FBI turncoat gets life in prison


ALEXANDRIA, Va., May 10 (UPI) -- FBI counter-intelligence traitor Robert Hanssen was sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole for selling U.S. secrets to the former Soviet Union, and later Russia.

Hanssen, whose betrayal shook up the U.S. intelligence community, apologized to his family, friends and co-workers before being sentenced by Federal Judge Claude Hilton. He also expressed shame for his 15-year secrets-for-money scheme.


Hanssen's sentencing "brings to a close one of the darkest chapters in the country's" history, U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty said after sentencing.

"He betrayed us. He turned his back on us ...," McNulty said. "For that he will spend the rest of his life behind bars without possibility of parole."

McNulty, who called Hanssen's actions a "despicable betrayal of his country," said the former spy's capture and conviction should serve as a warning to others.

Hanssen was trained in the craft of catching spies and was therefore knowledgeable of how to avoid detection. However, he "was caught and he was punished. And that's what will happen to anyone who betrays this country," McNulty said.

An FBI agent for more than two decades, Hanssen was arrested in February 2001 near his Vienna, Va., home while using a "dead drop" -- a secure place chosen to deposit documents for pick up by his Russian handlers. FBI agents found a package containing highly classified information and another package nearby that contained $50,000 in cash, allegedly left for Hanssen.


The U.S. government said Hanssen received about $1.4 million over the years for his spying.

Hanssen pleaded guilty last July to charges of betraying his country to Moscow, sealing a plea bargain in which he agreed to cooperate with the FBI to avoid the death penalty.

He was originally indicted on one count of conspiracy, 19 counts of espionage, one count of attempted espionage and one "forfeiture count" under which he would have to turn over all the assets he allegedly received from the Russians, if convicted. But he was later allowed to plead guilty to a 15-year conspiracy, 13 counts of espionage and one count of attempted espionage.

What specifically gave Hanssen away to authorities has not been revealed. But the material that has been disclosed, including Russian documents, indicates another spy may have fingered him. The FBI said Hanssen kept his identity secret even from his Russian handlers, and worked with them using the code name "Ramon."

Before his arrest, Hanssen was a counterintelligence specialist with the FBI's National Security Division. He also had access to information from the National Security Agency and the State Department.

According to the federal indictment, Hanssen had given the Russians the identities of "individuals acting as agents of the United States (in Russia)," resulting in the deaths of two of them.


The government said some of the other documents given the Soviets and Russians "were those which directly concerned satellites, early warning systems, means of defense or retaliation against large-scale attack, communications intelligence and major elements of defense strategy."


(UPI Justice Department Correspondent Mike Kirkland contributed to this article.)

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