“Agent of Betrayal, FBI Spy Robert Hanssen” – with CBS’ Major Garrett and Friends
Erin Dietrich: Welcome to "SpyCast", the official podcast of the International Spy Museum. I'm Erin Dietrich your host, Dr. Andrew Hammond content partner. Each week we explore some aspects of the past, present, or future of intelligence and espionage. Please consider leaving us a five-star review on Apple Podcasts if you enjoy the show. Coming up next on "SpyCast".
Major Garret: There were plenty of reasons in hindsight in which the FBI could have looked at these things and say, hm, maybe we ought to take a look at this person. [ Music ]
Erin Dietrich: This episode of "SpyCast" is a recording of a recent program held here at the International Spy Museum in collaboration with our friends at CBS News and Paramount. To accompany their new podcast, "Agent of Betrayal", we hosted a panel of experts to discuss the story and historical significance of the Robert Hanssen case. How did an FBI agent sworn to protect America's most precious secretes instead become a damaging and deadly mole? Well, you'll have to keep listening to find out. The original podcast on intelligence and espionage since 2006, we are "SpyCast". Now, sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.
Andrew Hammond: I just wanted to start off tonight by saying, first, I want to thank all of my family, friends, and coworkers who have expressed their support for me. I also want to express thanks to those who have supported my family. I'm humbled by your generosity, your goodness, and your good will. And this is not me, it's not an Oscar acceptance speech, this is the beginning, believe it or not, of Robert Hanssen's letter of apology which we have here at the Museum. And just think about that as the beginning of a letter of apology. So, I dug up just for support's sake, Martha Stewart her letter -- her apology. "Today's a shameful day. It's shameful for me." Will Smith after slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars, "Violence in all its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behavior is inexcusable." A very different beginning of an apology from Robert Hanssen. So, we're going to discuss that as well. We're talking about a very kind of interesting and unique individual. And okay. So, I just want to briefly introduce our four speakers. So, first, the host of the podcast, the man who's been pushing it along at CBS, Major Garret. I'm sure many of you know who he is. I know our director of development, Laura Wright, she said that she was coming along tonight because she's "a huge fan". And so, I don't know if she is in the audience but I know that there's at least someone here who's a major fan of yours, Major. And Major's been at US News and World Report, CNN, Fox, and a chief Washington correspondent for CBS. And one of his many claims to fame is he was addressed once by President Obama. So, I'm pretty sure that there's some saying out there, if you're not PO-ing a President, you're probably not doing your job as a journalist in Washington properly. But he's also the host of the Takeout podcast there which is really excellent, a weekly podcast on politics and culture, and I think he's really embraced the podcast art form and obviously, the podcast that we're here to discuss tonight. Next, John Fox, the FBI's Ph.D.-level historian since 2003. So, this is his 20th anniversary. If he sticks around for another 20 years, he will cut chop with how long J. Edgar Hoover was at the FBI. Twenty. He teaches at Catholic University. And he's an institution almost as much as the FBI for historians. And next, David Major, I'm sure many of you will know who he is. Twenty-four years in the FBI, specializing in counterintelligence, involved in over 100 espionage cases, that would be quite an interesting book. And the first FBI official to be appointed to the NSE, and I believe that he actually briefed together President Reagan himself. And last but not least, David Charney, an expert on the mind of the spy. He's practiced psychiatry for almost 50 years. And he's a veteran of the US Air Force and a CIA referral consultant. And he's also worked on another important spy case that of Errol Pez. So, we've got a stellar panel here tonight. And I'm really looking forward to digging into the discussion. So, if you don't mind just briefly put your hands together for our awesome panel. [ Applause ] So, I think it's just important to start off. Tell us about the genesis of this podcast, Major. Because I know that during COVID a lot of people were working on their sour dough, bread recipe, and playing Animal Crossing and stuff, but you had other things in mind.
Major Garrett: Right. I did learn to make sour dough bread, I didn't pick up an instrument I hadn't touched since high school. I didn't hike the Appalachian Trail. Lots of people did very interesting things during lockdown. My team and I put together a lot of different podcasts during lockdown. One was a daily podcast on the coronavirus task force briefings, then we morphed it into a weekly documentary podcast. Then we landed on the idea that was completely out of our experience and comfort zone, which was an episodic serialized podcast that told one story, and told it as comprehensively as possible. And before I say another thing, I want the three members of my team who are here to stand up and be recognized. Arden Farhi, Sara Cook, and Jamie Benson. Please stand up and give applause. Please. [ Applause ] Because nothing we've achieved, and those of you who have listened to it, if you like it, the reason it's so good is because I have such an incredibly formidable team behind me and I wanted to make sure I recognize them upfront. So, when we tried to figure out what we would -- what kind of story we would tell, Arden and I principally had a list, and we winded it down to two. One was the Robert Hanssen story and one was anthrax after 9/11. Both very compelling stories with tremendous life and death circumstances. They captured the public's imagination in different ways. And I was pushing for Anthrax and Arden was pushing for Hanssen. And then at the end, when we were going to make a decision, we switched sides. Suddenly I started pushing for Hanssen, he started pushing for anthrax. Ultimately, we decided on Hanssen because Hanssen is a person, not a thing. Anthrax is a thing. And I believe we made the right choice. And then from that point, two years ago, we decided to set a very high goal. Several books have been written about the Hanssen case. I'm sure many in this audience are familiar with them. David Wise is obviously the expert of all experts, no longer with us, but he's written two enormously important books. Other books were written. A couple of movies. It's not as if this story hadn't been told in popular culture, it has. But our belief was there was, for this particular medium, podcasting, a unique opportunity to tell it in a way that it had never been told before. With characters and voices and perspectives that encompassed this entire story. All of its complexity, all of its suspense, all of its bureaucratic blindness, all of its contradictions. And so, our goal was that this would not only be popular in the podcast space, that people would like it who were not aficionados in the surveillance world or even in the true crime world. That it would be popular there but it would also be revealing to people in the community. And happily, we've gotten emails from people whom thought they knew this case and do know this case very well who told us the thing I most wanted to hear from them that they learned something as well. And that was the goal.
Andrew Hammond: That's why I was going to ask what kind of feedback you've had so far. I think -- I hope most of the people in the audience have listened to the podcast. If they haven't, you know, I'm not just saying this because Major is sitting next to me but it's really excellent and you really should listen to it. But for anybody that hasn't, could you just give them like a very 90-second overview?
Major Garret: Sure.
Andrew Hammond: Tell them -- we're sort of in the middle of it at the moment. And just give them the narrative arc and how you bring all that.
Major Garret: The story is essentially this. There's an FBI special agent who in every public way masks who he actually is. He's a virulent anti-communist who is selling secrets, damaging secrets to the Soviets. He is a profoundly, visibly religious Catholic, goes to mass every single day. Betrays his church, betrays his family, betrays his children in sickening ways. As David Charney told us, he is the most psychologically compartmented person he has ever met. Meaning we all have different ways we present ourselves and ways we act at work or at the gym or even at church or something. We have different masks and different clothing. But we're not that different. Robert Hanssen was dramatically different minute by minute, day by day. And all those complexities and compartmented aspects of him make this a fascinating story. And the people who flow through it and the way that he was able to use his particular approach to both computers and espionage allowed him to do this work for three different segments, twice with the Soviets, once with the Russians. Abated detection by the FBI, sometimes sitting in the very meetings where FBI's colleagues were talking about the great mole hunt to find who was handing off all this incredibly damaging information, he's sitting there nodding along. And he knows all along he's the person. That's the kind of drama that you can't really find anywhere other than in the cinema. But this is all true. And the unraveling of that and the telling of that, leading up to the FBI's realization that it is Hanssen, how they found the way to capture him, catch him red-handed, catch him in the act, and everything that flows through that runs through the entire podcast.
Andrew Hammond: Just to have a view on it today, John, could you tell us in terms of the history of the FBI, he's been called many times the most damaging spy in the FBI history. It's probably a stupid question but is that still true?
John F. Fox: Well, as far as I know, yeah, I would certainly say that it's true. Like the Bureau for a number of reasons doesn't claim a penetration for many years. Now, David Wise and others have written about perhaps one in the '60s, and certainly, the first publicly known one was 1984. And, you know, compared to Hanssen, that was a nothing case in so many ways. And so, over the years, as far as penetrations have gone, the Bureau had very few compared to some other agencies certainly. But just the scope of what Hanssen did, puts him out there in the top, you know, two or three certainly in the country's history, much less the FBI's.
Andrew Hammond: Then could you just very briefly contextualize the FBI in terms of counterintelligence? There's different counterintelligence agencies, there's different lines of responsibility. And could you just tell them how this all shapes out and how important FBI counterintelligence is?
John F. Fox: Absolutely. Like all agencies in the intelligence community in the United States have a counterintelligence function. Some of them are more security-oriented or kind of espionage-oriented. The FBI's is a broader one in the sense of trying to get into the minds of the hostile intelligence services that are trying to penetrate our government but also because of its law enforcement functions, we have the responsibility of investigating all these cases as violations of the federal law. And so, unlike any other agency in the government, we are doing both that counterintelligence and legal counterespionage side of things. CIA obviously has a very robust counterintelligence program but it's aimed at the other side. And, of course, preventing penetrations of themselves. But if they find a spy, we have to come in because somebody has to gather the evidence to bring that forth in court, if that's where it's eventually going to end up. So, the FBI plays a unique role, not only in the United States. There are very, very few agencies around the world that even resemble that. The MI5, you know, is an agency without law enforcement responsibility so very different from the FBI.
Andrew Hammond: And I think it would be interesting now to hear from someone that's walked the walk and someone who was a counterintelligence FBI agent, someone who was a friend, colleague, and supervisor of Robert Hanssen. And I think it's fantastic to have you on stage here tonight. So, could you just tell us how did you first meet him, Dave?
David Major: Well, that's a very interesting question. I joined the Bureau to do counterintelligence. And I was fortunate to do it at every level you can do it. I was a street agent for 10 years, and then I was in executive management, I was at the White House and the National Security Council working and meeting Bob, meeting with the President, briefing him on cases. So, I saw it at many, many different levels. And like I said, I joined the FBI to do counterintelligence. Little did I know that I would end up in the middle of the most dangerous spy we've ever had in American history, at least from an FBI perspective. He was -- he and I met first in 1982 when he was across from the hall from me. And he was at the budget unit at that time. And I was in the training unit, counterintelligence training unit. And I happened to be the SCI control officer. I actually briefed Bob into SCI sent him compartmented information. I became friends with Bob Hanssen over a period of time, professional friends. Never went out to drinking with him. That was not the nature of the relationship. But it was one that I had enjoyed talking to Bob. Bob had a really sharp mind. And he would come into my office and start talking about something, and then he would really challenge you to think about it. For example, he came in one time -- and, by the way, he never just entered your office, he came to the door and waited to be recognized. And so, I'd sit and look up and there he was like a ghost. It was really a strange situation. But he said, "You know, Dave, you know why the KGB always beats us and the FBI, and the rest of the community?" "No, Bob, why?" He says, "Because they practice OODA Loops." Anybody here from the Air Force? Then you know what an OODA Loop is. Everybody in the Air Force knows, nobody else does. And what is that? That means that's how they train, you know, attack pilots, the top gun. You observe, you reorient yourself, you're making a decision, and you act. He says, "That's why they do it." And he ran his own case, I found out. They handled him the way he wanted to be handled like no other spy case I ever saw. He was in charge of his own individual case. And so, that's why we have very interesting conversations because little did I know that he had practically experienced what he was doing. So, it was an interesting relationship we had. I knew him right up to the time he was arrested. My first reaction was, "Not my Bob Hanssen." Because I didn't know it was Robert Hanssen. But that was a reaction I had to him that my Bob Hanssen turns out to be the worst spy in American history. And a very good spy. I mean, good in the sense that his tradecraft was excellent. Russians never knew his name, which was the right way to do it. So, a lot of complexities in that. But I saw him at many different levels. My wife knew his wife. We went to Bureau parties together. You know, that was the nature of our professional relationship. And so, when he eventually was arrested, it did feel as like I was kicked in the stomach, that my friend, my colleague, the man who worked for me, he was my subordinate for a while, was a spy. And I'm a spy hunter. And people said, "Well, what kind of a spy hunter are you if he could operate?" That was a question I had to deal for a while. How can you be a good counterintelligence officer if you didn't know this guy was a spy? And I said, "Well, they didn't paint S on his head forth." You know, there was no obvious way to do it. That's how good he was. We had a lot of discussions about how do you catch spies. And he was very smart about things we should do, very smart. So, I had very good conversations with him. He had a very high IQ, I think it was like 132, something like that. But he had a very high IQ, very smart man, very thoughtful. He liked what we were doing. He liked the kind of inventive things I came up with in the Bureau to try to find spies, but not him. So, it was a very interesting part of my career.
Andrew Hammond: Where were you when you found out the -- where were you when you found out the news?
David Major: Well, after I retired, I formed the company called the Center for Counterintelligence and Security Studies. And we do counterintelligence training on everything you want. If you want a course on Israeli intelligence, Russian intelligence, we have a course on that. And so, I was -- they were trying -- the CIA was trying to build up their denial and deception program. So, I put together a five-day course on denial and deception. And it takes me about a year to really put together a really good sound course. And I was preparing for that course in our training room. People were coming in, they were sitting down. And someone came up to me and says, "Bob, we found another spy." Now, that's not surprising. I've been in the spy-chasing business my whole professional life. So, the fact that there was another one, oh, okay. That's interesting. Where was it? In the FBI. Oh, really. Well, I've seen other spies in the FBI. Who was it? And the guy says, "Well, it was Robert Philip Hanssen." Well, I didn't know Robert Philip Hanssen. I knew Bob Hanssen. And so, my initial reaction was denial. So, I went with one of my employees over and they pulled up the screen of the TV and there he is, his picture comes up. My Bob Hanssen in the picture is the spy. That was really -- that was a day. Abd so, I went and talked to the classroom for about two hours about the significance of this.
Andrew Hammond: When was the last time that you spoke to him before he was arrested?
David Major: That I spoke to him? When he came to my office looking for -- he came to my office in the summer of before he was arrested, which was in about 2019 -- 2001.
Andrew Hammond: 2001, month February.
David Major: A year before that when he had come to my office. Kind of looking for a job. He was going to retire at some time. And he came. And he looked awful. And I told him. "Bob". I knew him so well. I said, "Bob, you look awful. What's the matter with you? Are you sick?" "No, I'm okay." But he was very depressed. He was assigned to the State Department. He says, "They just forgot me out there. I'm not a part of anything anymore." So, he was really down psychologically. And so, we had a long conversation. I gave him some of my books that I put together. Which they found when they searched his car, there were my books in his trunk. One was on deception, by the way. Which he had never taken out and read. But it was that environment that Bob Hanssen was the last time I saw him. So, he went on and then I went to all the public hearings for him in court in hearing.
Andrew Hammond: You never spoke to him again after he was arrested?
David Major: I had a lot of discussions with my friends and my wife about should I do that. And she said, "He wants you to do that." And I said, "I don't think I want to give him that." So, I didn't do it. It was kind of interesting, it would have been interesting, but I would have known what he would have said. I knew him so well that I probably would have known what he would have said. But I never went in to see him in prison. And I'm not going to see him now.
Andrew Hammond: And just briefly, how does that work for someone like you who is in the FBI when your friend and former colleague gets caught? Does the finger of suspicion starts falling on you, are people--?
David Major: No. Not suspicion. They didn't come in to talk to me, obviously, for about two hours -- two days actually. One day, they came in, there was a lot of things they wanted to fill out. So, I had a long conversation with the Bureau. I have taken a polygraph, so that was never an issue that they're going to polygraph you. It was never anything that I had done anything wrong. But they did do. They wanted to know what I knew about him and his case, and so forth. And I was very cooperative with them. The people that interviewed me were my friends. I mean, because I was in the middle of the counterintelligence business. I mean, and it's a small group to some degree. We all kind of know each other, especially from other agencies we know each other. And so, those were the people that interviewed me. And so, I did that. It was fine. Then I started -- one of the things I did was I decided to put together a course on it because I do training. And I do that now. It's amazing how many people still don't know the Bob Hanssen case. I live in a 55-plus community on the beach, which is a good living, by the way, and people ask me, "Did you know that case?" Yeah, I knew him very well. "Well, I don't know anything about it." I mean, it's been in the media but they didn't know anything about it. So, I gave them a presentation at the community. And they loved it. I had 155 people.
Major Garret: Tell them about the podcast.
Andrew Hammond: Yeah, exactly.
Major Garret: Get them to subscribe. Yeah.
David Major: I'm always talking about the podcast. By the way, I want to compliment the three people in the back who did interview me, you did a wonderful job. I was interviewed by a lot of people, you guys were straight and really, really, really professional. That's why I like the podcast because they are professional. The media people can be honest and they can be un-honest. Not very honest. And you guys have been. You've balanced it. You didn't come out and have an agenda. Some news people do have an agenda. And I've certainly done that. I've been on probably 100 TV shows and they come in and asked some really strange questions. CBS is the worst, by the way. They are. Dan Rather became the persona non grata at my company because he was such a despicable human being.
Andrew Hammond: Well, I think --
David Major: Anyway how I really feel about it.
Andrew Hammond: So, but what the story up to the Hanssen being arrested, so I would like then to come on to David Charney, but just before we get there, I just want to come back, Major, they've there mentioned the budget in the podcast. This is really fascinating that a lot of people wouldn't think about. Can you just tell them why that's significant?
Major Garret: Right. So, why would working within the budget unit matter in a story like this? Well, interestingly, Robert Hanssen had a couple of insights. One, he was by even contemporary standards of the late '70s and early '80s well ahead of almost every other American in terms of curiosity and functional comfortability with computers. And he was light years ahead of the FBI. Light years ahead of the FBI. So, he had that going for him. He also understood, after a very brief time in the FBI the unique visibility he could possess internally the FBI if he was in the budget unit. Why? Because through the budget unit flowed every allocation for resources, specifically resources related to surveillance, related to things about David Major's work and counterintelligence, and things that are super mundane unless you're someone like Robert Hanssen. What do I mean? Well, over time allocations on a weekend, what does that suggest? Overtime for something of a higher priority. What would that suggest? Surveillance. So, by understanding all of the budget line items, and having that visibility, Robert Hanssen could, with very high levels of confidence, insulate himself from, not only detection, but even the possibility of detection. And those were, to David Major's point about tradecraft, about his methodology, important ways in which he was in early success and then later repetitive success.
David Major: Let me add something to that. When he was there, I was his supervisor. So, I saw what we had in the budget unit. And these are unsung heroes because the people in the budget unit know everything because you have to ask for the money and you have to tell Congress what you did with the money, and how much success you had as a result of it. So, not only what you did do, what you're going to do. And so, he was in charge of the dedicated technical program. What's that? That's everything we do with technology in catching spies. And it's a lot of research that goes into that. And he knew all of that. So, by compromising that, everything we were working on that we were going to be successful in the future, he knows and gives it to them. I mean, people don't realize how much the people in the budget unit know everything. And so, that's what he did. He was in this perfect position as a perfect spy for a period of time to know everything we were working on, did work on, and were going to work on.
Andrew Hammond: I think that that's really, really fascinating. It's almost like defensive forensic accounting. You use the numbers to basically insulate yourself. But let's go on to David Charney, you know, because I think that this is really, really fascinating. How clever was he, you know? You've been in this business for a long time, I'm sure you can tell the BS from the people that are really smart, and Hanssen was known to be someone that thought he was the smartest person in the room. Was he as smart as he thought he was? Or how would you -- like where would you put him?
Dr. David L. Charney: He's not as smart as he thought he was. He's very smart. Let me give you two anecdotes. The first one for the smart. On one occasion during the time that I met with him in jail. And bear in mind, I met with him for a full year, usually two hours. And when I came into that room, Hanssen started talking and didn't stop until I left. I said very little. He had a lot to say. So, What's the first anecdote? He explained to me that if he wanted to, from jail, he could communicate with the KGB any time he wanted. And I said, "How would you do that?" He said, "You know, they have a TV set built into the wall but I don't have any controls in the wall, but I have a remote that they give me. A remote is a device that uses infrared blinks. If I arrange for it, I could have a KGB agent two miles away through this narrow window that exists in that cell and I could use Morse code, which I know, and I could communicate with that KGB agent." Who would have thought of that? I was floored. All right. So, that's some example of how smart he was knowing technology. But it's also true that I know a bit of things about this and that. And weirdly enough, I know a bit about nuclear physics. Not a lot. And on one occasion, Bob was blowing off about some issue that could be described in metaphorical terms having to do with some features of nuclear physics and all that. And he went on and I knew that he was saying that to anybody from the Bureau or from any walk of life, except a physicist, they would be totally blown away and impressed. What would you say to that? Except I knew what that area of physics was. And I knew that he had it wrong. I didn't say that to him. But I registered it in my mind that, yes, he was very smart but not quite as smart as he thought he was.
Andrew Hammond: And just in terms of your profession, Dr. Charney, like how would you label Robert Hanssen like, you know, borderline personality, schizophrenic, sociopathic? Like what kind of -- what's the best way to describe him through the lens of your profession?
Dr. David L. Charney: He was a very complicated guy.
Andrew Hammond: Even I know that.
Dr. David L. Charney: I'll give you a job at my office. Hey, all those fancy diagnoses, which I've heard about before, including other things like narcissistic or this or that, in my mind, I think of that as name-calling. It's the appearance of having some knowledge about psychiatry but it's very thin. Do I have a formal diagnosis from the DSM-5? The answer is no. I do not. In fact, with the other spies that I worked with, which there were three, only one carried a formal diagnosis in my mind, and that's one case that I cannot talk about. But I'm saying something to you that we're talking about a complicated person. And more often than not, these days when I encounter complex people like that, I'm letting go of psychiatric diagnoses, except where they're warranted, and I talk more about a question of the spirit of a person. That's more complicated. And I must admit, it's indefinable. But I would say that he was a tortured spirit. A tortured spirit.
Andrew Hammond: How much of that is just -- before we move on, how much of this is related to his relationship with his father which has been discussed and which gets discussed in the podcast? And I don't want to get to Star Wars but, you know, how much was the father or, you know --?
Dr. David L. Charney: Well, you ask an excellent question there. And here is why. The first time that I meet any person in my field is a touchy time because I don't know who they are, they don't know me. We're uneasy and we feel each other out. And that happened when I met for the first time in that special cell inside the Alexandria Detention Center, which is where all this occurred. And he looked me over and launched immediately into a story from his childhood, featuring his father. Describing some argument or some trouble that occurred between the two of them. He may have been 10 or 11 or 12, I'm not sure, and the end of it is that his father rolled him up in a rug and kept him there for a while. And that was a humiliation for a boy that he couldn't bear up to. And the fact that that was the very first thing that he brought up, to me, explains the essential troubling experience of his life growing up. And, of course, I heard more details over time. But let's put it into a single word, belittling. When a father belittles a son, he is saying, in effect, no matter what you ever do, you'll never come close to how brilliant I am. And what's that is a message to any boy growing up. A father should be a mentor, should be hoping that his son will exceed him, and on his shoulders make contributions and impact on the world. But when you get the opposite message from your own father, you don't know how to process it because you admire your father, you're impressed with him. And if your own father thinks that you're a loser, well, gee, maybe you are. And so, how do you outlive that?
Andrew Hammond: And just before we come back to John, I'm just wondering, Major, you know, you've looked at this holistically, you've spoken to practitioners, you've spoken to people like Dr. Charney, you've looked at this all around like what did you think of Hanssen going in and did you come out of the process of making this podcast at the same place? Or did your view of him change? Did you feel more empathetic towards him? Were you more angry towards him? Or what was your journey like for him in the podcast?
Major Garret: It's a great question. I would say, in the main, the journey ended where it began. I did not come to view Robert Hanssen more sympathetically than I did at the beginning. I didn't view him more harshly. I came to view him more comprehensively. I came to have a deeper understanding of the damage. And the damage is pronounced. And David Charney, Dr. Charney, and I had this conversation in which I said at one point, "Well, Dr. Charney, lots of people have a rough relationship with their father and they don't hand over the most damaging secrets about the federal government at the height of the Cold War." Which Robert Hanssen did. And he said, "Of course, they don't. That's right. That's not a justification, it's just part of the puzzle." It's part of the psychological makeup that made, not only Robert Hanssen tick but made him tick erroneously and dangerously to our country. We talked to more than 50 people for this podcast. We have 84 hours of tape. There's not a single voice relevant to this story we have not talked to at length. We go into the story about Robert Hanssen and his father in episode 1. And in the eight episodes of this show, you will come to know everything on the plus side because there are people who were colleagues, like David Major, who liked and respected and admired Robert Hanssen. We do not run him down relentlessly. There are those people like David Major who upon hearing the news convulsed in agony because they liked and admired Robert Hanssen so much. They were few in number but they're not insignificant to this story. And we try to be fair about that that the portrayal -- we did not ghoul eyes Robert Hanssen, we did not turn him into some sort of perpetual 24-hour a day monster. He wasn't. There were parts of him that were redeemable. And coming to terms with that is what you have to come to terms with in every story. It's not just one thing. It's a lot of things and being content with that and satisfied with that and being only a vessel to let people to come to understand all of its natures is what I consider the best part of journalism. So, that's what we tried to do.
Andrew Hammond: David?
Dr. David L. Charney: I'd like to add one anecdote that wouldn't have occurred, except for David Major. David Major ran a great company and did lots of training. And on one occasion, he asked me to get up in front of an audience of people taking his courses and discuss the Hanssen case. In the audience was one of the other people working for David, who was Paul.
David Major: Paul Moore?
Dr. David L. Charney: Paul Moore was Bob Hanssen's best friend in the Bureau. And at a certain point, me having spent hours and hours with Bob Hanssen in the jail cell, I had to think about who would portray him as an actor if they did a movie. It just was a thought that passed my mind. And the reason that it came to me is because I really knew who I thought it should be. Because physically the actor looks somewhat like Bob Hanssen, speaks a bit like him, and is a mix of quirky and witty. Witty. Likable but annoying a bit. Who was that actor? And I give this intro in front of the audience. And somebody steals my thunder, it is Paul Moore on the side of this audience, who shouts out, before I can say the name, Jeff Goldblum. And I just -- my jaw dropped because that's exactly the actor that I had in mind. We had never discussed it before, Paul and me, and yet, we both picked the same actor. And that gets to your point about the complexity and that there were sides to him that were interesting. He was amusing, he could be knowledgeable. He could be difficult. He could be annoying. All these things wrapped together. There you go.
Andrew Hammond: I think in the podcast that comes across so there's the episode where -- with Priscila, where you're following this episode along and he's very tender and sweet and gentlemanly to someone who, let's be honest, life has not necessarily given the best set of cards. But then at the end, just when you've got the sympathy, it gets taken away from you again. So, you kind of -- you go on about a journey with him, don't you, in the podcast too?
Major Garret: Sure. And for those who are not familiar with the name Priscilla Sue Galey and the Robert Hanssen story, she was an exotic dancer. Worked at Johannes at 1819 Club, One M Street. And Robert Hanssen befriended her. And the assumption is incidentally, he must have befriended her for sexual reasons. That was not part of it at all. It was a completely platonic relationship. And Priscilla Sue Galey, in all the retellings of the Hanssen story, has always been given the same dismissive judgmental label. Stripper. That's all Priscilla Sue Galey is, stripper. Priscilla Sue Galey is a human being. Person. And through the great work of Sara Cook on my team, it took many, many months, we found Priscilla, we talked to her. She gave a couple of interviews right after Hanssen was arrested but over the passage of years, she's come to understand what this wonderful year in her life in which Robert Hanssen showered her with gifts, treated her like she said a princess, a whirlwind of absolute gentlemanliness, charm, non-sexual affection that she had never experienced in her entire life. She felt transported into a place that seemed so unreal and joyous to her. Many years later, she's now looked back on it and come to the conclusion that he was setting her up. That he was going to use her in some way to be a dead drop person for him, to hand something off, to be a conduit. And she now feels that it was entirely chewing her up, to set her up for something. And it's a terrible realization for her. That's a journey she took in her actual lived life. And it was imperative for me and my team, once we found Priscilla and listened to her that she give her chance, her one and only chance to speak for herself, and my hope is, remove permanently, for anyone who listens to this podcast, that designation, that dismissive judgmental designation, a stripper. She is a human being. She's a person. She lived a life that intersected with Robert Hanssen and her perspective on his psychological makeup, his being, his willingness to use people is as relevant as any others in this story. We found her, she's there, and we're proud that she's in it.
Andrew Hammond: And, again, I'm not just saying this because you're here, Major, but you and the team I thought you have done a fantastic job of humanizing her and actually thought about -- the episodes that I have listened to, I thought that that was one of the most moving parts so far. David?
Dr. David L. Charney: One quick question -- a point I want to make. You know, I wouldn't be here if I didn't ask for and get permission from Bob Hanssen to tell his story, to educate the IC, the intelligence community, and other people about what his journey was like, which was a very freeing thing for me personally. But, but there was one topic that he forbid me to talk about, and that was Priscilla. Take that for what you want.
Andrew Hammond: Wow. And just thinking about this case and around, John, how does the FBI learn from these types of cases? Like your role as the FBI historian, how does by knowledge, how does it learn from the past? Tell us a little bit more about that, how instructive is the -- like does everybody that goes to the academy learn about Robert Hanssen? Like just give us a little bit more of the institutional -- the way that Robert Hanssen has been institutionalized in the FBI.
John F. Fox: That's an interesting question, Andrew. I mean, as part of the formal curriculum in the Bureau, I don't know what role it specifically plays. I do know that the CI officers I've talked to are all aware of the case. And often they know a fair bit. So, certainly, something is conveyed there. The idea of learning from this though I think is incredibly important. And, you know, part of what I've tried to do, at least, you know, in my capacity which is publicly oriented has been to talk about the role of the case, especially in some of the broader issues, you know, the one that fascinates me is just the issue of the inside threat, the mole hunt, the hunt for these spies. And I've had the opportunity to talk about how, you know, how so much begins in 1985 when the CIA and the FBI, and even the British are losing sources in the Soviet Union and want to know why. And it leads to multi-agency hunts for the spies. And, of course, through the '90s, you know, Edward Lee Howard who, you know, defects to the Soviet Union is obviously one source, but there's more that can't be explained. And more sources keep coming out, maybe it's we've got Aldrich Ames now in the mid-'90s. Maybe now we've got everybody. But now if we look at all the losses, there is something more. And, of course, that more ends up being Hanssen. But in the process, as you all know, there was someone in the CIA who was focused on and the lessons from this case is something I think the entire intelligence community can learn from because it shows how a mistaken identification can harm the community as much perhaps as finally stopping or realizing that you've been betrayed for so long.
Andrew Hammond: I think one of the interesting things about this case and also Ana Montes, for example, is that exposes some of the institutional fissures, some of the areas where communication and connections are not functioning properly, that sort of throws them into relief.
John F. Fox: Well, it does throw them into relief. It also highlights the issue that simply as part of the structure of our federal government, the executive branch is split up into many different pieces often with overlapping or even sometimes conflicting responsibilities. The FBI and the CIA often work very well together. But there are significant institutional differences. Their job is to gather intelligence to inform policymakers. Our job is, first and foremost, to enforce our national laws, even including those national security laws. And it means that when we gather evidence, we have to answer to a different standard. The courts expect something that the President doesn't expect. And we have to meet those demands as well. And that does create hurdles sometimes. And we have to figure out ways to work around them and sometimes how it goes can -- you know, after the Ames' case, you know, in the Bureau, we started to get some pushback on how much should the criminal and the national security sides mix. And, you know, there are debates about how much of a wall there actually was, and so forth. And yet, there was something that prevented the flow of communication even within the Bureau between the counterintelligence and the criminal investigative side to some extent. And those sorts of things as they come out. And then, you know, simply the human cost of that kind of betrayal, both for those who are accused or suspected mistakenly and those who are betrayed by the one who it turns out to be in the long run have lasting repercussions that we do have to deal with. And, you know, don't always recognize even in hindsight.
Major Garret: And real quickly. The Hanssen case was so big and so important that there was an Inspector General's report done on it. It was a 36-page summary that's available for the public to read. There's a 300-page classified report and a 600-page classified report. There's also a separate commission. It was headed by former FBI Director William Webster that looked into all of this. David Major a while ago said that he's been polygraphed eight times. It will astonish you in this audience to learn, if you don't know it already, that in his entire 22-year career at the FBI, Robert Hanssen was polygraphed precisely zero times. That's changed now at the FBI. There is a five-year rotation minimum on polygraphing. And if you're in counterintelligence or in other more sensitive areas it's more frequent. Not once in his entire career was Robert Hanssen ever polygraphed. He was never given even a preliminary financial audit. In one of his debriefings he said, if he'd ever been audited, at any level financially, he would have been detected. And as we go into very elaborate detail in episode 4, which we released last Thursday, there were plenty of reasons, in hindsight, in which the FBI could have looked at these things and say, hm, maybe we ought to take a look at this person. That didn't happen.
Andrew Hammond: And I think one thing in the podcast that comes out that's really fascinating is the betraying the continuity of government plan which is just, you know, David Major mentions this in the podcast as well which is just hugely important. [ Music ]
Erin Dietrich: Thanks for listening to this episode of "SpyCast". Please follow us on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Coming up on next week's show.
Unidentified Person: So, these young men use the Navajo language to send messages, secret messages over the radio waves in the South Pacific and many of the islands where they were stationed. The Japanese could not decipher these messages. They tried. And it wasn't until towards the end of the war that they realized that it was a Native American language.
Erin Dietrich: If you have feedback, you can reach us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @INTLSpyCast. If you go to our page, the cyberwire.com/podcasts/spycast, you can find links to further resources, detailed show notes, and full transcripts. I'm Erin Dietrich and your host is Dr. Andrew Hammond. The rest of the team involved in the show is Mike Mincey, Memphis Vaughn III, Emily Coletta, Emily Rens, Afua Anokwa, Ariel Samuel, Elliott Peltzman, Tré Hester, and Jen Eiben. This show is brought to you from the home of the world's preeminent collection of intelligence and espionage-related artifacts, the International Spy Museum.