Childhood & Early Life
He was born on April 18, 1944, in Chicago, Illinois, to Howard and Vivian Hanssen. His father, an officer of the Chicago police, often scorned and abused him emotionally. The prolonged abuse that he endured not only made his childhood challenging, but also chased him throughout his life.
In 1962 he completed his graduation from ‘William Howard Taft High School’.
Thereafter he enrolled in ‘Knox College’ in Galesburg, Illinois and in 1966 completed his bachelor degree with Chemistry as major. He did well in his elective, Russian.
His application in the ‘National Security Agency’, for the post of a cryptographer, was rejected due to budget restrictions.
He then enrolled at the ‘Northwestern University’ in Evanston, Illinois, to study dentistry but after three years shifted to business studies. In 1971 he earned his ‘Master in Business Administration’ in accounting and information systems.
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He worked in an accounting firm for a year after which he was selected in the ‘Chicago Police Department’. There he served as an investigator of internal affairs with specialisation in forensic accounting. He was delegated to probe police officers who were suspected of corruption.
After around five years he joined the ‘FBI’ in January 1976. On January 12 that year he was posted in FBI’s field office in Gary, Indiana, and in 1978 he was again transferred to its field office in New York. The following year he was shifted to counter-intelligence division where he was delegated the job of organising data of Soviet intelligence.
In 1979 he contacted the Soviet military intelligence, ‘GRU’, to offer his espionage. He passed on data related to surveillance activities of FBI and provided the GRU with data of suspected Soviet intelligence spies.
The most significant information that he shared was about Dmitri Polyakov, who while serving the Soviet Army as a General was spying for America’s ‘CIA’.
In 1981 he was assigned to the ‘Budget Unit’ in the ‘FBI’ headquarters in Washington, D.C. His job in the suburb of Vienna included electronic surveillance and wiretapping, which gave him more access to different ‘FBI’ activities.
After a stint of three years he was shifted to the ‘Soviet Analytical Unit’ that delved in probing, recognising and catching Soviet agents in the US.
He continued with his counter-intelligence work after being shifted to the New York field office in 1985.
His active and long stint as a Soviet spy began on October 1, 1985, when he sent an unsigned letter to ‘KGB’, where he mentioned the names of at least three agents of KGB who were covertly serving FBI. He received $5,00,000 and jewellery for this work.
Interestingly, after being relocated to Washington in 1987, he was delegated with a specific probe which actually meant searching for himself but he tactfully managed it.
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When in 1989 a State Department official, Felix Bloch came under the scrutiny of the ‘FBI’, Hanssen soon informed the ‘KGB’, who immediately snapped all ties with Bloch. The investigation was not fruitful and the FBI was unable to charge Bloch on any account. The fact that the ‘KGB’ became aware of the probe triggered the ‘FBI’ to look for the leak.
He compromised information about America’s plan of forming ‘Measurement and Signature Intelligence’, its bugging plan over the Soviets by digging a tunnel under the decoding room of the Soviet’s new embassy and data on double agents of the US. He was paid handsomely by the Soviets.
Mark Wauck, an ‘FBI’ employee and brother-in-law of Hanssen, prompted his superior in 1990 to investigate Hanssen after a heap of cash was found in Hanssen’s house, but no action was taken.
In 1991, he discontinued selling classified information to ‘KGB’ after the collapse of Soviet Union and also probably because the ‘FBI’ was on the lookout for a probable defector.
He was made the chief of ‘National Security Threat List Unit’ of ‘FBI’ in Washington, D.C. in 1992.
In 1993, he took a daring step by personally approaching a ‘GRU’ official to offer his espionage, mentioning his codename ‘Ramon Garcia’, but the official turned him away. Though the Russians made an official protest, he managed to get away with it as FBI’s probe in this matter did not make any progress.
In 1995 he was designated as a liaison between the ‘Office of Foreign Missions’ of the ‘Department of State’ and the ‘FBI’.
In 1999 he established contact with the ‘Russian Foreign Intelligence Service’, the ‘SVR’, which was preceded by the ‘KGB’ before Soviet’s collapse. He relayed secret information to Russia regarding US intelligence and counterintelligence operations.
As the ‘FBI’ was in the lookout for a turncoat for long, they first suspected a ‘CIA’ officer but later zeroed in on Hanssen, probably due to a leak from a Russian defector. To closely oversee his activities, the ‘FBI’ relocated him in its headquarters in January 2001.
On February 18, 2001, he was arrested by the ‘FBI’ when he was keeping a waste bag full of classified information in a pre-planned place from where his Russian handler could collect it.
He managed to avoid a death penalty by negotiating a plea deal where he agreed to cooperate with government agents. On July 6, 2001, he was tried in the ‘United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia’ on fifteen counts for his espionage.
On May 10, 2002, he was given sentence of fifteen life terms without a chance of parole.
At present he is serving his fifteen successive life terms as prisoner #48551-083 at a federal supermax prison, the ‘ADX Florence’.
Personal Life & Legacy
On August 10, 1968, he married Bernadette "Bonnie" Wauck, a dedicated catholic. His wife was a teacher of theology at ‘Oakcrest’. Later he would convert to Catholicism from Lutheranism.
The Hanssens were associated with the Catholic fraternal order ‘Opus Dei’. All his six children went to schools linked with ‘Opus Dei’. Once when Bonnie caught his espionage, he made a confession to an ‘Opus Dei’ priest, donated cash to Catholic charity and gave his word of never spying again.
For a while he was in contact with Priscilla Sue Galey, a stripper in Washington, who received cash, jewelry and other benefits from Hanssen. According to her, Hanssen never slept with her.