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Spy: The Inside Story of How the FBI's Robert Hanssen Betrayed America Paperback – October 14, 2003

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (October 14, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375758941
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375758942
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #63,079 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Four previous books have attempted to unravel the mystery of how and why FBI staffer Robert Hanssen was able to sell secrets to the KGB for almost 22 years. None, however, have been as penetrating as this account by veteran spy author Wise (The Invisible Government), whom Hanssen himself reportedly called "the best espionage writer around." Using a career's worth of contacts in the FBI and CIA, as well as exclusive access to Hanssen's defense psychiatrist, Wise presents a comprehensive portrait of Hanssen's life as a spy and the government's quest to uncover and prosecute him. Further, Wise reveals that the FBI's problems with internal traitors began as far back as 1962, with a tip from a KGB informant; that mole was never found. Years later, the FBI identified another internal spy, but bungled its surveillance; that spy was quietly "eased out" of the bureau and the entire affair kept out of the newspapers. And in the Hanssen case, a certain CIA agent was wrongly identified as the mole and suspended from duty for almost two years. By contextualizing Hanssen and providing an insider's account of the hunt that finally apprehended him, Wise covers aspects of the case that have been largely neglected to date. Well researched and ably written, this book is, so far, the definitive account of Hanssen's betrayal of the United States.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Many books about FBI counterintelligence agent Robert Hanssen have already been published, including David A. Vise's The Bureau and the Mole and Elaine Shannon's The Spy Next Door. While the story of how Hanssen was tracked down is certainly interesting, it is even more intriguing to speculate why this conservative Catholic with a modest lifestyle would betray us to the Soviets. Journalist Wise, who wrote The Spy Who Got Away, a similar book about escaped CIA traitor Edward Lee Howard, interviewed Hanssen's case psychiatrist and thus provides considerable informed discussion about motive. Was it for the money to support his big family, the thrill of playing a dangerous game, or to get back at a never-satisfied father? Hanssen apparently walked right into a Soviet office in 1979, which leads to the question whether the CIA and FBI were watching this office-and if not, why not? Recommended for the espionage collections of public and academic libraries. (Photos and index not seen.)-Daniel K. Blewett, Coll. of DuPage Lib., Glen Ellyn, IL
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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I found this book to be very well written.
David Wise's book about the FBI's Robert Hanssen who betrayed his country is clear and concisely written.
G. Altman
This book answered all that and much more.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

75 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Fox in a Box on August 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I'll keep it short. As a writer, I appreciate good writing -- clear, smooth, concise, accurate, with sources attributed and richly drawn, but never over-elaborated, portraits of the characters involved. Among these "characters" is Opus Dei, the arch-conservative Catholic cult group sanctioned by the Pope, of which Hanssen-the-killer-spy was an active and evangelical member.

"Spy" is, simply put, and not withstanding the enormously complicated story it tells, a very good read.

Author David Wise keeps to the facts -- a complex undertaking, which he accomplishes with extraordinary detail and literary grace. (Thank you, Mr. Wise.) He offers expert testimony regarding Hanssen's peculiar and convoluted value system without playing armchair psychologist, and sheds an astonishing light on the realm inhabited by spies, which is just as fraught with danger to life and limb as one might expect.

The book also suggests why the CIA and FBI were in such a flummox when the Cold War ended. Both were so deeply mired in the irrelevant ethos and practice of "Spy v. Spy" world that 9-11 must have felt like a kick in the chest by a Clydesdale. That much is evident from "Spy" and it is just as frightening as the murderous activities of moles like Robert Hanssen and Archer Ames.

"Spy" is a page turner -- so good, in fact, that I am now a David Wise fan.
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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Before the publication of this book, there had been four others to appear on the market, "The Spy Who Stayed out in the Cold," "The Bureau and the Mole," "The Spy Next Door," and "Into the Mirror." To put it bluntly, none of these books can hold a candle to David Wise's masterful telling of the Hanssen spy story, which is probably the most disgraceful and bizarre chapter in the FBI's long history. What sets Wise's account apart from its predecessors? The answer is diligent, long-term research and unparalleled access to people who knew Hanssen. The fact that the traitor gave his psychiatrist permission to be interviewed by Wise gives readers a window into Hanssen's soul that none of his competitors (who rushed their books to publication with almost indecent haste) were able to give. An added plus to Wise's book is that he gives a fairly comprehensive outline of the research he conducted for the book in his notes at the end. This is in stark contrast to his competitors' books which rest their flimsy conclusions on mostly anonymous sources and in the case of "Into the Mirror" the outright --and admitted by its authors-- fictionalization of Hanssen's life whenever it was convenient.
For me, the highlights of "Spy" are the chapters that discuss Hanssen's approach to religion, his twisted obsession with pornography and sex, the way the FBI and CIA procurred the entire file that the KGB maintained on Hanssen, and the psychological demons that drove Hanssen to inflict horrific damage on his country's national security. What is particularly shocking is that Hanssen's own brother-in-law (a fellow FBI agent) reported the spy's possession of large amounts of unexplained cash in 1990 to his superiors and the FBI brass did NOTHING about it.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Bill Emblom on June 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Robert Hanssen was in a league of his own. There wasn't another spy to compare him to, and not only for the amount of damage he did to compromise American intelligence to Russia. This was a man of several contradictions. It must have been hard for him to keep his respective roles straight. He was an agent for the FBI, a devoted family man, devout Catholic, obsessed with porn, spying for Russia, and became infatuated with a stripper to the extent that he took her on a trip to Hong Kong and bought her a Mercedes. He was the computer guru who appeared contemptious of other co-workers. It appears to me that he often employed the defense mechanism called reaction formation which means he took an attitude with others the opposite of which produced anxiety in himself. He not only betrayed his country by using his job for personal gain, but horribly betrayed his wife by sharing sexual photos of her to his friend. Hanssen justifies his spying by saying his first job at the FBI was in Scarsdale, New York, and the cost of living there with his minimal salary forced him into needing extra money. Hanssen spent over 20 years compromising America's secrets through approximately 18 drops of documents for the Russians. His Russian contact made sure to massage Hanssen's ego with flattery in communication with him. What the Russians paid for this information was a pittance compared to its value. A tunnel built under the Soviet embassy in Washington that cost hundreds of millions of dollars was for naught as he passed this on to the Russians. Three Soviets working for the FBI were named by Hanssen and were called back to Russia and executed. Apparently it didn't bother his conscience because he would always confess his spying along with his other sins to a Catholic priest.Read more ›
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Gordon Ewasiuk on April 12, 2007
Format: Paperback
Wow. David Wise. Put that name on your favorite authors list. He is now on mine. In "Spy", he presents a comprehensive look into Robert Hanssen's life as a spy.

From A to Z, "Spy" looks at Hanssen's childhood, early years at the FBI, then dives right into his 20yr betrayal. There isn't a lot of fluff or forced drama only because it isn't needed. David takes what could have been just a boring spy case and turned it into something out of a Tom Clancy or Robert Ludnum novel. Seriously. There are parts of the book where I literally couldn't put it down. There is talk about tradecraft, dead drops, and leaving signals for his handlers. Great stuff!

One section -- where Hanssen is actually searching the FBI databases for his only name, street address, and other keywords to see if the FBI were on to him made me want to scream , "WTF are you doing, buddy. You are gonna get CAUGHT!". Another chapter involves Hanssen and various computer activites at FBI HQ. How he managed to get away with those. The chapters that led up to and go into his capture are nail-biters. Unforseen events surface that could wreck the arrest plan.

Lots of never-before-read details about Hanssen and the secrets he gave to the Soviets and then Russians. To read about the sheer magnitude of secrets Hanssen sold to the Russians blew my mind. The book shares the titles of some of the documents Hanssen gave up. Shocking material. Things that an FBI agent had no business having. One example, Hanssen revealed to the Russians some secrets from the NSA.

Oh, and the last two chapters delve into Hanssen's motivation for selling out his country. A Ph.D interviewed Hanseen during and after the trial. The book does a wonderful job of dissecting Hanssen's motivations and reasons.
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