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Robert Philip Hansen
Monitoring US citizens
- At the same time he was selling U.S. secrets to the Soviet Union, former FBI special agent Robert Philip Hanssen was a key supervisor in a 1980s domestic-spying program questioning the loyalty of American citizens and monitoring their activities,newly obtained FBI documents show.
- Under this program, federal agents filed reports on teachers, clerics and political activists who primarily were affiliated with liberal causes. FBI domestic spy operations under the Reagan and Bush administrations first came to light a decade ago, prompting congressional rebukes. But the role--and historical irony--of confessed traitor Hanssen has not been reported before. The documents also offer some of the richest information to date about FBI domestic surveillance during the 1980s.
- Hanssen's initials appear on numerous files among 2,815 pages of formerly classified documents recently obtained under a federal Freedom of Information Act request submitted nearly 15 years ago. Former co-workers confirmed his handwriting.
- "It's astonishing that the very guy who was going after dissenters was in fact working for the Soviets," said Michael Ratner, vice president of the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, a left-leaning political group that has been monitored by the FBI in the past.
- The program, which lasted for more than a decade, monitored peace and antinuclear activists and other groups that the White House worried could be manipulated by Soviet propaganda. Its stated goal was to uncover Soviet attempts at altering U.S. policy by influencing targeted groups.
- As a result, the FBI invested thousands of hours collecting political intelligence, even as insider Hanssen was delivering the FBI's most closely held secrets to the KGB.
- For example, agents noted the movements of a woman who eventually became a high-ranking official in the State Department with the Clinton administration. In another instance, it warned that Philadelphia was ripe for Soviet infiltration. And an FBI memo signed by Hanssen raised the possibility that Russian agents were seeking the help of U.S. physicians and astronauts for subversive activities in the United States.