The son of a Chicago policeman, Hanssen had 25 years with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and was weeks away from his retirement when he was arrested in February 2001 as he placed a rubbish bag filled with classified documents in a dead drop in a park in Northern Virginia. He came from a troubled background and—in spite of his appearance of being a family man, happily married with six children, and an active member of his Roman Catholic church, where he attended meetings of Opus Dei—Hanssen was a psychiatric textbook case of contradictions. While his colleagues at work joked that he had the appearance of an undertaker, he led a bizarre private life dominated by sexual fantasies, which he posted on a sordid internet site under his own name, and a year-long relationship with a Washington, D.C., stripper whom he took on an official visit to Hong Kong. Tormented by demons, Hanssen hid a videocamera in his bedroom and taped his bedtime escapades with his wife, which he then showed to a male friend.
A right-winger and an ardent gun collector, but with a heavy mortgage and six children at private schools, Hanssen later claimed to have been a Jekyll and Hyde personality motivated by fear of failure and anger at being passed over for promotion and not having had his talents recognized by the FBI. In fact the Bureau had acknowledged his computer and accounting skills, but had failed to link him to the mole that a post–Aldrich Ames damage assessment had concluded was still active. As a Soviet counterintelligence analyst, Hanssen knew how to exploit the Bureau’s limitations and, like Ames, had sufficient grasp of the tradecraft to take the appropriate precautions to avoid detection. He was considered a computer genius and constantly monitored the systems to spot tell-tale traces of any sensitive, compartmented surveillance operations that might have endangered him. Unlike Ames, Hanssen was not the subject of routine polygraph tests to retain his security clearances and took care to protect his identity from his Soviet contacts, although doubtless they quickly worked out that he was a senior FBI officer, if not his actual name.
Hanssen compromised up to 6,000 pages of highly classified documents and was responsible, in his very first letter in October 1985, for tipping off the KGB to the existence of two FBI recruits inside the Soviet embassy in Washington, D.C., Sergei Motorin and Valeri Martynov, both of whom were promptly recalled to Moscow and executed. In addition he named Boris Yuzhin, who was sentenced to 15 years in a labor camp, and implicated Gen. Dmitri Polyakov, a GRU retiree who had volunteered his services to the FBI in New York in January 1962 when he had been deputy rezident. Code-named TOP HAT, Polyakov avoided discovery until he was named by Hanssen, after which he was executed for treason.
The person who eventually sealed Hanssen’s fate was a retired KGB officer to whom the FBI had been alerted by a source code-named AVENGER. Having provided the clues that led to the arrests of Earl Edwin Pitts and David Nicholson, the FBI pressed AVENGER for information that would assist their major mole hunt, code-named GRAY SUIT, which was intended to find the spy who must have operated in parallel with, but in isolation from, Ames. The FBI’s principal suspect, code-named GRAY DECEIVER, was a veteran CIA counterintelligence officer, Brian Kelley, who had spent much of his career studying Soviet illegals and, most recently, had tried to entrap Felix Bloch. Instead of supplying the information himself, AVENGER recommended another source who in October 2000 had access to original documents from the KGB’s “Ramon Garcia” file, together with a tape of one of the spy’s brief, two-minute telephone contacts with his handler in Washington, Aleksandr Fefelov, in August 1986.
The voice on the tape turned out to be that not of Kelley, but of Hanssen, who was then promptly code-named GRAY DAY and placed under intensive surveillance.
The final linchpin proved to be one of the original plastic trash bags that Hanssen had left at a dead drop, from which the FBI laboratory succeeded in lifting two latent fingerprints. Being caught in the act of filling a dead drop was the final part of a lengthy surveillance operation supervised personally by the FBI director, Louis Freeh, who knew Hanssen and his family and even worshipped in the same church.
The damage assessment analyzing the scale of Hanssen’s betrayal amounted to a veritable catalog of the nation’s most treasured secrets, including MONOPOLY, the tunnel dug under the Soviet compound at Mount Alto, packed with National Security Agency equipment to eavesdrop on Russian conversations; and the “continuity of government” contingency plans to protect the president and his staff in deep bunkers in the event of a nuclear conflict. Hanssen supplied a copy of The FBI’s Double Agent Program, which summarized every current operation, and the 1987, 1989, and 1990 versions of the annual National Intelligence Program, which set out interagency plans and objectives. Incredibly, Hanssen even revealed to the KGB that one of their most impressive defectors, Viktor Sheymov, was now using the alias “Dick Shepherd” and ran a successful computer software company in Washington, D.C. He also disclosed documents circulated by the director of central intelligence—Stealth Orientation and volume 2 of Compendium of Future Intelligence Requirements—and others from the Central Intelligence Agency’s Directorate of Intelligence, including two nuclear war assessments for the 1990s, The Soviet Union in Crisis: Prospects for the Next Two Years; a copy of the National HUMINT Collection Plan; and a technical survey of measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT) capabilities.
Information about the FBI’s mysterious source code-named AVENGER emerged in May 2003 with the conviction in Moscow of Aleksandr Zaporozhsky, a 52-year-old former KGB colonel who allegedly had been lured back to Russia in November 2002 after his emigration to the United States. Zaporozhsky was accused of having helped the FBI to find Ames and Hanssen, and after a trial that lasted two and a half months, was sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment in June 2003. According to a statement released upon his conviction, Zaporozhsky, formerly the deputy chief of the First Department of Directorate K until his premature retirement in 1997, had been living in Cockeysville, Maryland, with his wife Galina when he was ensnared. The SVR claimed that Zaporozhsky had contacted the CIA in 1995 and then left the country illegally three years later, supposedly to take up a position with the Walter Shipping Company, described as an FBI front.