Robert Hanssen, FBI agent convicted as Russian spy, dead at 79

FLORENCE, Colo. — Robert Hanssen, a former FBI agent who was convicted of spying for Moscow during and after the Cold War, was found dead in his prison cell on Monday. He was 79.

>> Read more trending news

Hanssen, who was sentenced to life in prison in 2002, was discovered in his cell in a federal prison in Florence, Colorado, The New York Times reported.

He had been at the federal prison since July 17, 2002, according to CNN. He was sentenced to life without parole two months earlier after pleading guilty to 15 counts of espionage, the Times reported.

“On Monday, June 5, 2023, at approximately 6:55 a.m., inmate Robert Hanssen was found unresponsive at the United States Penitentiary Florence ADMAX in Florence, Colorado,” the Federal Bureau of Prisons said in a news release. “Responding staff immediately initiated life-saving measures. Staff requested emergency medical services (EMS) and life-saving efforts continued.”

Hanssen’s actions were so damaging to U.S. security that the FBI has a webpage explaining what he did and how the agency uncovered his espionage, The Washington Post reported.

Hanssen joined the FBI as a special agent in 1976 and held several positions that gave him access to classified information, according to the Times. Three years later, he began spying for the Soviet Union, using the alias “Ramon Garcia” with his Russian handlers, the Post reported. He traded classified information for $1.4 million in cash and diamonds, according to the newspaper.

His activities began in earnest in 1985, the Post reported.

Hanssen told the KGB about three of its officers who were spying for the U.S. and also revealed the existence of a tunnel that the FBI and the National Security Agency had built beneath the Soviet Embassy in Washington, the Times reported. Government officials said that Hanssen’s betrayal cost the U.S. hundreds of millions of dollars.

“The information he delivered compromised numerous human sources, counterintelligence techniques, investigations, dozens of classified U.S. government documents, and technical operations of extraordinary importance and value,” the FBI said.

After the arrest of CIA agent Aldrich James in February 1994, who also spied for the Russians, the FBI and CIA discovered that classified information was still being funneled to Moscow, the Times reported. It took six years before the agencies were able to find Russian documentation that linked Hanssen with his spying activities.

He was arrested in a Virginia park in February 2001 after leaving classified documents for his Russian handlers, according to the newspaper.

“I apologize for my behavior,” Hanssen said during the sentencing phase of his trial in 2002, according to CNN. “I am shamed by it. Beyond its illegality, I have torn the trust of so many. Worse, I have opened the door for calumny against my totally innocent wife and our children. I hurt them deeply. I have hurt so many deeply.”

Comments on this article