- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 4, 2001

Suspected spy Robert P. Hanssen, the former FBI agent arrested in February as he tried to deliver U.S. secrets to Russia, will plead guilty Friday to espionage charges to avoid the death penalty.
Mr. Hanssen's attorneys, along with federal law enforcement authorities, confirmed yesterday the 27-year FBI veteran will plead guilty in U.S. District Court in Alexandria to multiple counts of espionage in return for life in prison without the possibility of parole.
"This is an appropriate resolution which we believe is beneficial to the government and to Mr. Hanssen and his family," said defense attorney Preston Burton. He declined to elaborate, telling reporters the deal remained under court seal and that documents in the case would be made public on Friday.
A spokeswoman at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Alexandria confirmed that a plea hearing for Mr. Hanssen has been scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday before U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton.
Federal authorities said the plea agreement requires the veteran agent to face extensive questioning by the FBI, CIA and other U.S. intelligence officials to determine the extent of the damage caused during the 15 years he spied for the Soviet Union and Russia.
Authorities said the plea agreement, which still has to be approved by Judge Hilton, includes a provision authorizing the payment of Mr. Hanssen's pending FBI retirement benefits to his wife, Bonnie, and his six children.
Had the case gone to trial on Oct. 29 as scheduled, the government feared the disclosure of some of the intelligence community's most sensitive records, which Mr. Hanssen is accused of delivering to his Russian handlers.
Lawyers representing suspected spies have in the past sought to introduce into evidence highly classified intelligence programs as a way to force the government to seek a plea deal.
Mr. Hanssen, a devout Catholic who worked as a counterintelligence agent, was arrested by the FBI on Feb. 18 as he tried to leave a package of classified documents at a drop-off location in a park near his Vienna, Va., home. He was indicted by a federal grand jury May 16 on charges of selling U.S. intelligence secrets to the Soviet Union and Russia beginning in October 1985.
Fourteen of the original 21 counts had carried the death penalty.
The indictment came after plea negotiations between prosecutors and his defense team, led by Washington lawyer Plato Cacheris, broke down over the government's insistence on seeking the death penalty.
Mr. Cacheris had contended the death penalty was unconstitutional and walked away from the negotiations after the government refused to take it off the table.
But talks resumed after Mr. Hanssen entered a not guilty plea in May in the same Alexandria courtroom where he will now admit his guilt. In June, the government dropped its demand that he face the death sentence, paving the way for a plea agreement in the case.
According to an affidavit by FBI Agent Stefan A. Pluta, Mr. Hanssen conspired with "officers and agents" of the Soviet KGB and its successor intelligence agency, the SVR, to "commit espionage against the United States on behalf of a foreign government."
The affidavit also said Mr. Hanssen "compromised numerous human sources" of the U.S. intelligence community. Three Russian counterintelligence agents working for the United States were arrested as a result of his information and two of them were eventually executed.
The affidavit said Mr. Hanssen gave up the double agents "expressly in order to enhance his own security and enable him to continue spying against the United States."
Mr. Hanssen, according to the affidavit, turned over to his Russian handlers dozens of top secret and secret documents, including information on this country's "double agent program," a comprehensive listing of future intelligence requirements, a study concerning KGB recruitment operations against the CIA, and an assessment of the KGB's effort to gather information about U.S. nuclear programs.
The affidavit said he also delivered a CIA analysis of the KGB, a highly classified and tightly restricted analysis of the foreign threat to specific U.S. government programs and "other classified documents of exceptional sensitivity." These included U.S. electronic surveillance and monitoring techniques and FBI counterintelligence investigative techniques, sources, methods and operations.
The affidavit said Mr. Hanssen also advised the KGB and the SVR on the "specific methods of operation that were secure from FBI surveillance," and warned both agencies about "methods of operation which were subject to FBI surveillance."
It said he also disclosed to the KGB the FBI's secret espionage investigation of Felix Bloch, a Foreign Service officer, which led the KGB to warn Mr. Bloch he was under investigation. The affidavit said the warning "completely compromised the investigation."
In the affidavit, Mr. Pluta said Mr. Hanssen sent 27 letters to his Russian handlers, delivered at secret locations 22 packages containing more than 6,000 pages of classified documents and forwarded 26 computer diskettes containing additional classified information.
Mr. Pluta said that in return, the Russians paid Mr. Hanssen $600,000 in cash and diamonds, and placed funds in escrow in a Moscow bank on Mr. Hanssen's behalf. Some time in the last two years, Mr. Pluta said, the KGB and the SVR told Mr. Hanssen the escrowed funds had reached a value of $800,000.
During the February arrest, FBI agents intercepted a payment of $50,000 in $100 bills for Mr. Hanssen. The former agent has been detained at an undisclosed location since then.
Six Russian Embassy officials are believed to have taken part in the spy scheme. In March, four of the suspected handlers were declared persona non grata and ordered to leave the country.

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