Famed FBI agent imprisoned for USSR espionage dies at 79
Robert Hanssen, the former FBI agent that did a great deal of damage to the CIA, dies at the age of 79 serving 15 consecutive life sentences for espionage and conspiracy to commit espionage.
Serving 15 consecutive life sentences, FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who was charged for allegedly having passed intelligence to the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation after the fall of the prior, died in a US supermax prison facility in Colorado at the age of 79.
Charged with espionage and conspiracy to commit espionage, Hanssen pled guilty in 2002, and in 2023 the US Bureau of Prisons (BoP) confirmed reports, on Monday, claiming Hanssen has died in the ADX Florence prison facility.
According to a BoP statement, “Responding staff immediately initiated life-saving measures. Staff requested emergency medical services and life-saving efforts continued. The inmate was subsequently pronounced dead by outside emergency personnel."
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Dubbed as the US' "most damaging spy in Bureau history”, Hanssen began his journey with the FBI as an agent, in 1976, and only three years later, he allegedly approached the Soviet Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) offering himself as a spy agent.
Hanssen spied for the GRU from 1978 until 1981 when he was transferred to a different position that hindered his ability to spy for the Soviet Union. However, in 1985, after a second position transfer, Hanssen resumed his side hustle with the GRU.
Significantly, Hanssen gave the GRU lists of double agents known to the FBI, as well as a number of CIA assets and contacts. Furthermore, he delivered information on secret FBI tunnels beneath the USSR embassy in Washington DC, and offered signals intelligence information.
Hanssen managed to avoid detection for years, in part due to the fact that worked in the bureau's unit that hunted double agents, but also because a large portion of his covert espionage operations coincided with those of Aldrich Ames, a CIA agent who also passed copious amounts of information to the Soviet Union, many of which were replicated by Hanssen, who was unaware of Ames' activities.
The CIA argued that the only individual that harmed the agency more than Hanssen was Ames.
In the end, an FBI mole hunt focused on Hanssen because he revealed to the Soviets a number of details that would have been impossible for Ames to know, such as the spy tunnel beneath the embassy, and an internal FBI investigation into another agent who was also working for the USSR, which led the GRU to cut ties with that individual.
After the fall of the USSR, Hanssen approached the Russian Federation but was then, ironically, reported by Russian intelligence to the FBI, as they doubted he served as a triple agent. However, the bureau, at the time dismissed the case without explanation.
In 2001, Hanssen was caught during a "dead drop", after he was paid $600,000 in cash as well as diamonds and Rolex watches, while $800,000 were promised to be deposited in a bank on behalf of his family.
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The US believed that Russian intelligence only knew Hanssen's code name, Ramon Garcia, and never dealt with him as Hanssen.
After imprisonment, Hanssen escaped a death sentence by pleading guilty to 14 counts of espionage and one account of conspiracy to commit espionage, and as a result, was sentenced to 15 consecutive life sentences without parole instead.