On February 18, 2001, the FBI finally arrested Hanssen and charged him with selling over a period of more than twenty years top-secret, classified information to the Russians. Nothing that has been reported to date about this ordinary-looking but tormented man has revealed the astonishing facts that Lawrence Schiller and Norman Mailer collaborators on the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Executioner's Song and Oswald's Tale uncovered during their nine-month investigation into the life of this complex man.
Into the Mirror gets inside the mind of a devious and dangerously brilliant man and creates an unforgettable portrait of someone so caught up in the struggle with his own personal demons that he would betray everything he holds sacred his wife, his family, his religion, and his country.Read by Sam Tsoustouvas
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About the Author
Lawrence Schiller ranks among our greatest investigative journalists. In addition to his bestselling books, he has written for the New Yorker and other major publications. For many years he has appeared as an on-air consultant for the ABC and NBC networks. He lives in Los Angeles.
Read an Excerpt
Shortly after the arrest, Vivian Hanssen, the spy's mother, now eighty-eight years old, was interviewed in Venice, Florida, where she had been living for nearly thirty years.
"He has always been very honest and upright," she said. There was a pause that grew uncomfortably long before she added: "Bob's father, however, was strict with him. I was easy. But I suppose most families are like that."
From the date of her son's arrest, February 18, 2001, it is fifty-seven years back to 1944, when Robert was born. The father and mother lived at the time in a modest house that they owned, on a street with tall elms, in Norwood, near the northwestern corner of Chicago, and this family of three -- mother, father, and son -- was still living there in 1950, when Robert turned six. He was tall for his age, a thin, gangling boy, terribly nearsighted and forced to wear thick-rimmed glasses with heavy lenses.
On the occasion of this birthday, his mother was giving him a party at home. Robert sat alone while the other children, their mothers in the background, ran around the living room. Vivian, a pretty woman, who also had to wear eyeglasses, did her best to smile at everyone while encouraging Bob to get out of his chair. A paper donkey was pinned to a corkboard on the wall, and it had a lot of tails stuck to it.
As Vivian tried to entice her son back into the game, Howard Hanssen, Bob's father, walked in. He was a well-built, good-looking man, and was dressed in his Chicago police sergeant's uniform --perfect, except for a big red lipstick smear on the collar of his shirt. With his gun on his hip and his way of looking at a person with narrowed eyes, as though he could read every bad thought in their heads, he terrified the kids. They stopped playing and froze. Seeing the paper donkey on the wall, Hanssen walked over, touched the tail pinned to its rear, and patted it.
"Well," he laughed. "One of you kids actually got it in the right place. Who was the winner? Was it you, Bob?"
The boy looked down and shook his head. Vivian slipped over behind him and put her hand on his shoulder.
"Well then, Bob. Where did you put the tail?" asked the father.
Bob knew what was coming. One of the kids would blurt it out. "There," the kid said, pointing. The others all giggled.
"Right in the kisser, eh?" said Howard. He turned to his son. "Tell you what, Bob. I guess you don't know doo-doo from spit!"
All the kids roared with laughter. Tears came into Bob's eyes, and into his mother's as well. Reflexively, Vivian lifted her hand from Bob's shoulder.
Howard left the room without another word to his son. Perhaps he was going to change his shirt. It smelled of perfume.
Later, after the party was over, Howard brought Bob back into the room where the paper donkey was still tacked to the wall.
"When you get into a contest," the father said, "win! That's it. Don't coast on mother-love, boy. There's a tough, ugly, doublecrossing world outside, and the only way to beat it is to win." He spoke as if Bob were on the verge of manhood.
"Yes, sir," Bob succeeded in saying without bursting into tears.
"Yes, sir, my eye! Say it like you mean what you say."
"Yes, sir," Bob repeated, but he couldn't hold it in. He started to sob.
Howard reached out for the blindfold that had been tossed aside after the pin-the-tail game was over and covered Bob's eyes with it. He lifted the boy, flipped him upside down, and grabbed him by the ankles before his head hit the ground. Then he began to whirl him around by his feet.
"You dizzy?" he asked, panting a little with the effort.
"Yes, sir," Bob managed to squeak out.
"All right." Howard set him on his feet and tightened the blindfold. "Now, go pin the tail."
When the boy staggered forward, he missed the donkey entirely. He could feel it. His pin had hit the wall, not even the cork. In a fright, the six-year-old took his blindfold off and began to tremble.
Howard was in a rage. "You don't learn, do you?" He picked up the boy by the ankles again and started whirling him around and around and around.
Robert was screaming. "Daddy, stop it! Please stop it! Please stop it!"
Vivian stood in the next room, bent over the kitchen sink. She was weeping, silently.
The more Robert screamed, the faster Howard whirled him around. "I'll keep on doing this until you stop that sniveling!"
The boy made an effort to stop, but it was weak, and the spinning went on until Howard's rage gave way to shortness of breath. Winded, Howard dropped his kid down on the livingroom rug, upon which the boy immediately threw up. Howard's reaction was a reflex -- it was as if some cheap punk he had just brought into the station was puking in the interrogation room. He put Robert's face into the vomit and then had to fight his impulse to scrub the boy's head back and forth. At that point, he stopped. He pulled the boy up to a standing position and forced his voice to be calm.
"I did this," said Howard, "because I want you to know how bad it feels when you lose. This is how it feels, Robert. Got it?"
Vivian came in timidly from the kitchen.
She was trembling. "You can't do what you're doing to the boy," she managed to say. "He's delicate." Her voice pinched off when she saw the look in her husband's eye, but...Into the Mirror. Copyright © by Lawrence Schiller. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
It was morning and Hanssen was standing on the street outside the club as Priscilla came in to work.
"I thought you were going to get in touch with me," he said.
"I don't phone men I don't know well."
"Then will you give me your number?" he asked.
"I can, but won't you come in to see the show?"
He shook his head. "I really don't have the time today."
"Well, come in for a minute. I'll give you the number."
"Let me tell the truth," he said. "I do have your phone number. I even know where you live."
"My God," she said. "Of course. You're FBI!"
Hanssen smiled. "Don't worry. It was just to check you out. You're very straight for a stripper."
"No trouble with the law. I don't even breathe wrong."
"That's the way to go."
"You have me curious," she said. "Why were you waiting here?"
"I want to invite you to lunch on your next day off."
The private club didn't have a sign outside, just a polished brass plaque that said MEMBERS ONLY. Hanssen inserted a key in a locked door and ushered Priscilla into the hallway. They climbed some stairs. On the second floor was a shabby, tired-looking lounge, bar, and restaurant. As he passed the hatcheck girl, he reached under his jacket and took out his Walther PPK and laid it on the counter for the hatcheck girl.
Priscilla had to admit that it stirred her up a little.
A waitress showed them to a table in the corner and handed them menus. Not much was said until they had ordered and the waitress walked away.
"Wow," she said. "I'm not all that used to men carrying guns."
"Are you scared?"
"Am I scared?" Priscilla looked at him and smiled radiantly. "I don't think so."
"Were you aware of me in the audience the other day?"
"I knew that someone out there was staring real hard at me. I could feel it."
"But you're used to that," he said.
"Yes. I like that. It's a personal love letter." She was surprised by the next thing he said. It was almost businesslike.
"How much do you make as a dancer?"
"Do you share your information with the IRS?" she replied. He had sort of hurt her feelings. He seemed unaware of that, for he pursued the subject.
"I'd say it comes to fifteen hundred a week with tips," he stated.
"You can make that much. They throw tips on the stage, but, you know, I don't see that as part of my act. The girl who comes on after me picks up the tips. Tracey Starr doesn't."
"Tracey Starr! But your real name is Priscilla Galey. Which do you like most?"
"I like to switch back and forth. After all, who would want to see Miss Prissy take off her top?"
"All right. How did you choose Tracey Starr?"
"I had an old teacher who dated back to the burlesque days. He was the one who gave me the name. Oh, he used to work me like a drill sergeant, and it worked. And then I cured him of being an alcoholic. That is, I talked him into going to AA. We kind of helped each other out." She laughed happily at the memory.
"You have a good heart," he said.
"Oh, I hope so."
"Did you ever think of becoming a movie star?"
Her hand went over her mouth. "Never! I have bad teeth." She tried to laugh behind her hand. "I guess the best I ever did was win a prize. Stripper of the Year: Tracy Starr. Right here in D.C. They even gave me a medallion and some prize money."
"What did you buy with it?"
"A painting I had my eye on for a year. Unknown artist, but beautiful," she said.
"You're interested in art?"
"I don't know much about it, but I would love to study art. Because that's where my true interests are. May I ask-what are yours?"
"I'm mainly a family man."
"I guess you know religious art," she said.
"I do." He looked at his watch. "You know, there's time this afternoon. Want to go to a museum?"
"Nothing I would like more."
"Which one?" he asked.
"The National Gallery?"
"That's the one!"
Priscilla's interest was in beautiful nude women. Hanssen stood before those paintings with his eyes downcast. All the same, she could see: he was stealing looks.
"You're shy about this, aren't you?" she asked.
"Let's say I feel more comfortable with religious art."
He stopped, however, at a work by Hieronymus Bosch. He seemed frozen by it. The villagers, the lechers, and the demons were all swilling at the same feast. When Priscilla approached, he said, "What do you think of these pictures?"
"They scare me."
"These are the nightmares that bring people to Confession," he told her.
"Why-do you have dreams like that?"
"I have all sorts of dreams."
"I hate to admit it, but so do I." She could hardly believe what he said next.
"Maybe your dreams are telling you not to keep tempting men. Not with the gift of your beauty."
What a statement! It had to give her a lot to think about.
In the café of the National Gallery, they had coffee. She didn't usually like to hear men talking about their families, but in his case, she was curious. And he was ready enough to talk about this part of his life.
"I've always been completely faithful to my wife," he told her. "And we have six splendid children."
"I guess it's wonderful to have the kind of life you have," she said. She felt a little out of her element, as if she was trying to please some guy who was a big authority. "In fact," she decided to add, "at this moment, I'm alone. I've just broken up a seven-year relationship."
"Really living alone?" he asked.
How much had he found out about her? She didn't dare to be too evasive.
"Well," she said, "my ex is around. He hangs on like a bad cold. I tell him, 'Don't push it. We can have dinner and try to be civil, but don't tell me what to do anymore.'"
"He's always there?" Hanssen asked.
She took a chance and lied. Actually, he was a live-in ex. "Just once in a while I let him stay over. On the couch. I feel sorry for him. In fact, I haven't even seen him for a couple of months."
Back in her dressing room with Cherise and Edie Marie, she decided they must be a little psychic, because they started to ask her exactly about that.
"Does your FBI guy know about Reggie?"
"Cherise, do you think I'm going to tell him I've dated a black man for seven years? And that he still lives in my apartment?"
"You're amazing to still hang with him. It's over, isn't it? So watch out,"
Edie Marie said. "I knew a girl once who got messed up bad by a black guy who she let stay around too long."
"No, Reggie's gentle. Really gentle. He's opened my eyes to a lot. Back in Indiana, I thought the Ku Klux Klan ran the nation," Priscilla said.
In fact, that night she told Reggie about Robert Hanssen.
"This FBI man is out-of-sight," she said. "He is proud that he won't allow his kids to watch TV."
"That's hard to believe," Reggie said. He was tall and lank and kind of easygoing, all things considered.
"He and his wife read books to their children every night. I said, 'Not to let your children watch TV? I'm sorry, what kind of man are you?' Oh, Reggie, this was the strictness I ran away from, and I remember even we were allowed to watch TV."
"What's the wife like?" Reggie asked.
"He says he's never cheated on her. Says she's beautiful. Next to God, she is it for him."
The next day, as Priscilla walked by the sound booth at the club, the DJ stopped her.
"Priscilla, your FBI friend left this envelope. Asked me to be sure nobody gets it but you."
"If it's money, I'll give you a tip," she said. It was just that-a lot of cash, enough for her to give thirty dollars to the DJ. She couldn't wait to tell Cherise and Edie Marie. They were almost as excited as if it had happened to them.
"I can't believe it," she said. "He asked me-so casually-what did I want for Christmas. I told him about my teeth."
"Your teeth aren't that bad, honey," Edie Marie said.
"Well, I'm tired of covering my mouth when I talk. Read this note. Look what he says." She was so eager for them to know what it said that she read it out loud. "'So you can smile the way you should.' I think he is my guardian angel." She meant it. When she thought of him, she felt beautiful.
"And he's never made a pass?" asked Cherise.
"Not one," she said. She didn't know if she was proud or a little ashamed of that.
"He's got his head in a sling," said Edie Marie.
Priscilla didn't see Bob for a few weeks, and he didn't call or tell her that he'd been off on an inspection tour. He just popped up on a cold January morning and asked her to have lunch with him at that private club.
Once they were there, he couldn't have been more genial.
"By the way," he said, "I got you something for your birthday. I hope you like it."
He passed over a thin wrapped box. When she opened it, a pearl necklace on a black velvet cushion looked back at her.
"It isn't real, is it? If you want me to take it, tell me it isn't real."
She looked at it. "No, I can't accept this."
"I insist. Take it."
"You make me feel like I've been crowned. Will you hook it?" She turned in her seat, lifted her hair off her neck, and succeeded, she knew, in stirring him up. His fingers were clumsy as he fastened the clasp.
"On second thought, you have six kids," she said. "You can't afford it."
"It's all taken care of. Don't worry. I received a large inheritance from my grandmother."
"So, I guess I can accept it?"
"Of course you can," he said. Now she felt greedy. She wanted to know what it was worth.
"In that case," she asked, "what would be the least amount I could pawn this for?"
"At least a hundred and fifty dollars," he said.
"So it's worth fifteen hundred?"
"Do you really want me to tell?" He looked annoyed.
"No, I don't want to know," she told him quickly. "There's something magic about not asking what a present costs. Anyway, I was just kidding. I would never hock this. Even if I was starving." She looked to reach across the table and kiss him.
"No, no, no. That's not necessary," he said.
Back at her apartment, Reggie had the answer. "He's afraid of you. Some guys get all their kicks from hand jobs."
"Oh shut up, Reggie."
She really disliked Reggie at this moment. No wonder they hardly ever made out anymore.
About nine months after Bob had been assigned to the inspection staff, Mike Shepard called him into his office to present the good news: Hanssen had done so well that his last assignment would be a plum. He was going to be sent for a couple of weeks to the legal attaché's office in Hong Kong. It was a small installation and kind of collegial. He would be spending time with British Counterintelligence officials as well.
"You can almost look upon it as a vacation," Mike said.
"Well, I am pleased," Bob said.
"If you have the moolah, think of taking Bonnie along. That's considered okay."
He invited her that night. She had all sorts of practical reservations.
"Honey, it means weeks away from the children. We can't do that."
He could tell that she wasn't all that disappointed. "Well," he said, "meet me in Hawaii at least. After Hong Kong."
"Let me think about that. It all sounds so expensive."
* * *
He had lunch again with Priscilla and told her that he was going out to Asia. Hong Kong, no less. She was excited. That sounded magical. Hong Kong!
"Those Oriental people are so intricate," she said, "and so artistic. Their houses, their art, their gowns, their netsukes . . ." She actually pulled a netsuke about the size of her thumb out of her bag. "Isn't that fabulous?" He looked at an ivory carving of a fat little old man hunched in a squatting position. It looked to be fine work. You could even see the wrinkles on the soles of his feet.
"You collect these things?" he asked her.
"Absolutely. I love Japanese art. Chinese, too, for that matter."
Hanssen absorbed all this. "You know, I have to pick up my travel tickets," he told her. "Why don't you come with me?"
"Sure," she said without taking a breath.
After he was done talking to the travel agent, he walked over to Priscilla, who was studying a poster of a Hong Kong cityscape, and handed her an envelope.
"You can use this," he said, "to go to Hong Kong. Or you can cash it in. But this is your round-trip ticket, business class."
She moved instinctively to hug him. He held her off with a smile.
"No, no, that's not necessary," he said. Same words as last time.
"I don't even have a passport," she said
"We'll take care of that."
"But I don't have a birth certificate. It's lost."
"You forget who I work for. We'll get you a passport and you'll be off to Hong Kong."
They traveled over on separate planes. It was one big unbelievable dream for Priscilla. She spent a lot of the trip gazing out the porthole by her seat. Then she found herself drawn to the windows in her hotel room on the eighteenth floor of her beautiful room that looked out on Hong Kong. She couldn't stop studying the city below, and the harbor.
The phone rang.
"You're here, right on time." Hanssen's voice came through strongly.
"Terrific. Can we go to dinner tonight?"
"I'd love to. I brought a lot of gowns. But I thought you'd have to work a lot while you're here."
"I'll be free for breakfast most mornings, and certainly free for dinner."
Priscilla came down the mezzanine stairs to the lobby wearing a sapphire dress with blue accessories, all to match her eyes. Hanssen met her at the foot of the steps.
"Fabulous," he said. They were both aware of the impression she had made on the people in the lobby.
"I came with two humongous suitcases," she told him, "plus my carry-on. Wait. You'll see. I plan my outfits."
At dinner, she thought he might get a little sexy at last.
"What," he asked her, "do you think about when you're on a stage dancing?"
She smiled. It was nice for once to feel like an authority. "I want to make all these men begin to listen to what I have to tell them. Without my saying a word."
He nodded as if she had delivered something profound. "That's the other face of religion," he told her.
"What do you mean?"
"Faith is exactly like that. You could say it's a thrill. A challenge. I feel as if it is my creative outlet."
"Is that why you never stray?" Priscilla asked.
Hanssen looked at her intently. "I repeat," he said solemnly. "My wife is the only woman I've known."
"Oh come on! You must have done something wrong. What about when you were a teenager? You never did anything?"
"I changed some test scores in college once."
With that, he gave his crazy horsey laugh. Priscilla could see that this night was leading nowhere.
On another evening, after she had made another dazzling entrance, during which every man in the dining room who looked at her had to be instantly jealous of Bob-which Bob loved, she could tell-he actually said to her, "I'm fascinated by the way you talk."
"Are you saying that you like my brain?"
"Yes. I do like it."
She laughed in delight. "That's a huge compliment to a woman. Especially in my business."
He gave the big smile she liked so much.
"Do you know," he said, "if people asked me, 'Where does she come from?' I would say, 'Well, I think she's from a well-educated family.'"
Priscilla glowed. "I have always had to convince myself that I could be as good as the person I see myself to be. So, I do try to be graceful."
"You are a lady."
She made certain that no tears came to her eyes-they would ruin her mascara-but she felt close to bursting with emotion.
Still, nothing happened after dinner. He shook her hand and went to his room.
Hanssen was talking to himself in the mirror over his hotel room dresser.
"I am certain she is not involved with anyone else during this period, and that is good. My involvement is protecting her. My only question: Do I want to make love to her as badly as I wish to save her?" The face in the mirror spoke: "Real question: Are you totally scared of her? You have always been scared of the sexiest girl in class." He replied to the face in the mirror:
"Bonnie is the sexiest girl I ever met." The mirror face responded: "The exception that proves the rule."
Shepard had been right-the work was easy. The British were indeed collegial, and the only friction, if you could call it that, came from Bob's reluctance to go out and get drunk with them at night. They kept saying after Bob showed them a photo of Bonnie: "Bless you for that wife you have. It gives hope to us old sticks."
He couldn't keep from smarting a little. He did have Priscilla back at the hotel and did feel pretty romantic. She was in a lovely red glittering dress, and after dinner they sipped tropical drinks while listening to "As Time Goes By": "A kiss is just a kiss / a sigh is just a sigh. . ."
"I love Casablanca," she said.
"That's the only movie for me," he replied. It was certainly one of the two or three he had always lived by. But the film he really loved was Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion. What a fabulous film! That Italian police commissioner who was seen as the epitome of integrity but who nonetheless gets away with murdering his girlfriend was really something. No point in telling Priscilla about that one, though.
Later, after they said good-night, Priscilla went out to see the town by herself and ended up in a bar. Yes, there she was, talking to Bob on the bar phone, having awakened him at one A.M.
"Bob, you have to come down and get me," she said. "I'm lost."
"You went out after dinner?" he asked.
"I'm blue that this wonderful vacation is over. So, yes, I went out. All by myself. And now I don't know how to get back."
"Well, where are you calling from?"
She looked through the window and called out the name of the street. The signs, happily enough, were in both Chinese and English.
"Priscilla! That's the red-light district!" he said.
She almost laughed. She was certainly drunk, because she wanted to laugh at him. She had heard the hint of a pipsqueak in his voice.
"I'm really in a very nice club," she said. "There are American servicemen here, and the bar even has my brand of liquor. Plus American music. Come on down."
"Are you drunk?" he asked.
"I don't dare get drunk in front of you, honey."
"I don't know if you should drink at all."
"I know, I can't," she said like a little girl. "Please come and get me." How nice! Her head was revolving oh so slowly. She had a truly rosy buzz. Buzz and glow. "Darling," she said, "don't be mad. I don't want to ruin your beautiful attitude toward me."
Hanssen got dressed to go out and meet her.
Half an hour later, she insisted they get out on the dance floor for a number or two.
He had rarely felt more miserable. "I have to confess, I can't dance," he said.
"Just this one," she said.
"Don't make me repeat myself. I don't know how to dance."
"I can teach you. It's easy. You listen to the music and you move! Simple as that"
"You can't teach me," he said.
"I can. All you have to do is loosen up."
Out on the dance floor, he tried. But he was not about to loosen up. He was studying the faces around them. A lot of them were bad faces. It kept him on guard. So tight! Finally, they had to walk off the dance floor.
Not too much later, alone in her room on the eighteenth floor, Priscilla was taking a nip from the in-room bar. Two small empties were already finished. She knew she was drunk. She kept talking to the wall in an I-am-good-and-sick-of-you voice.
"You want me to convert to the Church? I would like to convert you to a human being." She set down a third empty. She kept thinking of Bob all by himself in his room. "It's awful-I've never been turned down by any man before," she said to the wall.
He was alone, lying on his bed in a bathrobe. He felt as if he wouldn't get to sleep for hours.
There was a knock on the door.
"Oh no!" he whispered.
The knock came again. He heard Priscilla's voice.
"Let me in. I know you're in there, Bob. Let me in."
"Priscilla, go away," he called out. "You're drunk."
"Let me in or I'll make a fuss. I'm going to scream."
She let out a brief but powerful shriek.
"No need to scream."
"There's a lot more to come," she told him.
"All right, all right," he said. "I'll open the door."
Priscilla was ready for a long night and a great one. "I just dig you, Bob. I dig you . . . I can loosen you up," she said, putting her arms around him as he opened the door. The thought of turning the key in this sweet, generous, poor locked-up man had her turned on. It was always the way she had felt on those oh-so-rare occasions when the curtain was going up on a big, new romance.
"Priscilla," he said. "Don't do something you'll regret. Please don't." The weakness in his voice was turning her on even more. There was so much she could do for him. She'd nurture him all the way to strength.
"Please don't," he repeated as she put her hand on his crotch.
She couldn't believe it. He pushed her away. That did it. She turned off the light switch by the bed table and gave him a shove onto the bed.
Hanssen's voice came out of the dark. "For God's sake, Priscilla, stop that.
Stop this instant! Good Lord, what the devil are you doing down there?" Then after a moment: "Where did you learn to do that? Oh, no, no."
In the darkness he pushed her away, but just a little late. He was surprised at how much came out of him. And the worst of it was that it was all awful. It had not only been against his will, but there hadn't been any surprise at the end to turn him inside out-just a painful ejaculation, dragged out of him, spewed all over her face in the dark. And now he was no longer totally-technically-faithful to Bonnie.