• Double Agent The Two Lives of Agent 'Ramon'
  • 15 years Robert Hanssen, former double spy for the FBI, pleads guilty to avoid being sentenced to death

FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who spied for the former Soviet Union and then for Russia, died Monday in prison where he was serving fifteen consecutive life sentences for betraying the United States.

Hanssen, 79, was "found unconscious" at about 06:55 a.m. local time (12:55 GMT) at the Supermax federal prison in Florence, Colorado, the Bureau of Prisons said in a statement.

The note does not give details about the reason for his death, although it specifies that no inmates or members of the prison staff were injured and that at no time was there any danger to the public.

The prisoner was pronounced dead by emergency services workers who treated him at the scene.

Hanssen was arrested in 2001 and pleaded guilty to fifteen counts of espionage for selling highly classified material to the Soviet Union and Russia during the final years of the Cold War. He had been in Colorado prison since 2002.

The ID and business card of former FBI agent Robert Hanssen.PAUL J. RICHARDS | AFP

On its website, the FBI calls him "the most damaging spy" in its history, as he gave the Russians national security information "in exchange for $1.4 million in cash, bank funds and diamonds." His espionage activities began in 1985, nine years after he joined the FBI.

Hanssen operated under the nickname Ramon Garcia with the Russians and provided sensitive information, which compromised "numerous human sources, counterintelligence techniques, investigations and dozens of classified government documents," among others, the KGB and the agency that succeeded him, the SVR, the FBI says.

Thanks to his experience and training, Hanssen went unnoticed for years, although his activities raised some suspicion during the time he collaborated with Moscow.

In the 90s, after the arrest of CIA agent Aldrich Ames for working for the Russians, this agency and the FBI realized that there must be another spy from Russia in their ranks, who was sharing classified information, until they found Hanssen.

Stopped in a park

The American was arrested after he was caught in the act in a Virginia park, where he was trying to contact another Russian spy.

Months later, he pleaded guilty to selling thousands of classified documents to Moscow with data on US strategy against nuclear war and counterintelligence information, among others.

Hanssen also alerted the Russians to the existence of a secret tunnel built by the FBI under the Russian Embassy in Washington to carry out wiretapping and was accused of compromising dozens of Russians who had collaborated with the US, some of whom were executed.

At the time, the Justice Department described this situation as "possibly the worst intelligence disaster in U.S. history."

  • United States
  • Russia
  • Espionage

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