Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States on February 5, 2012
This is a thorough and insightful piece dealing with arch-traitor Robert Hanssen, the most damaging Soviet agent in FBI history. Hanssen was a veteran FBI agent who had himself worked in various FBI counter-espionage departments against the Soviet Union. When he inexplicably turned traitor and offered his services to the Soviets he was in a position to do incalculable damage to American security and by all accounts did exactly that. No one will ever know how many American agents within the KGB met their deaths due to Hanssen betraying them to the Russians. Further, he gave the Soviets huge amounts of information on such things as US assessments of Soviet strategic weapons, the Continuity of Government plan for safeguarding the US Government in the event of war, and countless other critical secrets. This well-researched and engaging piece goes into much of this in depressing detail.

This book tries harder than most to analyze what motivated Hanssen to turn traitor. He was a genuinely religious man who nonetheless was addicted to pornography. He was a family man who secretly took movies and photos of his wife in intimate circumstances and shared them on the internet. He was politically anti-Soviet and yet he spied for the Soviets. The book has some interesting speculations by experts on Hanssen's psyche, but at the end of the day the complex mix of evil that motivated him is probably beyond full human understanding.

This book brings out many lessons. There were ample warnings that Hanssen was a mole. He lived much better than his Government salary should have allowed, and in fact his brother-in-law, who was also an agent, reported this to the FBI. When Hanssen was offered a prestigious posting within the FBI on condition that he take a polygraph, he refused and turned down the job. He was caught with hacking software on his computer and he was further caught hacking into colleagues' computers. At least back then, the FBI appeared not to want to suspect its own, or it had an institutional blind spot.

This book reads like fiction, but is far more interesting than any spy novel. One wonders where some of the details that the author dredges up came from. The details of the battle of spies between the KGB (later SVR) on the one hand, and the CIA and FBI on the other, is fascinating. Highly recommended. RJB.
7 people found this helpful
Report abuse Permalink

Product Details

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5
285 global ratings