It is utterly mind-blowing that a man who allegedly committed the most serious act of spying in FBI history has brokered a deal with the government he betrayed not only to save his neck but part of his pension. Considering a great deal of that pension was earned while former FBI agent Robert Hanssen was spilling his guts to Moscow for money and gems, government compensation is even all the more remarkable.
Government prosecutors claim the plea agreement - including no death sentence and a 55 percent pension share for his wife - was necessary for any sort of damage control with the alleged spy's full confession and cooperation. Forgoing a trial would also save the FBI the acute embarrassment of showcasing its shortcomings and prevent even more sensitive information from being scrutinized by outsiders.
The grave concerns of the intelligence community about the extent of Hanssen's espionage for the Russians may have been a valid reason to negotiate with the suspected traitor over charges that carry the death penalty. The 25-year FBI veteran, who specialized in counterintelligence and knew more than most how to outsmart the system, likely has valuable information to share.
Over the course of more than 20 years, Hanssen passed out critical, classified documents to the Soviet Union and Russia that could potentially undermine the entire U.S. intelligence operation. Prosecutors allege he not only betrayed nine U.S. double agents, resulting in the execution of two, but also gave the Russians several thousand pages of top-secret material detailing key national security plans.
In order to assess the scope of Hanssen's treason and to determine what American intelligence systems and technologies have been made vulnerable, the government felt compelled to bargain with one who bested Benedict Arnold in the deceit department. Former FBI Director Louis Freeh said Hanssen's sellout of his country “represents the most traitorous actions imaginable.”
His anti-government behavior may not have extracted the same devastating “collateral damage” wrought by Timothy McVeigh, but it could have equally if not more destructive ramifications in compromised national security.
On an essential need-to-know basis alone, federal prosecutors had a leg to stand on in negotiating away their death penalty demand with Hanssen's lawyer's. They did not, however, have any justification to rescue more than half of Hanssen's pension for his family.
The man forfeited his government retirement fund when he sold his government down the river for a reported $1.4 million and diamonds.
The despicable deeds of Robert Hanssen deserved no less leniency than those committed by Timothy McVeigh, yet this top law enforcement officer-gone-bad lucked out with his life.
It is nothing short of criminal for the government to now compensate his wife and children for the years he spent wreaking havoc on his government - and his country - as a double-crossing spy.
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