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AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

Look at FBI Spy Robert Hannsen

Aired January 8, 2002 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Talk about leading four lives at one time. This next guest will explain to us what that means. He was a career FBI agent and one of the government's top counter-intelligence officers, but Robert Hanssen had a dark side. For two decades, the seemingly loyal soldier was selling American secrets. The story of Robert Hanssen's double life, triple life, quadruple life, whatever you want to call it, and how the FBI finally discovered the mole in its midst. It is told in a new book called "The Spy Next Door." Elaine Shannon is the co-author. And, also, of course, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for "TIME" magazine. She joins us now from Washington. Welcome, good to have you with us this morning.

ELAINE SHANNON, COAUTHOR, "THE SPY NEXT DOOR": Good morning, Paula.

ZAHN: So, Elaine, tell us about these various lives that Robert Hanssen led.

SHANNON: I thought there were a couple when I started this book, but we found out about at least two more, and I don't know that we're done.

He was a square. Everybody in the neighborhood knew he was a square FBI agent and he was an aggressively boring guy. Even his colleagues at the FBI, which is not known as a flamboyant outfit, found him too tedious to invite out for a drink after work. Not that he would have gone. He was very religious and that was his second life. He belonged to Opus Day (ph), a conservative Catholic lay society which requires going to mass every - every morning, confession once a week, and a lot of other things.

He was also a spy. He volunteered to the - first, Soviet military intelligence, and then the KBG starting in 1979. For 21 years he was in what the FBI calls its "dark side," selling everything valuable that he got his hands on, apparently, to the Soviet Union. Incredible stuff. The worst damage the FBI has ever suffered, and probably one of the worst spies in American history.

The fourth life, he was very sexually very strange. He went to strip bars at noon after going to mass in the morning, and he took a shine to one particular stripper, Priscilla Gailey (ph). He ended up buying her a Mercedes and taking her to Hong Kong when he went to investigate whether the FBI's Hong Kong office was keeping its paperwork straight as it spied on China. And the FBI office there never noticed that he had this girl with miniskirts and spiked heels up in his hotel.

ZAHN: But, Elaine, the question I have for you, you also describe in great detail the other part of his (UNINTELLIGIBLE) obedient life, where he allegedly liked to videotape his wife having sex with him, downloaded that on the Internet. Why did it take so long to catch this guy?

SHANNON: Well, FBI agents are punished if they even look at adult sites. And the stuff that he put on the Internet is absolutely shocking; it's on a fetish web site. So I can understand why they're not supposed to be cruising in that place. But if you - if you do look at it, you'll see that he put his wife's real name, his friend's real name there. And in one thing that he wrote on the Internet he used his own name.

FBI had a profile of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) build, and he didn't fit it. So they missed the other stuff that he was doing. He wasn't drinking; he wasn't obviously chasing women. He proselytized all the time about how religious he was, and he lectured other people to be better and all this sort of stuff. And he didn't have a lot of obvious debt. The reason was that he was having a second source of income.

ZAHN: The most fascinating thing, I thought, in the book, was this idea - and I apologize for the audio problems you're having - but this idea that he was such an intensely insecure man, and in the beginning that might have been his motivation for spying for Russia.

SHANNON: He seems to have had a lot of rage, I think, at his coworkers. It may have started when he was in the Chicago Police Department. His father was a Chicago policeman, and from what we understand, emotionally, a very abusive man. He always belittled him. Bob Hanssen seems to have grown up disliking himself and disliking everybody who was around him because they were in the same job as he was, probably. But I'm no psychologist, I'm just stating what we know.

He started out spying on other Chicago cops in an internal security unit. When he went to the FBI, he was put into counter- intelligence because he had (UNINTELLIGIBLE). They didn't do any psychological testing, they needed new agents to go into that area. It wasn't popular in the FBI, and he was never polygraphed. He was never - nobody ever really looked at his psyche.

One time he was disciplined when he assaulted a female employee of the FBI, but he only got a week off for that. Nobody ever took a hard look at what this man was or how many things were going on inside his head.

ZAHN: Well, I'll tell you one thing, you couldn't make up anything more bizarre than some of the details you have in this book, "The Spy Next Door." Elaine, thank you for your patience. I'm sorry you're getting feedback in your ear, but I think you gave us an excellent idea of the gist of what is in this book. Thanks for your time this morning. I appreciate it.

SHANNON: Thank you.

ZAHN: Coming up in our next segment we're going to be catching up with Senator McCain and Senator Lieberman as they wrap up their delegations trip to Afghanistan. They will update us on what they think U.S. involvement might continue to be in the region. And, also, coming up, we are going to read some of your e-mails. You can send us your comments and your questions to our e-mail address. That is am - as in, Jack, for American Morning.

CAFFERTY: I got it.

ZAHN: You got it. All right - at cnn.com.

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