- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 8, 2002

By David Wise
Random House, $24.95, 309 pages, illus.

One of the more useful intelligence adages dates to the Napoleonic Wars, when Great Britain spent an estimated 52 million pounds between 1793 and 1815 buying or renting European monarchs as allies. When all else failed, in marched the "golden cavalry of Saint George," that is, hard cash, in the form of pound sterling coins.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation traitor Robert Hanssen came cheaper. One of his erstwhile masters at the KGB marketed him for $7 million (and a comfortable relocation in the United States), putting the former FBI agent in prison for the rest of his life. Such is the remarkable revelation in the fifth major book on the case, "Spy," by David Wise, indisputably the dean of American espionage writers.
Others wrote of Hanssen's perfidies how he gave the Soviets the names of agents working for the Central Intelligence Agency and FBI, sending many to their deaths, and compromised operations of the very FBI counterintelligence office in which he worked. Mr. Wise adds an important new element to the case, the inside story of how our intelligence agencies finally tracked him down and brought him to justice.
That something was frightfully wrong in American intelligence in the 1980s and 1990s was obvious. Co-opted Soviets working for the United States, both here and in the Soviet Union, vanished, their passing marked by an occasional execution notice in the Soviet media. Dire problems continued even after the capture of the odious CIA officer Aldrich Ames. In desperation, the FBI and CIA launched a joint operation "aimed by buying Soviet intelligence officers with large amounts of cash" BUCKLURE to the FBI, RACKETEER for CIA.
Officers logged the whereabouts of Soviets who worked in the United States when our secrets were hemorrhaging, centering on Line KR spies assigned to recruit people inside American intelligence. BUCKLURE's list eventually rose to almost 100 names. At one point the FBI even toyed with Victor Cherkashin, the canny KGB chief of counterintelligence in the Washington residency. Mr. Cherkashin heard out an FBI agent over dinner at Old Angler's Inn in Potomac and never blinked. FBI agents would learn later, "to their sorrow," that Mr. Cherkashin ran both Ames and Hanssen, and he was not about to expose one of his own spies.
Eventually interest focused on a KGB officer who had gone into private business in Moscow after retiring. Veteran FBI counterintelligence officer Mike Rochford had met the man on trips abroad and found him willing to talk further, but only safely distant from Moscow. The bureau had an executive of a U.S. corporation invite the Russian to a fictional business meeting in New York in the spring of 2000, giving him plausible cover to travel.
Mr. Wise does not single out any particular officer as the "hero" of his book. But Mr. Rochford epitomized what a counterintelligence officer should be. Fluent in Russian, he was a "man who might inspire confidence in his talks with the ex-KGB officer." In his mid-40s, gray haired, with a gray mustache, he "looked more like an English professor at an Ivy League college than a counterspy."
The Russian proved willing to deal, but slowly. Early in the talks, "to Rochford's astonishment, he revealed that he had access to the crown jewel, the actual KGB file on the American mole." But how and why? The man had worked only briefly in Yasenovo, home of the KGB's First Chief Directorate, its foreign intelligence arm. He had a plausible explanation. He "thoughtfully removed the file as insurance against a rainy day." He realized its value and how much the Americans wanted the mole.
After intense negotiations the price was fixed at $7 million. CIA obtained the file in Russia, a package that would fit into a small suitcase (much of Hanssen's stolen secrets were on computer disks) and smuggled it from the country, along with the man and his family, who were relocated. (Even the industrious Mr. Wise sheds no light on how the agency accomplished this feat.) As reported by earlier authors, the cache contained a tape recording of Hanssen speaking to one of his KGB handlers, and his arrest was a slam-dunk.
Mr. Wise offers fresh information on Hanssen's crimes. One FBI operation he compromised was SPIDERWEB. Lacking manpower to follow the many Soviets in Washington, the FBI planted electronic devices in Soviet vehicles. When cars passed certain fixed points, the bugs transmitted a signal akin to the E-Z Pass used by commuters to drive through toll booths. Hanssen told the Soviets, who removed the bugs, and SPIDERWEB crashed. Mr. Wise also reveals that the FBI's tunneling operation under the USSR embassy on Wisconsin Avenue was more extensive and expensive than previously revealed "hundreds of millions of dollars" wasted because Hanssen told the KGB what his colleagues were doing.
Mr. Wise relates how one of the seamier aspects of the case became public, that Hanssen wrote pornographic Internet fantasies about his wife Bonnie and installed a minute video camera in their bedroom so a longtime friend could watch them have sex. Hanssen even tried to persuade the friend to buy the "date rape drug" and use it to have sex with Bonnie. Hanssen told these sordid things to a Turkish-born psychiatrist, Dr. Alan J. Salerian, hired in good faith by defense superlawyer Plato Cacheris.
Although Mr. Cacheris specifically ordered him not to do so, Dr. Salerian insisted on telling Mrs. Hanssen about her husband's squalid sexual behavior. "You're not a good Catholic and you cannot put this behind you unless you confess to your wife," Dr. Salerian told Hanssen. Hanssen agreed, and Dr. Salerian related the sordid story to her. In due course it got to the press. Infuriated, Mr. Cacheris sacked the psychiatrist. But psychic damage had already been visited upon an innocent woman. As Bonnie Hanssen told her sister after the sentencing, "My husband is a traitor and a pervert."

Joseph C. Goulden is writing a book on intelligence operations that helped win the Cold War. He can be reached at JosephG894

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