With the possible exception of J. Edgar Hoover, no FBI employee in history has received as much unfavorable press as convicted traitor Robert Hanssen. This tight-lipped anti-Communist earned our attention with his long and damaging career as a Russian spy. What distinguishes this addition to the Hanssen shelf from its predecessors is David Wise's access to intelligence sources. In Spy, he tells the extraordinary story of Hanssen's exposure as a spy by FBI agents; tells where Hanssen hid his loot; and reveals even weirder details about the double agent's sex life.
The New York Times Book Review
A relentless reporter and true expert on the world of spying, Wise recounts Hanssen's story and the hunt to catch him in precise, if sometimes overwhelming detail.
Four previous books have attempted to unravel the mystery of how and why FBI staffer Robert Hanssen was able to sell secrets to the KGB for almost 22 years. None, however, have been as penetrating as this account by veteran spy author Wise (The Invisible Government), whom Hanssen himself reportedly called "the best espionage writer around." Using a career's worth of contacts in the FBI and CIA, as well as exclusive access to Hanssen's defense psychiatrist, Wise presents a comprehensive portrait of Hanssen's life as a spy and the government's quest to uncover and prosecute him. Further, Wise reveals that the FBI's problems with internal traitors began as far back as 1962, with a tip from a KGB informant; that mole was never found. Years later, the FBI identified another internal spy, but bungled its surveillance; that spy was quietly "eased out" of the bureau and the entire affair kept out of the newspapers. And in the Hanssen case, a certain CIA agent was wrongly identified as the mole and suspended from duty for almost two years. By contextualizing Hanssen and providing an insider's account of the hunt that finally apprehended him, Wise covers aspects of the case that have been largely neglected to date. Well researched and ably written, this book is, so far, the definitive account of Hanssen's betrayal of the United States. (On sale Oct. 22) Forecast: It would be all too easy for readers to confuse David Wise with David Vise, author of the bestselling The Bureau and the Mole hopefully, reviews and bookstore displays will distinguish the two. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Many books about FBI counterintelligence agent Robert Hanssen have already been published, including David A. Vise's The Bureau and the Mole and Elaine Shannon's The Spy Next Door. While the story of how Hanssen was tracked down is certainly interesting, it is even more intriguing to speculate why this conservative Catholic with a modest lifestyle would betray us to the Soviets. Journalist Wise, who wrote The Spy Who Got Away, a similar book about escaped CIA traitor Edward Lee Howard, interviewed Hanssen's case psychiatrist and thus provides considerable informed discussion about motive. Was it for the money to support his big family, the thrill of playing a dangerous game, or to get back at a never-satisfied father? Hanssen apparently walked right into a Soviet office in 1979, which leads to the question whether the CIA and FBI were watching this office-and if not, why not? Recommended for the espionage collections of public and academic libraries. (Photos and index not seen.)-Daniel K. Blewett, Coll. of DuPage Lib., Glen Ellyn, IL
A solidly paced, richly detailed account, by intelligence-community insider Wise (Cassidy's Run, 2000, etc.), of the FBI desk jockey who sold secrets to the Soviet and Russian governments for two decades-and came close to getting away with it. Robert Hanssen was apparently an average sort of fellow, a good churchgoer and father who kept the lawn mowed and the bills paid; his fellow FBI officers thought of him as a colorless, humorless sort, "a computer guy, a weenie, a number cruncher," as one put it, "somebody you want to have on your team, to use. He was never going to lead the team." Wise hazards that Hanssen may have gone over to the Soviets, way back in the late 1970s, precisely because he felt the need to show that he had executive potential; whatever the case, in his checkered and sometimes clueless career as a traitor, he gave up as many as 50 double agents, spies, and informants working around the world, most of whom wound up dead. It took federal counterespionage agents from several bureaus years to track down the spy among them, in part, as Wise writes, because Hanssen himself was involved in the investigation-and in part, it seems, as is so often true, because the feds bungled and stumbled everywhere they went. Still, they finally caught up to Hanssen just a couple of years ago, to some extent thanks to Hanssen's own ineptitude. Wise is a bit easier on the FBI and CIA than are some of the operatives who worked on the Hanssen case-as one remarks, "There's absolutely no excuse for the FBI not, at some point, to have identified Bob Hanssen," as it could not do by itself. Wise writes well and capably, as always, but this story is largely narrative, if full of nice twists andturns, and readers may miss the analytical, explanatory power he has brought to bear on broader-themed works such as The Politics of Lying (1973) and The Invisible Government (1964). Still, a first-rate true-crime story that gets inside the shadowy-and astoundingly average-world of spooks, moles, and ops.
Read an Excerpt
The Mole Hunter
Inside the Soviet counterintelligence section at FBI headquarters in Washington, there could be no other word for what had happened: the two KGB agents who were the bureau's highly secret sources inside the Soviet embassy in Washington had somehow been discovered. Valery Martynov and Sergei Motorin had been lured back to Moscow and executed. Each was killed with a bullet in the head, the preferred method used by the KGB to dispatch traitors.
There would be no more visits to the candy store by the FBI counterintelligence agents; M&M, as the two KGB men were informally if irreverently known inside FBI headquarters, were gone, two more secret casualties of the Cold War. The year was 1986. The FBI quickly created a six-person team to try to determine what had gone wrong.
Meanwhile, the CIA, across the Potomac in Langley, Virginia, was having its own troubles. It was losing dozens of agents inside the Soviet Union, some executed, others thrown into prison. The agency formed a mole hunt group.
Two years later, in 1988, the FBI still had no answer to how Martynov, whom the bureau had given the code name pimenta, and Motorin, code name megas, had been lost. Something more had to be done, and the FBI now began thinking the unthinkable. As painful, even heretical, as it might be to consider, perhaps there was a traitor-a Russian spy-inside the FBI itself.
To find out the truth was the job of the bureau's intelligence division, which was in charge of arresting spies, penetrating foreign espionage services, and, when possible, recruiting their agents to work for the FBI. The division was divided into sections, one of which, CI-3 (the CI stood for counterintelligence), housed the Soviet analytical unit, the research arm of the bureau's spycatchers. Perhaps, the division's chiefs reasoned, something might be learned if the analysts, looking back to the beginning of the Cold War, carefully studied every report gleaned from a recruitment or a defector that hinted at possible penetrations of the FBI by Soviet intelligence. Perhaps a pattern could be seen that might point to a current penetration, if one existed.
Within the Soviet unit, two experienced analysts, Bob King and Jim Milburn, were assigned to read the debriefings of Soviet defectors and reports of Soviet intelligence sources who had, over the years, been recruited as spies by the FBI. The two shared a cubicle in Room 4835 with their supervisor.
The supervisor, a tall, forty-four-year-old, somewhat dour man, was not a popular figure among his fellow special agents, although he was respected for his wizardry with computers. He had been born in Chicago, served for a while as a police officer in that city, and joined the FBI twelve years before, in 1976. Now he was responsible for preparing and overseeing the mole study.
For the supervisor, directing the analysis to help pinpoint a possible mole inside the FBI was a task of exquisite irony. For he knew who had turned over the names of Valery Martynov and Sergei Motorin to the KGB. He knew there was in fact an active mole inside the FBI, passing the bureau's most highly classified secrets to Moscow. He knew the spy was a trusted counterintelligence agent at headquarters. He knew, in fact, that the spy was a supervisory special agent inside the Soviet analytical unit. He knew all this but could tell no one. And for good reason.
Robert Hanssen was looking for himself.
From the Hardcover edition.