FBI Special Agent Robert Philip Hanssen was a specialist in counterintelligence and electronic surveillance, who was arrested on suspicion of spying for Russia. His FBI career started out in 1974, when he worked in a New York field office, helping establish a database detailing foreign intelligence officers assigned to the US. In the 1980s he was detailed to FBI Headquarters in Washington DC, as a supervisor in the intelligence division, from where he was moved to the FBI's Technical Committee, then back into the FBI's New York field office, this time as the supervisor of an intelligence squad. From 1995 until shortly before his arrest, Hanssen served as the FBI's senior representative to the Office of Foreign Missions of the US State Department, working as the head of an counterintelligence group.

Hanssen is thought to have passed his Russian handlers in the SVR (the entity that succeeded the KGB) around 6000 pages of top secret documents over a 15 year period. Many of the leaked material pertained to nuclear weapons technology, lists of active double agents, whose discovery led to three of them to be executed, and even paperwork informing on his own colleagues, in return for over US$1.4 million. Due to his high security clearance, he was able to routinely scan FBI files for information he deemed worthy of passing on, and even for evidence that his drop points were under surveillance.

It was not until the US obtained Russian intelligence documents in late 2000 that the FBI finally learned of an American asset known as "Ramon", causing a delicate investigation to be launched, which culminated in Hanssen's arrest on Sunday 18th February 2001, whilst he was placing a packet of classified information at a dead drop site near his house in Vienna, Virginia.

If found guilty of espionage charges, Hanssen may face the death penalty

Updated 10/05/02 Robert Hanssen pleaded guilty after a deal with his prosecutors, which saw him facing the prospect of life imprisonment rather than the death penalty, on the proviso that he discloses exactly what information was passed. When asked for his motivations he replied that his reasons for his actions, which he now claims were "criminal and deceitful and wrong and sinful" was purely that he was in it for the money

Hanssen reportedly suspected he was under surveillance by the FBI, telling his Russian contacts, "something has aroused the Sleeping Tiger," said the FBI in an affidavit released March 1, 2001.

The comment came from a letter FBI officials say was encrypted on a diskette found in a package that Hanssen dropped in Northern Virginia immediately before his arrest.

In his house authorities found an AK-47, 13 other guns, phony identification documents, including passports, international bank account documents and jewellery, which the affidavit said were "the proceeds of assets derived from illegal espionage transactions."

"Dear Friends," the letter reads, according to the affidavit, "I thank you for your assistance these many years. It seems, however, that my greatest utility to you has come to an end...Since communicating last, and one wonders if because of it, I have been promoted to a higher do-nothing senior executive job outside of regular access to information within the counter-intellegence program. It is as if I am being isolated. Furthermore, I believe I have detected repeated bursting radio signal emanations from my vehicle... Something has aroused the sleeping tiger. Perhaps you know better than I."

Facts and affidavit quotes taken from cnn.com.

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