The Bureau and the Mole : The Unmasking of Robert Philip Hanssen , the Most Dangerous Double Agent in FBI History , by David A. Vise
Book Review

Book Classification : Nonfiction - FBI History - Espionage - Double Agents - Soviet Spies


The Bureau and the Mole :
The Unmasking of Robert Philip Hanssen , the Most Dangerous Double Agent in FBI History

by David A. Vise -- Please select a book edition to check the price ...
Hardcover
Atlantic Monthly Press
December 2001, 352 Pages
Paperback
Atlantic Monthly Press
September 2002, 304 pages
Paperback - Large Print Edition
Walker and Co.
October 2002, 272 Pages
Hardcover - 352 pages
First Edition, December 2001
Published by Atlantic Monthly Press
ISBN 0-87113-834-4 / ISBN 0871138344

FBI agent Robert Hanssen was arrested for spying on February 18, 2001 as he placed a bag full of U.S. intelligence secrets into a prearranged location in the park in Fairfax, Virginia, where the Russian government had left him $50,000.

In The Bureau and the Mole , Pulitzer Prize winning Washington Post reporter David A. Vise recounts the story of the quiet and boring man -- his colleagues at the FBI nicknamed him the Mortician for his lack of personality -- who ultimately surprised everybody, including his wife and kids. He was caught selling U.S. intelligence documents to the KGB.

CLICK TO BUY THE HARDCOVER BOOK EDITION David A. Vise - The Bureau and the Mole : The Unmasking of Robert Philip Hanssen , the Most Dangerous Double Agent in FBI History

Chapter 1 describes Robert Hanssen's childhood as that of a loner whose hobby was deciphering codes. [Pages 4-5] He was a kid who frequently had sudden urges to do enormously risky things. [12-13] He sought the approval of his father, who constantly berated him. Howard Hanssen, a Chicago police officer, expressed further disappointment with the son who couldn't get into medical school, then failed to complete dental school, and then acquired a business degree but walked away from his job with an accounting firm. [7-19]

Chapter 2 is a biography of FBI director Louis Freeh, who got a law degree from Rutgers by taking night classes, and then went straight to the FBI adademy at Quantico, Virginia. After transferring to New York, his four year undercover assignment ended Mafia infiltration into the longshoremen's union, and put twelve mobsters in prison. [23-24]

As described in Chapter 3, Robert Hanssen joined the Chicago police department in the early 1970s. Vise writes, "Bob joined the force without his father's long-coveted blessing." As part of the bureau of internal affairs, he helped weed out bad cops. [28] In 1976, he became an FBI agent, where, ironically, the future Soviet spy strongly advocated FBI infiltration of alleged communist organizations. [33]

In 1978 Hanssen was transferred to New York City, where, according to an FBI estimate, about 220 of the members of the Soviet delegation to the U.N. were actually Soviet spies. [37] He became disappointed with the FBI, first perceiving that spies were "getting away" because the rest of the FBI was not as highly motivated as himself, and later becoming disillusioned with the entire FBI goal of apprehending spies. [38] Vise writes: "Bob felt he was being ostracized by inferior agents and began to resent the FBI, just as he had come to resent his father." [38]

"... brisk, well-documented ...
a penetrating study of the villian
and a gripping summary of
the appalling evidence against him."

Book review in the
Wall Street Journal
January 8, 2002

Chapter 4 shows how Hanssen got started in spying in 1979. He thought he had made a profit by tricking a group of Soviet spies, by selling them information that, he believed, had no value, and for which he was paid $20,000. In fact, the information included the identity of Soviet General Dmitri Polakov, code name Tophat, a double agent who was leaking information to the U.S. [47] Hanssen bragged to his wife Bonnie about how he tricked the Russians, and she disapproved, visualizing her husband ruining his career with the FBI. Hanssen, a Catholic, confessed to a priest, promised not to do it again, and did penance by contributing large amounts of money to Catholic charities. [48-49] The FBI, unaware of Hanssen's sale of sensitive data, gave him even greater access to confidential files. [50]

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Chapter 5 is mostly about FBI director Louis Freeh fighting the Mafia.

In Chapter 6, we see Hanssen's decision to continue spying, demand a greater price, and this time not to tell his wife. He selected the method of going through "handler" to conceal his identity from the Soviets. He wrote to Viktor Ivanovich Cherkashin, a KGB officer in Washington. Coincidentally, Cherkashin was the same handler who was used by CIA agent Aldrich Ames, who also sold secrets to the Soviets. Each letter sent to Cherkashin contained another sealed envelope which was to be delivered unopened to KGB agent Viktor M. Degtyar. [66-70] The author explains, "Hanssen knew the FBI might photograph the outer envelope ... but would not open it." [70]

Hanssen offered "a box of documents" and remarked, "I believe they are sufficient to justify a $100,000 payment to me." He added, "Details regarding future contact will be sent to you.... My identity and actual position in the community must be left unstated...." [69] Though living in New York City, he mailed the parcel from Maryland on October 1, 1985. [69]

The information that Hanssen sent to Degtyar via Cherkashin in 1985 included documents that blew the cover of three double agents. Two of these, Valery Martinov and Sergei Motorin, were KGB agents who had been recruited by the FBI. Hanssen's information about them confirmed what the Soviets already suspected, based on prior disclosures by Aldrich Ames. The two men were recalled to the Soviet Union and executed. The third, KGB agent Boris Yuzhin, had not been suspected previously by the KGB as a double agent. He was recalled to the Soviet Union and sentenced to 15 years in a labor camp. "But Hanssen did not feel guilty....," Vise writes. [70]

"The story seems to come straight out
of a cold-war spy novel ....
This dramatic account ...
is certain to be requested
at the circulation desk."

-- Book Review by BOOKLIST

Hanssen intended to use the mail only until he could establish a system of dead drops (a person leaves something in a predetermined location; another person retrieves it). [75] He wrote a letter through the handler, explaining that all subsequent exchanges of documents and money would occur by placing packages beneath the wooden foot-bridge in Foxstone Park in Fairfax, Virginia. [76] He also indicated several coding procedures, including the rule to add 6 to any month and day, e.g., someone would write September 9 if they meant March 3. [78] Cherkashin proposed meeting Hanssen in person, but Hanssen declined. [78]

Vise writes, "If Hanssen appeared bold in his espionage, he appeared henpecked at home, where Bonnie was the boss." [79]

Hanssen's next sale, for the price of $50,000, was a package of data about the information-gathering methods used by the National Security Agency (NSA). He informed the KGB that U.S. intelligence was aware of and was exploiting a technical weakness in Soviet satellite communications. [82]

The preceding is a synopsis of the first six of the 21 chapters in the book.

After chapter 21 and the epilogue is an 8-page section [231-238] with 24 B&W photographs, one of which [237] is a photo of the dead drop location, the foot-bridge in the park. This is followed by three appendices.

Appendix 1 is a complete list of Hanssen's spying activities. [239-245] Appendix 2 is a collection of his e-mails during 1999-2000. These are copied verbatim, including misspellings. [247-255] Appendix 3 discloses something of Hanssen's psychological profile. It's a long post that he uploaded to an x-rated web site, a sexual fantasy in which the woman has the same name as his wife. [257-266]

David A. Vise has written a gripping account of this true story of espionage and justice. The author's sources [267-269] include letters and other court evidence, FBI memos, and personal interviews. As of this writing, Vise is working with a studio to make a movie based on the book.

Book review by Mike Lepore for crimsonbird.com

The Bureau and the Mole :
The Unmasking of Robert Philip Hanssen , the Most Dangerous Double Agent in FBI History

by David A. Vise -- Please select a book edition to check the price ...
Hardcover Paperback Paperback - Large Print Edition

Hardcover Book Description from the Publisher

In 1979, FBI Agent Robert Philip Hanssen began to sell some of America's most closely guarded intelligence secrets to the Soviet Union. Over the next twenty-two years, the massive volume of information he divulged to the Russians from the FBI, CIA, NSA, and White House would compromise decades of espionage work and put the national security of the United States in immediate jeopardy. But during the mid-1990s, FBI Director Louis J. Freeh discovered that there was a mole within the Bureau, and he began to set the trap that would expose the traitor within its midst. This is the story of the man who betrayed more of his country's secrets than any other spy in American history -- and of the crime-fighting legend who would bring him to justice.

The Bureau and the Mole takes you into the shadowy world of Robert Philip Hanssen, a twenty-five-year veteran of the FBI who was a devout Catholic and a devoted family man, who attended the same church and sent his children to the same school as his boss, Bureau Director Louis J. Freeh. But as he emerged from a troubled childhood in Chicago to rise to the highest ranks of America's counterintelligence experts, Hanssen was also leading another life -- as a diabolically clever spy for the Russian government.

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author David A. Vise untangles Hanssen's web of deceit to tell the story of how he avoided detection for decades while becoming the most dangerous double agent in FBI history -- and how Freeh and the Bureau eventually rooted him out. Vise probes Hanssen's personal history to uncover how a seemingly All-American boy concealed a sordid sexual life from his family and ultimately became the perfect traitor by employing the very sources and methods his own nation had entrusted him with.

Drawing from a wide variety of sources in the FBI, the Justice Department, the White House, and the intelligence community, Vise also interweaves the narrative of how Freeh led the government's desperate search for the betrayer among its own ranks, from the false leads, to the near misses, to its ultimate, shocking conclusion.

The Bureau and the Mole is a fascinating, true spy thriller as riveting as it is unforget-table. It is a harrowing story of how one man's treachery rocked a law-enforcement fraternity founded on fidelity, bravery, and integrity to its very core -- and how the dedicated perseverance of another would finally bring him to justice.

The Bureau and the Mole :
The Unmasking of Robert Philip Hanssen , the Most Dangerous Double Agent in FBI History

by David A. Vise -- Please select a book edition to check the price ...
Hardcover Paperback Paperback - Large Print Edition

Paperback Book Description from the Publisher

Robert Philip Hanssen was one of the FBI's most trusted agents, a twenty-five-year veteran who was a devout Catholic and devoted suburban family man, who attended the same church and sent his children to the same school as his boss, bureau director Louis J. Freeh. But as he rose up the ranks to become one of America's foremost counterintelligence experts, he was also leading another life as a devilishly clever spy for the Russian government, selling secrets that would destroy billions of dollars of painstaking intelligence work and compromise a host of America's most closely guarded national security secrets, including the names of clandestine operatives and the top-secret-survival plan in the event of nuclear attack.

Now, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author David A. Vise untangles Hanssen's web of deceit to tell the story of how he avoided detection for decades while becoming the most dangerous double agent in FBI history -- and how Freeh and the FBI eventually brought him down.

Vise probes Hanssen's personal history to uncover how a seemingly all-American boy ultimately became the perfect traitor by employing the very sources and methods his own nation had trusted him with -- from covert drop sites to cryptography to the use of seemingly innocuous markings on telephone poles and signs -- to jeopardize America's national security for over fifteen years. Drawing from a wide variety of sources in the FBI, the Justice Department, the White House, and the intelligence community, Vise also interweaves the narrative of how Freeh led the government's desperate search for the betrayer among its own ranks, from the false leads to the near misses to its ultimate, shocking conclusion.

Fascinating, gripping, and provocative, The Bureau and the Mole is a harrowing tale of how one man's treachery rocked a fraternity built on fidelity, bravery, and integrity -- and how the dedicated perseverance of another brought him to justice.

This edition includes an index and epilogue bringing the book up-to-date with the sentencing of Robert Hanssen.

The Bureau and the Mole :
The Unmasking of Robert Philip Hanssen , the Most Dangerous Double Agent in FBI History

by David A. Vise -- Please select a book edition to check the price ...
Hardcover Paperback Paperback - Large Print Edition