to retire from his life's work. But instead of receiving a gold watch or a modest pension like most employees, he would instead be getting $50,000 in non-sequential $100 bills. And he would have to pick it up in a local park. In five more weeks he would also be retiring from his day job—as an FBI agent. His first job was trading American secrets to the Russians for cash.
Just before daybreak, alone in the gloom of his basement office, he tapped out a letter to his Russian "handlers" while still dressed in his jet-black pajamas. It was virtually the only color he would wear over his bulky 6-foot-3-inch frame.
The spy thought he could feel something or somebody getting close. He had begun to believe his Ford Taurus was bugged. The radio was making strange crackling sounds.
He was right. His phone was tapped, an FBI surveillance squadron had bought a house across the street, and he was being followed.
Hanssen tapped out his resignation letter on an IBM laptop 365E. He encrypted it, copied it on to a disk, and added it to the package he would be delivering late that afternoon.
Dear Friends:
I thank you for your assistance these many years. It seems, however, that my greatest utility to you has come to an end, and it is time to seclude myself from active service.
I have been promoted to a higher do-nothing Senior Executive job outside of regular access to informaiton (sic) within the counterintelligence program. I am being isolated. Further, I believe I have detected repeated  bursting radio signal emanations from my vehicle. The knowledge of their existence is sufficient. Amusing the games children play.
Something has aroused the sleeping tiger. Perhaps you know better than I.
Life is full of its ups and downs.
I will be in contact next year, same time, same place. Perhaps the correlation of forces and circumstance then will have improved.
Your friend,
Ramon Garcia
Ramon Garcia was one of his code names. He thought he had been cautious, never giving Moscow his real name and never meeting with the KGB. But he had not been careful enough. His biggest mistake had been leaving his fingerprints on the plastic garbage bags in which he delivered state secrets. When his file was sold by a former KGB higher-up in September 2000, the FBI lab had asked for everything. Surprisingly, the Russians had kept the Hefty bags and once the prints had been dusted and traced, his fate was sealed.

His Fate Is Sealed

Bob Hanssen had a friend staying at his house in Northern Virginia that weekend. On this Sunday he took that pal, Jack Hoschouer, to church with the family. The Hanssen brood was large. There were six kids, though only two, Lisa and Gregg, were still living at home. The other four had either married or were in college. The Hanssen family members were Catholic conservatives. They belonged to Opus Dei, a small but powerful faction of Catholicism that many called a cult. The Hanssen family displayed their conservative beliefs prominently, marching in pro-life rallies, slapping anti-abortion stickers on the family van, and attending gun shows. Bob collected guns; there were 14 in the house ranging from an Uzi semiautomatic rifle to Walther PPK pistols. The Walther PPK was James Bond's weapon of choice and Hanssen, a Bond fan, had two in his collection.
Despite Hanssen's conservatism, he and Hoschouer, buddies since high school in Chicago, had done some kinky things together. Bob had once taken nude photos of his wife Bonnie and mailed them without her knowledge to Hoschouer when he was in the Army and stationed in Vietnam. Years later, he topped that by hiding a miniature video camera in his bedroom where he photographed himself making love to Bonnie. Hoschouer and Bob later watched the homemade sex film together in the family den.
After church Hanssen changed from his black suit to a black turtleneck sweater with a black collared shirt over it. The monotony was broken by a pair of dark gray slacks. He drove Hoschouer to nearby Dulles Airport but surprised his friend by not coming in with him to wait for the plane. There were some errands to run, he said, and drove off.
"It struck me as odd that Bob didn't come in for a Coke," Hoschouer would say later. "I may have been the last friendly face he saw."
But Hanssen was already speeding back down the Dulles Access Road towards a strip mall near the Washington Beltway. The team in the FBI surveillance vehicle was right behind him and watched as he walked around to the trunk of his car. He was photographed taking out documents from the FBI's intelligence files that were each stamped SECRET. There were seven in all. Some detailed the bureau's current surveillance results in recent foreign counterintelligence operations. He added his farewell letter and wrapped everything in the sturdy plastic Hefty bag.

Foxstone Park entrance, dropsite
Foxstone Park entrance, dropsite
Bob was being tailed by the FBI's Special Surveillance Group and it knew exactly where he was going: Foxstone Park. The 14-acre flood plain-turned-recreation area was less than a mile from his home in Vienna, Va. The group had already watched him drive  by the entrance to the park four times in December trying to catch a glance of a white strip of tape that would signal that his Russian handlers were ready to receive his package. In January, his drives by the entrance increased. The agents were certain that this would be the day. They had already intercepted the $50,000 cash dropped at a nearby nature center.

Long Branch Nature Center, another drop site
Long Branch Nature Center, another drop site
They were right. As the sun fell below the horizon, the agents followed him back to the park and watched him walk into the wood. He stopped at a footbridge and put a package under the trestle. It was the last drop he would ever make.
"Freeze! FBI!," yelled one of 10 young men who surrounded him. Another agent began reading him his rights. A third cuffed his wrists behind his back.
One of the agents later recalled, "After viewing the arrest video, you could tell that Hanssen knew it was over. You could literally see his shoulders slump."

The Spawning of A Spy

Robert Philip Hanssen was born April 18, 1944, in Chicago. His father, Howard,  was away in the Navy when he was born and his mother, Vivian, was alone. Both parents were in their 30s when their son, and only child, was born.
Howard Hanssen was a Chicago cop before going into the Navy. After World War II he rejoined the police force and made a 30-year career of it. The Hanssen family bought its first and only Chicago house in the Norwood Park section of the city. It was a modest two-bedroom bungalow on North Neva Avenue and considered a safe, cop neighborhood. Soon after the family began living there, Howard's mother moved in with them. Bob Hanssen, called Bobby in his childhood, was fussed over by the two women, with his father behaving somewhat coldly toward his son. Bobby Hanssen was remembered as a silent, non-talkative child, who was eager to please.
"He would say hello," recalled neighbor Pauline Rutledge, "but he was so quiet. He wouldn't say much else."
Bob's passion was reading the satirical magazine "Mad" and comic books that featured action heroes. His subscription to "Mad," which had a regular back-page feature called Spy vs. Spy, continued through college.
Was he beaten by his father?
"Oh, no," Vivian Hanssen said. "Of course his father {was} strict. I was always the easy one. But aren't most families like that?"
In the early 1950s, Howard Hanssen became part of the Chicago Police Department's famed "Red Unit." It was the McCarthy era, and Howard's mission was to uncover politicians inside the city government who had communist leanings. Some neighbors viewed the Hanssens as secretive.
"They were a real policeman's family," neighbor Ruth Kremske remembered. "I don't think they wanted anyone nosing around in their business."
Following high school, where he was remembered as "a bit of a geek," Hanssen—now going by Bob—went off to Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. He matriculated in chemistry. As a requirement of graduation he had to take a foreign language for two years. Bob chose Russian, a popular choice among college students in the mid-1960s. The Cold War had many of them believing that the language could come in handy if a shooting war broke out with the Soviet Union. Bob also studied the masters of Russian writing: Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky.

Classmates Reminisce

After getting his B.S. degree from Knox, Bob applied unsuccessfully for a position as a cryptographer at the National Security Agency just north of Washington, D.C. An NSA official explained to him that the rejection was due to budget cutbacks. It was the middle of the Vietnam War, and Hanssen wasn't anxious to be drafted. He again turned to higher education, enrolling in Northwestern University's Dental School. At Northwestern, just north of Chicago, Hanssen shared a dormitory room with a Hawaiian classmate, Jerry Takesono, who remembers a quirky, introverted youth who sometimes behaved a bit strangely, always wearing a black suit, white shirt and tie to class when everyone else wore sweaters and jeans. Hanssen also wore the black suit to his cadaver class, carving up the dead bodies without even taking off the jacket. He continued to wear the same black suit after the dissections, something Takesono hasn't forgotten.
"The suit smelled of formaldehyde and he was hanging it up each night in our room. Our place reeked of the cadaver. I finally had to ask him to get it drycleaned." Takesono recalled.
Another classmate, Marty Zeigner, said it was impossible to miss Hanssen's brilliant mind, however disturbed. He recalled an episode that demonstrated his ability to retain information.
"I sat across from Bob in a lecture on tooth structure. The professor was someone called Dr. Chasen, who liked to hear himself talk. He was a bit long-winded. Everyone but Bob was fervently taking notes. Instead, he had a single sheet of paper and had used it to doodle a bird and had also drawn a sketch of an anatomically correct nude woman. He had written just one word on the page: bicuspid.
"The professor walked around the room as he talked. It was hard for him to miss Bob's naked lady. He came over to his desk and just lost it. He began reaming Bob out—something about how Northwestern was a professional school and how he was lucky to get in. Bob sat there, but you could see he was pissed off. Finally, he couldn't take it anymore and interrupted him.
"He told the professor he had accused him of not listening and didn't appreciate it. Bob said, 'Why don't you go back in front of the class and start over and I'll pick it up from there.' When the professor began, he interrupted and began repeating the lecture word-for-word. It was like he had a tape recorder inside his brain. Afterwards he told me, 'I can remember every conversation I have ever had.'"
Despite good grades, Hanssen tired of dental school, saying, "I don't think I want to spend my life picking pieces off of someone's teeth." Instead he began telling his classmates that he had decided to be a psychiatrist.
Howard Hanssen helped his son test the waters by getting him a weekend job as an orderly at a city-run mental hospital. There Bob delighted in pretending he was a doctor, calling mental patients into an office and interviewing them. A Northwestern classmate, John Sullivan, often sketched the inmates as Bob talked to them.
"He loved showing people the control he had over them," Sullivan said. "They were mostly bonkers, but he would perform for his friends, putting the patients through their paces. He wasn't mean; he just quietly interrogated them."
Another college friend, Robert Lauren, tells an anecdote indicating Hanssen had traitorous leanings long before he joined the FBI. Though the episode occurred three decades ago it now must be considered remarkable.

Kim Philby, British spy
Kim Philby, British spy
"I was leaving his house—I think it was 1968 or 1969—and Bob handed me the memoirs of a British traitor who had spied for Moscow over a 20-year period," Lauren said. "The book was My Silent War by Kim Philby. He thought the book was terrific. After a few weeks I returned the book and he asked me if I liked it and I said it was very interesting. Bob then said—and I've never forgotten it, particularly now—he said, 'You know, someday I'd like to pull off a caper like that.'"

James Bond Meets Natalie Wood

Bob Hanssen eventually rejected the psychiatry profession. Although he had given up on three careers, he persevered, returning to Northwestern where he eventually got an MBA degree in accounting. Perhaps he had no choice—he was in love and the soon-to-be spy was married, with a child on the way.
Bernadette "Bonnie" Wauck was as different from Bob Hanssen as day is from night. She was one of eight; he was an only child. She was Catholic; he was Lutheran. His father was a cop; her father was a University professor. She lived in upscale Park Ridge, just outside the Chicago city limits. Norwood Park, three train stops away, was working class. And Bonnie was also a member of Opus Dei, an organization that required going to mass daily and confession weekly.
Bob and Bonnie were married on August 10, 1968.  By the time Howard Hanssen retired in 1972, Bob was ready to fill his father's shoes. He entered the Chicago Police Department as a rookie three months after his father retired and moved, with Hanssen's mother, to a modest subdivision house just south of Sarasota, Florida. With an MBA degree, Hanssen was a marked man and was soon pulled out of his training class and asked if he would like to be in a new secret unit called C-5. Bob leaped at the chance.
The special elite corps had been set up to infiltrate its own kind. Cops were taking bribes from drug dealers and then looking the other way. Bob's unit's job was to bust fellow officers.
John Clarke, his boss, soon began to believe that Hanssen was a double agent working inside the unit.
"He was brilliant and he looked like an altar boy," Clarke remembered. "But I always thought he was a spy, a counterspy, when he worked for us. I thought he was working for the police brass who wanted to know what we were doing. I always felt something was wrong, so we held Hanssen on a short leash. At one point I thought he might be working for the Feds because he was so inquisitive about Mayor Daley."
Later Clarke gave his theory of how Bob Hanssen came to use the alias of Ramon Garcia. "I told him the story of an Irish kid from Rhode Island. I had hired him as an undercover agent to infiltrate the Mexican mafia. His code name was Ramon."

Fox in the Henhouse

Hanssen's job as a Chicago cop who existed only to arrest other cops was stressful. Bonnie was under stress as well. By 1974 they'd had two young girls and one miscarriage. And her husband was trying to establish himself as the authoritarian in the household. It is Hanssen family lore that shortly after they were married Bonnie served Bob a big breakfast of ham, eggs and coffee. Midway through the meal Bob fell totally silent and stared into his empty cup. Eventually she asked him why.
"That's the way my father let my mother know he was ready for his second cup of coffee," he told her.
"Well, I'm sorry, but you're going to have to speak up around here," she shot back.
"Bob told me he was training Bonnie," his friend Marty Zeigner recounted. "He would try to do things like tip over a glass slowly and she was supposed to catch it before anything spilled. I don't think Bonnie put up with it for long."
He appeared to be a devoted father, yet some of his actions, which once appeared charmingly eccentric, now have different connotations.
A story that the Hanssen children used to laugh about concerned his wanting to give his eldest daughter Jane a head start in life. He told Bonnie he wanted to teach their Jane to read just after she reached her third birthday. When she was four, he also helped her through her first novel—War and Peace.
By 1975 John Clarke wanted Bob Hanssen out of the department. His protegee wanted out too. C-5 had made him controversial and when he had grabbed a defendant in a Chicago courtroom who was trying to escape, his feat wasn't recognized with a citation or a promotion. He began looking elsewhere, and Clarke was only too glad to help.

FBI logo
FBI logo
"I told him to get his fanny over to the FBI and he did. But he didn't get accepted the first time around," Clarke said.
The second time was the charm and on January 12, 1976, Bob Hanssen was sworn in. The fox was in place and inside the hen house.

NYC to Washington and Back

Bob Hanssen's first assignment was investigating white-collar crime in Gary, Indiana. Gary, a decaying rust belt town, was just 40 miles from Chicago and the Hanssens didn't have to move.  But the FBI wasn't about to waste an agent who had an MBA from a topflight university and who also had Chicago Police Department experience in Indiana's second city. As soon as they thought he was seasoned, he was assigned to the bureau's field office in New York City, a plum assignment considered second only to headquarters in Washington.

FBI headquarters building in Washington
FBI headquarters building in Washington
The Hanssens purchased a three-bedroom house in Scarsdale, a suburb in Westchester County. By now the Hanssen family had grown to two girls and two boys. Money was tight, and with Bob barely making $40,000 a year, life revolved around church and family.
So it was surprising that when Bob and Bonnie went out to dinner with John and Loretta Donovan, the couple who had sold them the house, Bonnie revealed that they had a Swiss bank account. And when Bob later said this line, the Donovans thought he was talking about his job with the FBI: "I've wanted to be a spy ever since I was a child."
He may, however, have been talking about working for the other side. During their three-year stay in Scarsdale, Bob approached several Russian agents in New York and offered them secrets in exchange for money. Exchanges were made, but while he was counting out $20,000 in $100 bills in the basement of the Hanssen house, Bonnie walked in and Bob boasted about the deal, saying he had tricked them and given them worthless information. His wife was horrified but instead of asking him to turn himself in she asked that he stop playing the grown-up Spy vs. Spy game and confess the act to an Opus Dei priest and ask for guidance. The cleric, Robert Bucciarelli, told Bob to give his ill-gotten gains to the Mother Teresa charities.
That appeared to be the end of it. Back at the FBI's New York offices in the Jacob Javits building, Bob displayed a certain competence, even brilliance, but the kind that would take him only so far.
"He was different," his boss, Richard Alu remembered. "I thought he was an intelligent guy, but he was an introvert. Most agents, they're introverts. But the ideal agent is a used-car salesman—you've got to be able to sell yourself. Hanssen simply didn't have any interpersonal skills. He was able to see problems, see solutions, and implement them. His solutions were not always easy for his peers to follow. He would have to explain them, and he did not suffer fools gladly.
"You can only go so far on brains alone," Alu concluded. "You still have to have personal skills to rise up in management."
By the time Robert Hanssen was assigned to Washington in 1981 he had begun to realize that any dreams he had of becoming part of the FBI's hierarchy were not going to be realized. Silent Bob was considered an odd duck among his fellow agents who had begun calling him "the mortician" and "Dr. Death" behind his back because of his dour demeanor and continued penchant for black suits.

Switching Teams

The Hanssens continued pinching pennies. Summer vacations meant packing five kids into a car and driving to Florida to visit Bob's parents where part of the family would have to sleep on the floor. Bonnie saved by making duvet covers out of bedsheets and limiting the children to just two of her homemade chocolate-chip cookies with walnuts per day.
In Washington, Bob was at first assigned to plan and justify the bureau's multibillion-dollar budget for Congress. In 1983 he was bumped up to the Soviet Analytical Unit. His clearance was raised to a classification above Top Secret. After four years in Washington the family was uprooted again when Bob was reassigned to New York.
Not enough of the FBI's multibillion-dollar budget was going to the agents in those days. Many had to use food stamps to get by. In costly places like New York it was particularly tough. The Hanssens had to move farther from New York City this time; it now could be an hour-and-a-half commute if rush hour was heavy.
Hanssen's new boss, Thomas Sheer, was concerned. He told Washington that a beginning agent in his office made less than a New York City trash collector. His men were vulnerable, he said. If the Russians made a good offer there would be agents who couldn't resist the money. When the bureau ignored the warning, Sheer quit.
But Hanssen didn't quit. Instead, he did what he had been preparing for all of his life. He went over to the other side.

Russian Embassy, Washington D.C.
Russian Embassy, Washington D.C.
On October 4, 1985, Bob Hanssen mailed a letter to Viktor Degtyar, a KGB colonel living in Alexandria, Va. Inside was another envelope which said, DO NOT OPEN. TAKE THIS LETTER TO VICTOR I. CHERKASHIN. Cherkashin headed the Soviet espionage operation in Washington. His letter read:
Dear Mr. Cherkashin:
Soon, I will send a box of documents to Mr. Degtyar. They are from certain of the most sensitive and highly compartmentalized projects of the U.S. Intelligence community. All are originals to aid verifying their authenticity. Please recognize for our long-term interests that there are a limited number of persons with this array of clearances.
As a collection they point to me. I trust that an officer of your experience will handle them appropriately. I believe they are sufficient to justify a $100,000 payment to me.
In his letter Bob named three Soviet KGB officers—Sergey Motorin, Valeriy Martynov and Boris Yuzhin—who were working as double agents for the U.S. In the next three years, the first two would be executed and Yuzhin would receive a long prison term. He also told Cherkashin that he would never reveal to them his identity or ever meet with his Soviet handlers. He also added a simple code for dates that he asked them to follow.
The die had been cast. Hanssen was calling the shots. He believed he was going to be a master of two worlds.

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