One of the most notorious spies in the history of the United States died while in prison on Monday.
Former FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who was 79 years old, was found to be unresponsive in his jail cell where he was serving a sentence in Florence, Colorado. Prison officials later pronounced him dead.
The Associated Press reported that it’s believed that Hanssen died of natural causes. They cited a source who asked to remain anonymous so they could discuss the details of his death.
Hanssen has been in prison since back in 2002, serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. He pleaded guilty to 15 total counts of espionage as well as other charges. He accepted in excess of $1.4 million worth of diamonds and cash in exchange for providing Russia secrets about America.
The former FBI agent is believed to have provided Russia with U.S. secrets since at least as far back as 1985. Among the wealth of information that he provided Russia about U.S. intelligence efforts were extensive details regarding how officials in the U.S. were able to tap into the spy operations that Russia was conducting.
Officials believe that the information that Hanssen provided directly resulted in the death of at least three officers with the then-Soviet Union who were at the time working for intelligence officials in the U.S. Once those officers were exposed in Russia, they were executed.
Hanssen provided the information to the Soviet Union and then Russia after the breakup of the USSR. In total, he received bank funds, Rolex watches and diamonds in exchange for the national security information that he turned over.
He tried to keep a low profile while divulging these secrets so as to not expose himself. He drove a Ford Taurus as well as a minivan, and lived in a suburban area in Virginia in what would be called a modest home with his family, who had six children.
While divulging the secrets, he went by the name Ramon Garcia. In total, he gave over nearly 6,000 documents as well as more than 25 computer disks to the people who were his handlers, U.S. authorities said. Officials believe that Hanssen tipped off Russian authorities about a secret tunnel that the U.S. built right underneath the Soviet Embassy, located in Washington, D.C., that was used for eavesdropping.
Hanssen was able to do all of this for years without being detected. Down the line, investigators were able to discover some red flags that were missed. Once U.S. authorities zoned in on him as a possible mole for Russia, he was observed taping secrets in a garbage bag underneath a footbridge of a park that served as a “dead drop” location for his Russian handlers.
In 2007, the story of Hanssen’s spying was turned into a movie called “Breach.” Chris Cooper played Hanssen.