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If you've been following the news on the arrest and indictments of FBI agent-turned-Russian spy Robert Hanssen, you know things look pretty bad on the national security front: For the price of $1.4 million in cash and diamonds, Robert Philip Hanssen bought himself 21 espionage-related felony counts, most of which carried the death penalty. On May 16, 2001, the would-be James Bond pleaded guilty to 13 counts, in exchange for life in prison.

Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter David Vise has just published a new book, The Bureau and the Mole, which reveals in excruciating detail exactly what Hanssen has done. In addition, the book discloses elements of Hanssen's personal life that you wouldn't believe if you saw them in a movie.

He grew up the son of a hard-nosed Chicago cop who abused him mentally and physically. He became entranced with the world of espionage at a very early age, though after years of service in the Bureau, classically, he believed that his abilities were not recognized by his superiors.

Just like in the movies, his espionage activities seemed to revolve around matters sexual: Even as he played the part of responsible family man—church-going husband and the father of six children—Hanssen had an ongoing relationship with a stripper, Priscilla Galey, whom he showered with money, a diamond and sapphire necklace, and—in a sweet gesture I suppose—a $10,000 used Mercedes Benz.

Although his true identity was unknown to his Russian handlers, Hanssen published explicit sexual fantasies under his own name on the Internet. He also invited his best friend to watch him having sex with his wife Bonnie in their bedroom over closed-circuit video.

All of which, the author states, points to Hanssen's personality as "a fractured ego seeking recognition," the classic temperament for the "turned" secret agent. Hanssen was fascinated by famed British "mole" Kim Philby. He really, really, really wanted to be James Bond.

And here is the price, to the United States, of Robert Hanssen's fantasy:

  • He disclosed to the Russians America's Continuity of Government Plan, which details how the country would continue to function in the event of a nuclear first-strike.

  • He disclosed the identities of at least nine Soviet officials who spied for the United States. Three of them were executed.

  • He revealed the existence of a spy tunnel beneath the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C..

  • He described COINS, the online computer system shared by all the American intelligence agencies.

  • And he gave up what Vise calls the "holy of holies"—the national intelligence budget, which details all future American espionage plans.

In an interview with Alex Chadwick on National Public Radio's Morning Edition today, Vise also made the chilling disclosure that this information was subsequently sold to Osama Bin Laden.

That really made my day.

Regarding American Espionage:

George Washington, Spymaster
the first American Intelligence failure in New York
Thomas Knowlton

Wild Bill Donovan
Operation Overcast
the Stars of Project Paperclip
burning crosses in the Fatherland
doing drugs for fun and profit
the CIA wants YOU!
When is a monkey's orgasm more than just fun and games?
The Johnny Appleseed of LSD
Sidney Gottlieb, the real-life "Q"
The Nuremberg Code

Hamid Karzai

The Bureau and the Mole: The Unmasking of Robert Philip Hanssen, the Most Dangerous Double Agent in FBI History, David A. Vise, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2001

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