Thursday, February 2, 2012

Robert Philip Hanssen: The Spy who Stayed out in the Cold (Part 2)

Secret World of A Spy

$50,000 package left by the Russians
$50,000 package left by the Russians
After sending the Soviets a coded note, Bob Hanssen made good on his promise, dropping off his package of secrets in Nottoway Park, a recreational area, which happened to be across the street from the Hanssens' first house in Northern Virginia. A few days later, the KGB responded by dropping off $50,000 in $100 bills at the same drop site. Bob reciprocated with a note promising more information.
Thank you for the $50,000.
I also appreciate your courage and perseverance in the face of generically reported bureaucratic obstacles. I would not have contacted you if it were not reported that you were held in esteem within your organization, an organization I have studied for years.
I did expect some communication plan in your response. I viewed the postal delivery as a necessary risk and do not wish to trust again this channel with valuable material. I did this only because I had to so you would take my offer seriously, that there be no misunderstanding as to my long-term value, and to obtain appropriate security for our relationship from the start.

Russian flag
Russian flag
Over the next five years, Hanssen would deliver more than 6,000 pages of secret documents to his KGB handlers. Some of them contained nuclear deployment plans and satellite positions. Many were simply downloaded from FBI computers and the discs—a total of 26— were made part of the package. In return he received $600,000 in $100 bills, some jewelry and a Rolex watch. The Russians also claimed to have deposited another $800,000 in funds in a Moscow bank for his retirement. The cash allowed him to put his six children through Opus Dei-affiliated schools that were more than 30 miles away in the adjoining state of Maryland.
There is a greater-good theory that partly explains Hanssen. Although he was betraying his country, he was using the money from the Russians to put his six children through approved—and expensive—private schools. His children were good students, and he believed they might in the future be part of a holy war that would remerge God and country, whose leaders would then ban abortion, divorce and other evils of the world that he and Opus Dei opposed.
A 1998 research paper from Brigham Young University studied 139 spies and concluded that half of them did it for the money. "People usually spy for some combination of emotional gratification and remuneration," John Pike, a specialist in intelligence issues, said, "but in all cases, money is how they keep score."
Hanssen, always the loner, always unable to fit in, was Walter Mitty squared. His hero, Kim Philby, may have explained his mind best. Just before his death in 1988, Philby said, "To betray, you must first belong. I never belonged."

The Opus Dei Connection

Louis J. Freeh, FBI Director
Louis J. Freeh, FBI Director
If there were one place that Hanssen did belong, it was Opus Dei. The group, founded in 1928, had just 84,000 members worldwide—3,000 in the U.S.—but its new $55 million, 17-story building in midtown Manhattan reflected a power far beyond its numbers. At least one member of the U.S. Supreme Court was said to be a member and the head of the FBI, Louis Freeh, was also rumored to belong.  Still, even Catholics conceded that the group was controversial. Many members practiced self-flagellation, beating themselves while praying. Others wore the cilice, a spiked bracelet worn two hours a day around the thighs. Though the pain was supposed to replicate the agony of Christ at his crucifixion, most had difficulty understanding why such practices were necessary in a modern world. And since the group was private if not secret, rumors abounded. What was its goal? One of them, critics said, was to elect Opus Dei members as heads of countries and establish new governments where church and state are one.
Bonnie Hanssen's brother is an Opus Dei priest in Rome whose office is mere steps away from the pope. One of Bob and Bonnie's daughters is an Opus Dei numerary, a woman who has taken a vow of celibacy while remaining a layperson.
Bob Hanssen befriended best-selling espionage author James Bamford, and after pumping him for information about interviews he had had with Soviet leaders, would invite him to join him at Opus Dei meetings. "He was a little obsessed about it. Bob would rant about the evil in organizations like Planned Parenthood and how abortion was immoral," Bamford recalled. Bamford, himself a Catholic, wrote this about his preoccupation with Opus Dei in the New York Times:
"Hanssen squeezed religion into most conversations and hung a silver crucifix above his desk. Occasionally he would leave work to take part in antiabortion rallies. He was forever trying to get me to go with him to meetings of Opus Dei.
After weeks of urging, I finally agreed. At the meeting, Hanssen was in his element. He reveled in that closed society of true believers like a fraternity brother exchanging a secret handshake. His faith seemed too sincere to be a ruse."
One of Bob's bosses at FBI headquarters agreed. "He was a religious person who put the Soviets into a religious context. He would say that the Soviet Union is bound to fail because it is run by communists and communists don't have God in their life. He said to me, 'Without religion, man is lost.'"

Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev
Did Hanssen believe that giving our most vital secrets to the Soviet Union was a moot issue because they were about to collapse? If so, he was a true seer. Mikhail Gorbachev would declare communism dead in 1991. "Ramon Garcia" went to ground a few months later.

Inside Robert Hanssen's Weird World

Hanssen betrayed not only his country and his wife and children, but himself. Toward the end he would spend hours in his basement cruising Internet porn sites, even posting masturbatory fantasies online and using the real name of his wife and friends.
He later became friends with a stripper who became addicted to cocaine, but he believed he was absolved since no sex ever took place. To him she was a Bond girl come to life on the arm of a real 007.

British Prime Minister Gladstone
British Prime Minister Gladstone
The 19th-century British Prime Minister William Gladstone liked to walk the streets of London after dark and seek out prostitutes to reclaim for Christ. Hanssen tried to do the same with his stripper, Priscilla Sue Galey. They met in a seedy strip club in Washington called Johanna's in early 1990.
Galey's trick was to stride on stage looking like a librarian, wearing unflattering glasses, a starched blouse and a gray pin-striped skirt. But as soon as the spotlight shone on her, she tore that clothing off, then bumped and grinded for 15 minutes while the business executives stared, slack-jawed. Hanssen sent her a note with his FBI business card, a $10 bill and a request for lunch after taking in her act.
"He was dressed in a dark suit, not a hair out of place, not a piece of lint, not a wrinkle," Galey recalled. "I was a little afraid of him at first."
Within days Hanssen was giving her stacks of the KGB's $100 bills. The first  $2,000 went to getting her teeth fixed. Then he gave her an American Express card, which he paid. Just before Christmas, he gave her a diamond and sapphire gold necklace. After that came a slightly used silver-gray Mercedes even while wife Bonnie still drove an old minivan.
"When you drive up in a Mercedes, they don't ask you if you've been to college," was her admirer's reasoning.
"I thought he was my personal angel," remembered Galey.
At one point Bob asked the stripper to guess how much he had spent on her. When she said $50,000, he immediately corrected her and told her it was more like $80,000.
Still, according to Galey, no sex of any kind ever took place though she was more than willing. Rather, she said, he tried to get her to attend church. The closest they came to a liaison was when he took her on a two-week trip to Hong Kong. Even then, he insisted on separate rooms and different flights, but one night in a hotel bar, Galey coaxed him to dance with her. The music they waltzed to was As Time Goes By, the anthem for the ultimate film of espionage, Casablanca.
"She would ask him about where he got all that money," her mother, Linda Harris, said. "He would always laugh and say, 'I could tell you but then I would have to kill you.' Priscilla kept trying to advance the relationship, but when she tried to reach out to him, he would push her back and tell her he was a family man."
The relationship fell apart after two years when a former lover talked Galey into returning to her hometown of Columbus, Ohio. There, she became addicted to crack cocaine and began using the American Express card to buy cartons of cigarettes for herself and clothing for relatives. Hanssen took umbrage at the extra spending and personally drove from Washington to Ohio to snatch the card away. A year later when Galey was arrested on drug charges, Hanssen wouldn't help in any way when she phoned him.
He said that Priscilla had made her bed and now she had to lay in it," her mother remembered. "It was like she never existed."
The years that followed were not good. Galey began working as a prostitute to pay for her crack habit and wound up in a squalid group house. She wrecked the Mercedes, pawned the jewelry and a laptop computer Hanssen had given her and in 1999 spent a year in an Ohio prison for "complicity to aggravated trafficking," when she assisted a drug kingpin. By 2000, she was trading sexual favors for drugs and on one morning, after a night-long binge, she lost the upper plate of false teeth that Hanssen had given her.
After reading of Hanssen's arrest for espionage, Galey said she believed that Hanssen may have wanted to use her in his spying activities. "He had to have wanted me for something," she said. "I trusted him completely, and if he had asked me to do anything, I would have."

A Misogynist

Hanssen was a misogynist of the first order. He generally distrusted women; for him they were objects to reform or mold into something that fit his view of the world. How else does one explain his altercation in 1993 with a blonde, 21-year-old secretary at FBI headquarters?
The administrative assistant, Kim Lichtenberg, was called into a meeting by Hanssen on February 5 without warning. The subject was petty and revolved around someone whispering to someone else that she was about to be fired. He thought that Litchenberg was the source of the rumors. Lichtenberg said she wasn't and the others in the meeting backed her up. Bickering on this matter continued for nearly 30 minutes until Litchenberg, noticing that it was almost time to catch her carpool, left the meeting abruptly and began securing her desk. While she was doing so, Hanssen came up behind her and pushed her to the floor.
"I'm your unit chief and you'll do what I say. I want you back in the meeting."
He began shaking her as she lay on the floor and then attempted to drag her back to his office. Lichtenberg called to a friend for help and then punched her boss in the chest until he let go.
"He twirled me around and I fell to the ground. He just dragged me along the ground back to his office," she said.
Lichtenberg checked herself into a hospital and was treated for bruises. The next day she went to the police, but the FBI told them it was an internal matter, and the case wasn't prosecuted. In the end, Hanssen was merely suspended for five days without pay for the assault. Lichtenberg claims that Hanssen would try to grab "a feel" with the women at FBI headquarters.
"I never had anyone make me feel like he made me feel," she said. "He was creepy. He tried to belittle women and would rub up against them just to get cheap thrills.
"Everyone knew Dr. Death was strange, but nobody ever did anything about him. He was always hacking into someone's computer hard drive and then pointing out how easy it was to get their classified information. I feel badly that nobody figured it out. There was a lot of reasons to look into Bob Hanssen," Lichtenberg said.

On the Road to Oblivion

When Hanssen failed to return home on February 18, his wife Bonnie became worried and drove to Dulles Airport to look for him. There she was surrounded by FBI agents who took her to a nearby hotel and interrogated her for eight hours. At first she didn't believe the charges despite catching her husband spying for the Russians two decades before. She thought Moscow had blackmailed him.
The next morning there was yellow police tape around the perimeter of their property in Northern Virginia and the word spread. On a leafy, sylvan cul de sac in a small town there was a spy living next door—the most damaging spy in history.

The Hanssens' home in Vienna, Va.
The Hanssens' home in Vienna, Va.
The children rushed home from their universities to offer support. They too, were incredulous.
"She is obviously devastated," said Richard McPherson, a headmaster at one of the Opus Dei-affiliated schools attended by the Hanssen children. "She has known this man for 35 years. She is praying it turns out to be blackmail because if it turns out he got himself into a bind and couldn't get out of it, then that would be some comfort."

Plato Cacheris, defense attorney
Plato Cacheris, defense attorney
Bonnie hired famed lawyer Plato Cacheris to take the case. Cacheris had represented a who's who of notables: CIA spy Aldrich Ames, White House intern Monica Lewinsky, Iran-contra scandal figure Fawn Hall, and Watergate defendant John Mitchell were a few.
At first, Cacheris seemed to be mounting a defense. "They always talk like they've got a great case," he said of the government. "We'll see." But after seeing the government's case he began working toward a deal. The Feds were pressing for the death penalty and to spare Hanssen lethal injection would be a victory in itself.
In June 2001, Cacheris and the FBI cut a deal. Hanssen would receive life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Bonnie would receive a widow's pension, about $38,000 a year. In return, his client would tell everything he knew and agree to take polygraph tests on demand, which would verify whether he was telling the truth. In his 25 years at the FBI, Hanssen had never taken one.
While he was being debriefed—at a detention center that later held September 11 figures John Walker Lindh and Zacarias Moussaoui—Bonnie and the children visited every week. Hanssen will spend the rest of his life at a federal prison in Lewisburg, Penn. It is a three-hour drive from Washington and his family has promised to be there each weekend. Bonnie Hanssen's Catholic faith does not allow her to waver, and when asked the inevitable questions about the future she always answers the same way.
"I'll never divorce him. I love him and I'll pray for the salvation of his soul every day for the rest of my life."
*      *       *        *
Adrian Havill is the author of The Spy Who Stayed Out In The Cold: The Secret Life of Robert Hanssen, which the Washington Times recently called  "a meticulous account." He lives just six miles from the Hanssen family's Northern Virginia house and interviewed more than 100 people for his account of Robert Hanssen's life.

Crime and Punishment?

Many agents in the FBI privately grumbled about the pension payments to Hanssen's wife, pointing out that at the very least Bonnie Hanssen was guilty of obstructing justice. After all, they said, she did not report her husband to authorities when she first noticed he was selling secrets to the Soviets in 1979. In a defense, Bonnie told the New York Times in an interview that she had passed a polygraph test that proved she had no additional knowledge of her husband's activities.
Others in the Bureau lamented the timing of his capture. "If Hanssen had been arrested after September 11, 2001, there would have been no question of a deal or pension and he would be on death row now," one official said.

FBI Director Robert Mueller
FBI Director Robert Mueller
The agreement reached by Cacheris and the prosecution appeared orchestrated. The understanding was announced on the day before the American Independence celebration—July 4th, 2001. Then, 24 hours later, President Bush announced a new head of the FBI, Robert S. Mueller III.  (In talks before his appointment, Mueller had argued for the death penalty.) Next, Bob Hanssen appeared in a hushed Alexandria, Virginia courtroom on July 6th and admitted he was guilty of 15 of the charges against him.
After entering the chambers that Friday, he scanned the room looking for friends or family. There were none, but many in the first two rows were FBI employees and some were his former colleagues. They got a smirky sort of grin as he recognized them. They grimaced back as if smelling a foul odor. Plato Cacheris tried to explain why the Hanssen family was absent.
"They visit him each week," he said, "but they value their privacy."
In the months that followed, Bob Hanssen was interviewed for 200 hours over 75 different days and polygraphed twice. In spite of the exhaustive interrogations, the government was largely unsatisfied with his answers.
"I have a poor memory," he shrugged as way of explanation. When a polygraph examiner told him he was being evasive, a physical altercation ensued between the two men. The interrogation team became angry.
"His claim of a poor memory was an excuse for not engaging fully in the debriefing or was a means to hide facets of his activity," a government assessment concluded. "Hanssen's answers were often contradictory, inconsistent, or illogical. His cooperation concerning his finances, the significance of his espionage and his motives were problematic."


Many government officials wanted to renege on the agreement, but Plato Cacheris's skills ultimately carried the day and the deal remained in place. With so many fingers pointed at the Bureau after the terrorist attacks of 9-11-01, the FBI was understandably distracted and unable to change the understanding. Still, many agents believed satisfaction was just ahead.
"Hanssen won't adjust well to life in prison," an FBI agent predicted. "His arrogance will have to be knocked out of him—either by correctional officers or the other prisoners."

Plato Cacheris and Hanssen (left) listen to US Attorney Randy Bellows, at the sentencing phase on May 10th, 2002
Plato Cacheris and Hanssen (left) listen to US Attorney Randy Bellows, at the sentencing phase on May 10th, 2002
At his sentencing on May 10th, 2002, Bob appeared to have aged 10 years. Gaunt, pale, slender, and stooped over, he said he regretted committing his crimes. He also apologized to his absent wife and children who he said were innocent and had been slandered in the press. He was responding to reports that he had photographed himself having sex with Bonnie and then had allowed his pal, Jack Hoschouer, to view the results.
Another "revelation," which claimed that Bonnie's brother, Mark Wauck, informed FBI headquarters that $5000 was lying around the Hanssen household in 1990 and that the Bureau failed to act may also be untrue. In her lie detector test, Mrs. Hanssen both denied the story and passed the polygraph question.
Despite the personal sexual reports, Bonnie and the children continued their weekly visits. In an act of solidarity, his mother, Vivian Hanssen, moved from Florida to Virginia and now lives with the family.
Finally, in what may be a cryptic warning, Plato Cacheris assessed the espionage skills of Robert Hanssen following his client's sentence: "He was as artful a spy as we've ever seen. Except for the one who's out there now and hasn't been caught." he said.
Following Mueller's appointment, the disgraced Louis Freeh joined a Delaware credit card company, MBNA. Many of the firm's executives are former FBI employees.
*      *      *     *
Adrian Havill is the author of The Spy Who Stayed Out In The Cold: The Secret Life of Robert Hanssen, which the Washington Times recently called  "a meticulous account." He lives just six miles from the Hanssen family's Northern Virginia house and interviewed more than 100 people for his account of Robert Hanssen's life.

No comments:

Post a Comment