The Spy Who Stayed Out in the Cold: The Secret Life of FBI Double Agent Robert Hanssen

The Spy Who Stayed Out in the Cold: The Secret Life of FBI Double Agent Robert Hanssen

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by Adrian Havill

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Robert Philip Hansen thought he was smarter than the system. For decades, the quirky but respected counterintelligence expert, religious family man, and father of six, sold top secret information to agents of the Soviet Union and Russia. A self-taught computer expert, Hansen often encrypted his stolen files on wafer-thin disks. The data-some 6000 pages of highly

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Robert Philip Hansen thought he was smarter than the system. For decades, the quirky but respected counterintelligence expert, religious family man, and father of six, sold top secret information to agents of the Soviet Union and Russia. A self-taught computer expert, Hansen often encrypted his stolen files on wafer-thin disks. The data-some 6000 pages of highly classified documents-revealed precious nuclear secrets, outlined American espionage initiatives, and named names of agents-spies who covertly worked for both sides.

Soviet government leaders, and their successors in the Russian Federation, used the stolen information to undermine U.S. policies and to eliminate spies in their own ranks. Moscow did not allow their moles the luxury of a defense: at least two men named by Hanssen were executed; a third languished for years in a Siberian hard labor camp.

For more than twenty years, Bob Hanssen was the perfect spy. He personally collected at least $600,000 from his Russian handlers while another $800,000 was deposited in his name at a Moscow bank. Along with the cash came Rolex watches and cut diamonds. The money financed both his children's education at schools run by the elite and ultra-conservative Catholic organization, Opus Dei, and an inexplicably strange fling with a former Ohio "stripper of the year."

But he didn't just do it for the money; he did it for the thrill and for a mysterious third reason rooted in religious mysticism. He lacked the people skills to play office politics, and it seemed the aging FBI analyst faced a disappointing career mired in middle management. Instead, he chose to become one of the most dangerous spies in America's history. And no one suspected him until just weeks before his arrest.

Robert Philip Hanssen thought he was smarter than the system. And until February 18, 2001, he was right. That's when federal agents surrounded him while he was attempting to complete an exchange with his handlers at a Virginia park. When the G-men captured their mark, they catapulted the once innocuous bureaucrat onto the front pages of every newspaper in America. The most notorious spy since the Rosenbergs had finally become a victim of his own undoing.

Now, drawing on more than 100 interviews with Bob Hanssen's friends, colleagues, coworkers, and family members, and confidential sources, best-selling author Adrian Havill tells the entire story you haven't read as only he can. The Spy Who Stayed Out in the Cold tells not only how he did it, but why.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Compelling...[a] meticulous portrait."—The Washington Times

"Meticulous...intriguing."—The Baltimore Sun

"Fascinating...intriguing...Havill's chronicle of the Hanssen-KGB relationship reads like a John le Carre novel, full of codes and secret signals."—Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly
FBI agent Robert Hanssen began spying for the Soviet Union in 1985. By the time he was arrested in February 2001, he'd received over $600,000 payment in cash and diamonds and turned over hundreds of pages of top secret documents. In the process, says Havill, Hanssen did as much damage to U.S. national security as "anyone since the Rosenbergs." But why did he do it? And how? Havill, a journalist and true-crime writer (While Innocents Slept), devotes most of his book to these two questions. Hanssen, Havill reports, had been fascinated by the romance of international espionage from an early age. When he was 14, he became obsessed with the memoir of a notorious British double agent; his favorite film was From Russia with Love. But after a decade of FBI service, Hanssen found himself unsatisfied, underappreciated and underpaid. And so, using the code name Ramon, Hanssen turned over his first packet of secret files to the KGB. Havill's chronicle of the Hanssen-KGB relationship reads like a John le Carr? novel, full of codes and secret signals. The notes between Hanssen and his Russian handers, excerpted extensively by Havill, are the most fascinating parts of the book. Frustratingly, Havill is unable to provide any details concerning the contents of the documents Hanssen turned over this is, of course, an unavoidable flaw in any book dealing with espionage and national secrets. Despite this, Havill's book remains an intriguing, unsettling portrait of a man whose poor finances and personal frustration drove him to betray his country.(Oct.) Forecast: Given the notoriety of this case, the book should receive reviews and media attention and generous sales. Copyright 2001 Cahners BusinessInformation.
Library Journal
By all accounts, Robert Hanssen was an odd duck from the word go: a technologically savvy man with a photographic memory, he was quiet and dull, religious, and a good family man drawn to the secret side of society. He was just about to retire from the FBI when he was arrested at a dead drop in a Virginia park in February 2001. For at least 15 years, he had sold the Russians nuclear secrets and counterintelligence information an act that damaged American security and cost lives. As demonstrated by Havill (Deep Truth: The Lives of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein), Hanssen did not spy for ideological or blackmail reasons but for money to support his large family and for the thrill of the dangerous game. Havill lived close to Hanssen and, although they never met, their lives did brush against each other which certainly helped him write the book so quickly. The role of the extremely conservative Catholic organization Opus Dei in the life of Hanssen could have been explored even more, but this is still a good story suitable for the espionage collections of all libraries. (Photos and index not seen.) Daniel K. Blewett, Coll. of DuPage Lib., Glen Ellyn, IL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A timely biography that attempts to provide plausible explanations for the motives of alleged FBI double agent Robert Hanssen, whose trial is set to begin on October 29, 2001. Hanssen was a long-time FBI agent, now accused of selling top-secret information to agents of the Soviet Union, including nuclear secrets and names of other agents (which may have led to the execution of a couple of the men). The obvious question, then, is: Why? And Havill (While Innocents Slept, 2001, etc.) gives many answers, the least being ideological, even though much is made of Hanssen's ultra-conservatism and his beliefs in the dictates of the Catholic group Opus Dei. Primarily, Hanssen's motives seemed to be financial: the money he received (in excess of $600,000) got his six children's private-school educations. It also allowed him to lavish money on a young female stripper in a strange, two-year, nonsexual relationship where he apparently was trying to "save" her. He also did it for the thrill; as a youngster, he was fascinated by spy confessions and espionage books, and he reportedly told a former neighbor, "I've wanted to be a spy ever since I was a little boy." Lastly, he did it to satisfy his ego. The numerous interviews with Hanssen's friends, neighbors, and childhood acquaintances, which range from sympathy to surprise to I-always-knew-he-was-strange, give a vague picture of Hanssen as someone who craved notoriety and excitement. The most fascinating aspect here-and what perhaps most reveals the man's true nature-are the samplings of correspondence exchanged over the years between Hanssen (who wrote under the alias of "Ramon Garcia") and his Soviet contacts, messages usually sent encryptedon computer disks. Overall, though, Havill's account offers little suspense, even when relating the events on February 18, 2001, which resulted in Hanssen's ultimate arrest. A mixture of evidence and assumptions in a look at the modern-day, tit-for-tat spy game between America and Moscow. (8-page b&w photo insert, not seen)

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Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.96(h) x 1.06(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Spy Who Stayed Out In The Cold




Man is the creation of an all-powerful, all-good, and all-seeing God. What is sin, the conception of which arises from the consciousness of man's freedom? That is a question for theology.

The actions of men are subject to general immutable laws expressed in statistics. What is man's responsibility to society, the conception of which results from the conception of freedom? That is a question for jurisprudence.

Man's actions proceed from his innate character and the motives acting upon him. What is conscience and the perception of right and wrong in actions that follows from the consciousness of freedom? That is a question for ethics.






FOXSTONE PARK ISN'T MUCH OF one. The long, narrow stretch of Northern Virginia woods is in reality a fourteen-acre floodplain that forms small lakes each time it rains. Casual strollers have to step gingerly at those times or risk returning home with wet feet. And today, February 18, 2001, Foxstone is not just a sea of puddles and ponds. It is in total disarray.

Broken branches are strewn over the black asphalt path that runs northwesterly nearly two miles from the corner of East Street and Ayr Hill Avenue. At the end it culminates in a small basketball court and a tot lot of swings and slides. Midway, the park is broken up by Creek Crossing Road, which one has to cross if walking Foxstone's full length. But traffic is light on this suburban thoroughfare. Mothers and children out for a Sunday stroll have rarely had problems traversing its two narrow lanes.

To the left of the asphalt path is a small stream some twenty feet wide. On February 18 it is littered with raggedy strands of indestructible plastic, blue and gold cans of cheap beer labeled Busch Bavarian and Milwaukee's Best, and old, graying paper coffee cups. The beer containers have been tossed there by teens seeking the still forbidden taste of alcohol.

The blue and gold beer cans seem impervious to fading or rusting. They glitter in the water. The empty cans and the polyethylene remnants clinging to the barbed vines at the water'sedge will have to wait. The county's cleanup crew isn't scheduled to arrive for a month. Then they will remove the trash along with the twigs and branches that have been blown to the ground by the winds. In the parks of the county, the garbage collectors are among the first heralds of spring.

The stream is named Wolf Trap, an ubiquitous name in these parts that has been tacked onto roads, subdivisions, and even delicatessens. The best-known Wolf Trap is a nearby hundred-acre performing arts center that boasts a 6,800-seat covered amphitheater and draws pop performers ranging from Tony Bennett to Willie Nelson. Wolf Trap runs into a larger creek called Difficult Run, which meanders for miles before emptying into the Potomac River. The Potomac separates Washington from Virginia as it flows east, emptying toward and into the great Chesapeake Bay.

Foxstone Park is inside the Vienna town limits. This Vienna is not the Austrian city of music and intrigue, but a self-governed village inside Fairfax County, some thirteen miles west of the White House in Washington. Its residents are, for the most part, government workers. Vienna's main street, called Maple Avenue, is really a state highway, Route 123, and if you drive north five miles from the center of Vienna, the road runs directly by the entrance to the headquarters of the CIA.

At noon on this day Foxstone Park is a stage, set for optimism. Perhaps it is the bright sun. Warmer weather is only weeks away, and although it will likely snow again, somehow you can feel the warmth coming. At midday the temperature hovers near thirty degrees Fahrenheit in the woods, and after dark it is predicted to be back in the low twenties. But spring is coming, and after a colder-than-normal winter, the season will be welcome. The tulip poplar trees, so prevalent in the park, will flower, and what are now bare patches of honeysuckle and blackberry vines will turn green with leaves that hide their thorns. You can alreadysee buds forming on the forsythia bushes and the green shoots of jonquils starting to spike upward between the trees.

Rabbits eat this greenery, and their numbers have grown so large the children and their mothers have begun calling Foxstone "the bunny park." The rabbits breed two or three times each year, the mothers birthing between five and seven bunnies each time. You can walk through the woods in the springtime and be virtually assured of seeing at least one hare, usually lying so still it seems you could reach out and touch the animal before it feels your presence and darts away.

Their predators are red foxes, horned owls, and hawks, who swoop down from the sky to eat the younger rabbits. Still, there are just too many of the furry creatures. The foxes breed only once a year, and their maximum litter is three kits. Foxes have to face automobiles in the suburbs, and their street crossings are often poorly timed. It is common to see them dead on a road, their carcasses becoming flatter with each passing car. Rabbits prefer to stay in the park; they won't go near a street. So the birds of prey and the foxes feast, but they can't keep up with what seems to be an endless buffet provided by Mother Nature.

A country club's golf course runs along one side of the park between the East Street entrance and the Creek Crossing break. On the other side a walker can see the backyards of brick and vinyl-sided suburban mini-manses whose most distinctive features are their mansard roofs. In this part of the park you can see dimpled white balls half-buried in the mud of the stream looking a bit like duck eggs, the product of cold-weather duffers whose drives have gone wrong.

You have to cross four bridges to get from one end of the park to the other, such is the serpentine shape of the Wolf Trap stream. The bridges have rusty metal sides with a flooring of wooden planks. The structures are not handmade but rather have been manufactured on an assembly line. If you look closely, youwill notice a small metal plaque warning that the bridge is for pedestrian traffic only. MAXIMUM LOAD, FIVE TONS, the tiny sign reads, and below that, MADE BY BILTOLAST PRODUCTS, FORT PAYNE, ALABAMA. American corporate efficiency is alive and well in Foxstone Park, Virginia. The joggers and dog walkers who comprise the bulk of the visitors to the park in winter rarely notice these details. But, come at the right time, and you might find another of the park's regular visitors, a man who notices all the details. He was once rail-thin but has become soft and fleshy with age. He is tall, six-foot-two or -three, with a long, pointy nose. If you were to see him from the side, you might notice his old man's paunch that speaks of south Florida, white belts, and early-bird buffet dinners.

His brown eyes dart everywhere, even though he knows the park like the back of his hand. Just like the trios of white-tailed deer who live here, he too sometimes looks like an apparition, appearing seemingly out of nowhere, either at dawn, dusk, or in the dead of night. He is not always alone, often showing up with a dog, a mixed black Lab. The man tries to enter the park differently each time. He strolls in where the path begins at the corner of East Street and Ayr Hill Avenue. On another day he will park a silver 1997 Taurus just off Creek Crossing Road next to the Vienna water-pumping station and enter the path there. At other times he might drive slowly by an entrance, come to a rolling stop, and then speed away. There is a third entrance too, just off Talisman Drive and less than a mile from the man's house. It may be his favorite.

The man lives on that street, and when he bought his house in 1987, at 9414 Talisman Drive, he thought the name a fortunate omen. A talisman is a good-luck charm, and back then, when he made his down payment on the home and moved in with a loving wife and six beautiful children, he knew there would be times when he would need all the luck in the world to survive the course he had chosen. It will turn out that even all the luck in the universe won't be enough to save him.

THE SPY WHO STAYED OUT IN THE COLD. Copyright © 2001 by Adrian Havill. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

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