FBI’s most damaging spy Robert Hanssen dies in maximum-security prison

Nearly 20 years ago, FBI agent Richard Garcia was assigned to a covert operation that would lead to the arrest of the most damaging spy in the history of the agency, Robert Hanssen. Hanssen’s death in prison at the age of 79 has brought back memories of the case that sent shockwaves through the intelligence community and changed the lives of those involved.

Hanssen began working for the FBI in 1976 and started double-crossing the bureau in 1985, selling top secret documents to the USSR and Russia, compromising the identities of undercover spies. His espionage led to the arrest and imprisonment of three US sources and the execution of two more. In exchange for his betrayals, the Russians paid Hanssen US$1.4 million.

The FBI and US intelligence apparatus eventually caught up with Hanssen, and in November 2000, they devised a plan to place him under surveillance by transferring him to a bogus job at the Bureau where operatives could monitor him. Richard Garcia was assigned as Hanssen’s fake superior, while 26-year-old undercover operative Eric O’Neill posed as Hanssen’s administrative aide.

Over the course of the investigation, Garcia would take Hanssen to a shooting range while agents conducted searches. In February 2001, 300 agents were working on the case and ultimately arrested Hanssen during an attempted dead drop. He pleaded guilty to 15 counts of espionage and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Hanssen’s case had a significant impact on the lives of those involved. O’Neill went on to write a book about the case, Gray Day, and is now a keynote speaker and spy catcher. Garcia, now 70 and retired from the FBI, expressed his relief at Hanssen’s passing, noting the lives that were lost due to his actions.

World News

Chris Hollingsworth

Chris studied journalism in the US and worked there for a few years before moving to Thailand in 2021, just as he thought Covid was coming to an end - sadly more lockdowns ensued as he came out of his 14 days of isolation! He now combines his passion for writing and journalism to cover US and global news for The Thaiger.

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