Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Robert Philip Hanssen: The Spy who Stayed out in the Cold

Secret World of A Spy

$50,000 package left by the Russians
$50,000 package left by the Russians

After sending the Soviets a coded note, Bob Hanssen made good on his promise, dropping off his package of secrets in Nottoway Park, a recreational area, which happened to be across the street from the Hanssens' first house in Northern Virginia. A few days later, the KGB responded by dropping off $50,000 in $100 bills at the same drop site. Bob reciprocated with a note promising more information.

Thank you for the $50,000.

I also appreciate your courage and perseverance in the face of generically reported bureaucratic obstacles. I would not have contacted you if it were not reported that you were held in esteem within your organization, an organization I have studied for years.

I did expect some communication plan in your response. I viewed the postal delivery as a necessary risk and do not wish to trust again this channel with valuable material. I did this only because I had to so you would take my offer seriously, that there be no misunderstanding as to my long-term value, and to obtain appropriate security for our relationship from the start.

Russian flag
Russian flag

Over the next five years, Hanssen would deliver more than 6,000 pages of secret documents to his KGB handlers. Some of them contained nuclear deployment plans and satellite positions. Many were simply downloaded from FBI computers and the discsa total of 26 were made part of the package. In return he received $600,000 in $100 bills, some jewelry and a Rolex watch. The Russians also claimed to have deposited another $800,000 in funds in a Moscow bank for his retirement. The cash allowed him to put his six children through Opus Dei-affiliated schools that were more than 30 miles away in the adjoining state of Maryland.

There is a greater-good theory that partly explains Hanssen. Although he was betraying his country, he was using the money from the Russians to put his six children through approvedand expensiveprivate schools. His children were good students, and he believed they might in the future be part of a holy war that would remerge God and country, whose leaders would then ban abortion, divorce and other evils of the world that he and Opus Dei opposed.

A 1998 research paper from Brigham Young University studied 139 spies and concluded that half of them did it for the money. "People usually spy for some combination of emotional gratification and remuneration," John Pike, a specialist in intelligence issues, said, "but in all cases, money is how they keep score."

Hanssen, always the loner, always unable to fit in, was Walter Mitty squared. His hero, Kim Philby, may have explained his mind best. Just before his death in 1988, Philby said, "To betray, you must first belong. I never belonged."

We're Following
Slender Man stabbing, Waukesha, Wisconsin
Gilberto Valle 'Cannibal Cop'