FBI agent tells how he ‘risked his life’ to expose boss as Russian spy

FBI agent reveals how he ‘risked his life’ to expose 25-year veteran boss as a Russian spy who ‘likened US to a retarded child that was potentially dangerous but easily manipulated’

  • A new book tells the story of how the Federal Bureau of Investigation finally nabbed Robert Hanssen in 2001, thanks to help from his assistant Eric O’Neill 
  • Eric O’Neill’s Gray Day: My Undercover Mission to Expose America’s First ­Cyber Spy was published by Crown in March 
  • In a letter, Hanssen said US can be ­’likened to a powerfully built but ­retarded child, potentially dangerous, but young, immature and easily manipulated’ 
  • They learned about Hanssen’s tools for signalling the Russians that a drop of classified documents had been made at a bridge in Foxstone Park, Virginia 
  • FBI detained Hanssen in February 2001, 25 years after he joined in 1985
  • Hanssen’s former assistant wants to know why he turned against US
  • He’s now 74 serving life in Colorado federal prison without parole 
  • Double agent dodged the death penalty after he agreed to fully cooperate 
  • Assistant O’Neill left FBI in May 2001 and his story was told in 2007 film Breach

A former FBI agent shares in a new book how he repeatedly risked his life to expose his boss as a Russian spy.

Eric O’Neill’s Gray Day: My Undercover Mission to Expose America’s First ­Cyber Spy tells the story of how the Federal Bureau of Investigation finally nabbed Robert Hanssen in 2001, more than 25 years after he joined in 1985.

The author shares how he was instructed by Special Agent Kate ­Alleman to both anger and gathering intelligence on the man who referred to him as a ‘worthless clerk’ and in several situations found himself at the mercy of Hanssen, who he had to remind the Alleman wore ‘revolver in an ankle holster and keeps an automatic [weapon] in his desk’.


A new book tells the story of how the Federal Bureau of Investigation finally nabbed Robert Hanssen (left) in 2001, thanks to help from his assistant Eric O’Neill (right)

After numerous near-blows, an unarmed O’Neill helped the FBI deepen the psychological profile of Hanssen.

O’Neill helped get the bureau the evidence they needed following numerous near-misses where Hanssen suspected his assistant of snooping around his office and allowing agents to search his car when he wasn’t around.

A successful office raid revealed that Hanssen was a double agent when O’Neill obtained and copied a letter that revealed Hanssen ‘dreamed of being a spy against his country since the age of 14, after reading a book about Kim Philby — the British intelligence officer who was also a Russian double agent’.

Eric O’Neill’s Gray Day: My Undercover Mission to Expose America’s First ­Cyber Spy was published by Crown in March 

‘I scooped the devices into my arms and sprinted for the stairway,’ O’Neill writes in his book about a ‘James Bond’ moment where he obtained a PalmPilot, floppy disk and flash drive from his boss’ bag. ‘I slammed the door behind me and slid to a halt in Hanssen’s ­office.’

In the letter Hanssen penned: ‘One might propose that I am either insanely brave or quite insane. I’d answer neither. I’d say insanely loyal. Take your pick. There is insanity in all the answers.’

The documents also unveiled how Hanssen showed frustration to the Russians and also he came to request the PalmPilot device that would ultimately help lock him up for life at the ADX Florence federal supermax prison in Colorado on three counts of espionage and two related counts.

‘I have come about as close as I ever want to come to sacrificing myself to help you, and I get silence. I hate silence…’ Hanssen wrote at one point.

‘The US can be ­errantly likened to a powerfully built but ­retarded child, potentially dangerous, but young, immature and easily manipulated. But don’t be fooled by that appearance. It is also one which can turn ingenious quickly, like an idiot savant, once convinced of a goal.’

The FBI detained Hanssen (center) in February 2001, more than 25 years after he joined in 1985

Hanssen (center right) is said to have told FBI ‘What took you so long?’ when taken into custody

As well as proving he had damaged the country’s counterintelligence capabilities and revealed identities of undercover agents, the FBI learned that medical tape and chalk were Hanssen’s tools for signalling the Russians that a drop of classified documents had been made at bridge in Foxstone Park, Virginia.

The location was nearby where on February 18, 2001, Hanssen was finally detained en route to collect a payment of $50,000.

Hanssen is said to have told FBI ‘What took you so long?’ when he was taken into custody.

The FBI learned that medical tape and chalk were Hanssen’s tools for signalling the Russians that a drop of classified documents had been made at bridge in Foxstone Park, Virginia

 The location was nearby where on February 18, 2001, Hanssen was finally detained en route to collect a payment of $50,000

The double agent dodged the death penalty after he agreed to fully cooperating and now age 74, he has no possibility of parole.

O’Neill left the FBI in May 2001 and his story was told in 2007 motion picture Breach.

The 46-year-old is a national-security strategist for ­cyber-security company Carbon Black and runs his own investigative and security-services firm.

He told the New York Post about Hanssen refusing to be interviewed for his book, published by Crown last month: ‘I would like to ask him why he did it. He has never answered that question for anyone. It’s the one scrap of power he’s kept for himself.’

The double agent dodged the death penalty after he agreed to fully cooperating and now age 74, he has no possibility of parole

Assistant O’Neill left the FBI in May 2001 and his story was told in 2007 motion picture Breach

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