Why, exactly, would ex-FBI agent and Russian spy, Robert Hanssen, sell high-level US secrets to the former Soviet Union and Russia for over 20 years? The largest crowd at a Witness to History event to date showed up at the International Spy Museum Tuesday night to find out.
Panelists Section Chief Mike Rochford, FBI, Russian Overseas Espionage, Ret.; and David Wise, Author of Spy: The Inside Story of How the FBI’s Robert Hanssen Betrayed America, with help in the audience from Dr. David L. Charney (Hanssen’s psychiatrist) shed light on what Hanssen, the son of a Chicago law enforcement officer (who specialized in catching suspected communists) was thinking as he went on to become a Russian spy… just three years after joining the FBI.
“Robert Hanssen is a very complex man, and a bundle of contradictions,” said Wise.
“Compartmentalization” was a factor, according to Dr. Charney, who was given permission by Hanssen to convey his medical findings to the intelligence community as a teaching opportunity. This brain function helped Hanssen operate in starkly contradictory roles.
Due to the collective efforts of the FBI, CIA, Department of State, and the Justice Department, Hanssen was arrested in 2001 and convicted of espionage. He is currently at the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, where he is held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day (and permitted one hour of exercise).
*Photo provided courtesy of the National Law Enforcement Museum