SPY by Adrian Havill


The Secret Life of Accused FBI Double Agent Robert Hanssen
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A timely biography that attempts to provide plausible explanations for the motives of alleged FBI double agent Robert Hanssen, whose trial is set to begin on October 29, 2001.

Hanssen was a long-time FBI agent, now accused of selling top-secret information to agents of the Soviet Union, including nuclear secrets and names of other agents (which may have led to the execution of a couple of the men). The obvious question, then, is: Why? And Havill (While Innocents Slept, 2001, etc.) gives many answers, the least being ideological, even though much is made of Hanssen’s ultra-conservatism and his beliefs in the dictates of the Catholic group Opus Dei. Primarily, Hanssen’s motives seemed to be financial: the money he received (in excess of $600,000) got his six children’s private-school educations. It also allowed him to lavish money on a young female stripper in a strange, two-year, nonsexual relationship where he apparently was trying to “save” her. He also did it for the thrill; as a youngster, he was fascinated by spy confessions and espionage books, and he reportedly told a former neighbor, “I’ve wanted to be a spy ever since I was a little boy.” Lastly, he did it to satisfy his ego. The numerous interviews with Hanssen’s friends, neighbors, and childhood acquaintances, which range from sympathy to surprise to I-always-knew-he-was-strange, give a vague picture of Hanssen as someone who craved notoriety and excitement. The most fascinating aspect here—and what perhaps most reveals the man’s true nature—are the samplings of correspondence exchanged over the years between Hanssen (who wrote under the alias of “Ramon Garcia”) and his Soviet contacts, messages usually sent encrypted on computer disks. Overall, though, Havill’s account offers little suspense, even when relating the events on February 18, 2001, which resulted in Hanssen’s ultimate arrest.

A mixture of evidence and assumptions in a look at the modern-day, tit-for-tat spy game between America and Moscow. (8-page b&w photo insert, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 19th, 2001
ISBN: 0-312-28782-8
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2001


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