He had an amazing story. Now he’s dead.
Robert Hanssen, a former FBI agent who was one of the most damaging spies in American history, was found dead in his prison cell Monday morning, according to the Bureau of Prisons.
Hanssen, 79, was arrested in 2001 and pleaded guilty to selling highly classified material to the Soviet Union and later Russia. He was serving a life sentence at the federal penitentiary in Florence, Colorado.
Hanssen was found unresponsive and staff immediately initiated life-saving measures, Bureau of Prisons Director of Communications Kristie Breshears said in a statement.
“Staff requested emergency medical services and life-saving efforts continued,” Breshears said. “The inmate was subsequently pronounced dead by outside emergency medical personnel.”
Three years after he was hired by the FBI, Hanssen approached the Soviets and began spying in 1979 for the KGB and its successor, the SVR. He stopped a few years later after his wife confronted him.
He resumed spying in 1985, selling thousands of classified documents that compromised human sources and counterintelligence techniques and investigations in exchange for more than $1.4 million in cash, diamonds and foreign bank deposits. Using the alias “Ramon Garcia,” he passed information to the spy agencies using encrypted communications and dead drops, without ever meeting in-person with a Russian handler.
His job in the FBI gave him unfettered access to classified information on the bureau’s counterintelligence operations. His disclosures included details on U.S. nuclear war preparations and a secret eavesdropping tunnel under the Soviet embassy in Washington, D.C. He also betrayed double agents, including Soviet Gen. Dmitri Polyakov, who were later executed.