Crime & Justice

Ex-FBI agent who spied for Russia found dead in US prison

Washington, Jun 5 (EFE).- A former FBI agent who pleaded guilty to spying for the former Soviet Union and later Russia died Monday in the prison where was serving 15 consecutive life sentences for betraying the United States.

Robert Hanssen, 79, was “found unresponsive” at around 6.55 am at the United States Penitentiary (USP) Florence ADMAX in Florence, Colorado, the Federal Bureau of Prisons said in a statement.

The BOP did not provide details about the cause of death, although it said no inmates or members of the prison’s staff were injured.

“Responding staff immediately initiated life-saving measures. Staff requested emergency medical services (EMS) and life-saving efforts continued,” the statement read. “Mr. Hanssen was subsequently pronounced deceased by EMS personnel.”

Hanssen was arrested in 2001 and pleaded guilty to 15 counts of espionage for selling highly classified material to the Soviet Union and Russia. He had been imprisoned in Colorado since 2002.

On its website, the FBI describes Hanssen as “the most damaging spy” in US history, noting that he provided national security information to Russia in exchange for $1.4 million in cash, bank funds and diamonds.

His espionage activity began in 1985, nine years after he had begun working for the US’s main federal law enforcement agency.

Hanssen used the alias “Ramon Garcia” when providing information to the KGB and its successor agency, the SVR, the FBI said.

“The information he delivered compromised numerous human sources, counterintelligence techniques, investigations, dozens of classified U.S. government documents and technical operations of extraordinary importance and value,” it added.

Hanssen went undetected as a Soviet and Russian spy for years due to his experience and training, although some of his unusual activities aroused suspicion.

During the 1990s, after the arrest of a CIA agent on charges of espionage, that US agency and the FBI realized that someone else within the intelligence community was still sharing classified information with the Russians.

Hanssen became the target of an internal investigation that confirmed his espionage activities and he was eventually caught red-handed and arrested on Feb. 18, 2001, after leaving classified materials at a predetermined location (a park in Virginia) for later pick-up by another Russian spy.

The documents he had passed along included details on the US’s nuclear war preparations and information about a secret tunnel built by the FBI under the Russian Embassy in Washington for eavesdropping purposes.

Hanssen also was accused of having compromised dozens of Soviet citizens who had been collaborating with the US, some of whom were executed.

Months after his arrest, he pleaded guilty to selling thousands of classified documents to Moscow in exchange for the government not seeking the death penalty. On May 10, 2002, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

At the time, the Justice Department described the situation as “possibly the worst intelligence disaster in US history.”



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