The Bureau of Prisons has reported that Robert Hanssen, a former FBI agent notorious for being one of the most destructive spies in American history, was discovered deceased in his prison cell on Monday morning. Hanssen, aged 79, was apprehended in 2001 and confessed to the act of selling extremely classified information to the Soviet Union and subsequently to Russia. He had been serving a life sentence at the federal penitentiary located in Florence, Colorado.
According to a statement by Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Kristie Breshears, Hanssen was discovered in an unresponsive state, prompting the prison staff to promptly begin life-saving measures.
“Staff requested emergency medical services and life-saving efforts continued. The inmate was subsequently pronounced dead by outside emergency medical personnel.”
According to two sources familiar with the situation, it appears that Hanssen passed away due to natural causes.
After three years of working for the FBI, Hanssen approached the Soviets in 1979 and commenced his espionage activities on behalf of the KGB and its successor, the SVR. He ceased his activities for a brief period when his wife confronted him.
However, in 1985, he resumed his spying operations, selling a multitude of classified documents that compromised valuable human sources, as well as counterintelligence techniques and ongoing investigations. In return for his actions, he received over $1.4 million in cash, diamonds, and foreign bank deposits.
Former FBI agent who spied for Russia found dead in prison cell https://t.co/9sByW9mD9x— Just the News (@JustTheNews) June 5, 2023
Adopting the alias “Ramon Garcia,” he transmitted information to the spy agencies using encrypted communication methods and by utilizing dead drops, without ever having face-to-face meetings with a Russian handler.
According to CBS News, Eric O’Neill, who worked undercover for the FBI during the investigation of Hanssen, revealed that Hanssen had a complex upbringing and faced difficulties with his father, who had aspirations for him to pursue a medical career. Despite attending dentistry school, Hanssen harbored a strong desire to be involved in law enforcement.
Through his position in the FBI, Hanssen had unrestricted access to highly classified information regarding the bureau’s counterintelligence operations. Among his betrayals, he divulged crucial information about U.S. nuclear war preparations and a covert listening tunnel situated beneath the Soviet embassy in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he exposed double agents, including Soviet General Dmitri Polyakov, who tragically faced execution.
In 2001, Hanssen’s activities came to an end when he was apprehended while conducting a dead drop in a park in Virginia. Unbeknownst to him, the FBI had been covertly monitoring his actions for several months. The revelation of his true identity occurred when a Russian intelligence officer handed over a file containing a garbage bag with Hanssen’s fingerprints and a recorded tape of his voice.
In letters addressed to the KGB, Hanssen expressed his apprehension about the possibility of being discovered, and he regularly monitored FBI computers for any indications of an ongoing investigation into his actions.
Hanssen maintained silence regarding his motives for engaging in espionage. However, Eric O’Neill, who authored a book detailing the investigation that led to Hanssen’s capture, presents some hypotheses regarding his motivations.
“He truly didn’t respect Russia very much, at least not in his conversations with me. But he was able to use them very effectively to solve his other problems. One that he was angry at the FBI for not placing him in the position of authority and gravitas and respect that he believed he deserved. And two, he needed money. He was financially having problems and he needed money and you solve both those problems by becoming a spy.”
“At some point, spying and being the top spy for the Soviet Union, while within the FBI, became the thing that made him belong to something much bigger than himself. I think that at some point, even more than the money that became what was so important to him.”