- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 21, 2001

FBI Special Agent Robert Philip Hanssen has been a reserved oddity in his tight-knit, middle-class Vienna, Va., community, his neighbors said yesterday.
Agent Hanssen, 56, was hardly ever seen with his wife, Bernadette, near their home in the 9400 block of Talisman Drive, where they lived with their six children, said neighbor Ena Thomas.
"He was a very quiet man," said Mrs. Thomas, who lives three doors away from the Hanssens, whom she described as an unassuming family.
"I never saw them together, it was quite strange," she said, adding that she did not know he was an FBI agent.
Mrs. Thomas said that, while Mrs. Hanssen would always say "hello," Agent Hanssen would keep to himself, especially at social gatherings.
Agent Hanssen, a 27-year FBI veteran, yesterday was arrested and charged with espionage, accused of spying for Russia over the past 15 years in exchange for $1.4 million.
He also was a specialist on Japanese intelligence operations and had returned to FBI headquarters recently to take part in a program to upgrade the FBI's computer and database systems.
Mrs. Thomas, like others in the neighborhood of 30-year-old and brand new two- and three-story houses, said they never knew what Agent Hanssen did for a living and found the news of the charges against him shocking.
"This definitely qualifies as the quintessential kids' neighborhood," said Jennifer Jones, who lives four doors away from the Hanssens.
"It's got to ruin the family," said Mrs. Jones' husband, Fraser.
According to an associate of his, Agent Hanssen is a devout Catholic who was part of a conservative Roman Catholic group known as Opus Dei, and his brother is a priest.
Neighbors noted that the Hanssens were involved in church activities and a youth group, and attended Mass every Sunday at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church in Vienna.
But church employees said they have no record of the Hanssens being current members, much less active. The last time they were members, according to the employees, was in 1988, a year after the Hanssens bought their house.
Other nearby Catholic churches where Agent Hanssen may have gone St. Leo's and St. Mark's said neither he nor his family became members. Both did not receive a "letter of release" from Our Lady of Good Counsel, which would have been needed to allow the Hanssens to become members of another church because it is outside of Our Lady's boundaries.
"We don't have any record of that," an employee at St. Mark's said of either a letter of release or any registrations forms.
Agent Hanssen is the father of three boys and three girls. A friend of one of his sons who attends Heights School, a private Catholic school in Bethesda, Md., said the Hanssens are good people.
"I feel worse for the family," said Brendan Robertson, 17.
One daughter recently graduated from law school while another, a teen-ager, works as a baby sitter in the neighborhood, neighbors said.
Some neighborhood youths said Mrs. Hanssen taught theology part-time at a high school in the area.
Sources said Agent Hanssen was a few weeks away from retiring when fellow agents arrested him as he walked back from nearby Foxstone Park, where they say he left classified documents in a "dead box," for Russian agents to pick up later.
Staff writer Bill Gertz contributed to this report.

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