Most people are familiar with the name Robert Hanssen, a man who was an FBI agent, and one of the most devastating traitors in American History.
Not too long ago, new information revealed the source that finally exposed Hanssen and provided the FBI with the evidence to arrest him for espionage.
In 1979, only three years after joining the FBI, Hanssen approached the Soviets and offered his services.
In other words, he was never recruited by the Soviets but reached out to them on his own in hopes of working for them.
One of the first acts of espionage committed by Hanssen was when he provided the Soviets a list of suspected Soviet spies, including Dmitri Polvakov, who was a CIA informant that passed enormous amounts of information to the CIA while he was a General in the Soviet Army.
Eventually, Palvakov was executed by the Soviets for betraying his country.
In the early 1980’s, Hanssen was transferred to the FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. where he became part of the FBI’s Soviet analytical unit, which was responsible for studying, identifying, and capturing Soviet spies in the U.S.
For over two decades, Hanssen gave the Russians thousands of pages of classified material that revealed such sensitive national security secrets as the identities of Soviets spying for the U.S. and specifics about America’s nuclear operations.
In 2001, the father of six was arrested after making a dead drop for his Russian handlers at a park in Vienna, Virginia.
It was revealed that over the two decades, Hanssen was paid $600,000 in cash and diamonds, with another $800,000 held for him in a Russian bank.
In order to avoid the death penalty, Hanssen struck a deal with the government and pleaded guilty to 15 counts of espionage.
He was sentenced to 15 consecutive life sentences behind bars with no possibility of parole.
In 2002, the US Department of Justice released a report that Hanssen had caused “possibly the worst intelligence disaster in US history”.
One mystery regarding the Hanssen case that remained unknown until recently was who provided the FBI with the information exposing Hanssen as a traitor.
A new book, The Seven Million Dollar Spy, written by the late David Wise, revealed the identity of the man who provided information leading to Hanssen’s capture for a sum of $7 million.
Former KGB officer Aleksandr Shcherbakov is believed to be the one who delivered Hanssen’s file to the FBI and who subsequently defected to the United States where he continues to live today under an assumed identity.
While the government hasn’t released specific numbers, it’s estimated that Hanssen exposed at least 50 CIA assets, with many of them being executed by the Russians.
Now, oftentimes when I’m speaking at seminars, I’m asked what leads people to becoming double agents and commit such unspeakable crimes like Hanssen.
Of course, most of the companies I’m speaking to want to know how to prevent their employees from providing competitors with confidential information.
With that in mind, here’s what made a traitor like Hanssen tick…
Government was lazy.
Hanssen said it was easy for him to steal national security secrets and provide the classified information to his handlers.
After his arrest he stated, ”Security was lax, you could bring documents out of F.B.I. headquarters” without any ”risk of being searched or looked at.” According to reports by the Justice Department, “On more than 20 occasions, he ran searches containing the names ‘Hillary Rodham Clinton,’ ‘Hillary,’ ‘Chelsea’ or ‘Clinton.”
In other words, there were no safe guards in place to detect what was being done on Hanssen’s computer. Nowadays, there are many security measures in place to catch those making unauthorized requests on their work computers.
Money money money.
Obviously, when it comes to spying, money is often the one reason people will betray their country. After his arrest, Hanssen told officials his motivation for spying was money and that he had originally planned to ”get a little money” from espionage and then ”get out of it.”
It’s no secret that the FBI knew they had a mole within their ranks for many years. In fact, they had multiple agents working on the case of who was providing the Russians with classified information.
The problem was, in the beginning, Hanssen knew exactly what the agents were looking at and he basically tracked the search for the mole.
Essentially, Hanssen would search the FBI’s internal computer case record to see if he was under investigation.
The fact is, Hanssen believed he was going to keep getting away with his crimes because of the lack of security at the FBI. When he was finally arrested, Hanssen asked the agents, “What took you so long?”
There is no question that Hanssen was one of the most dangerous spies in American history. Unfortunately, he won’t be the last, but hopefully the government can catch these traitors a lot quicker in future.