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Hanssen Report Criticizes FBI For Failure to Monitor Agents

By Dan Eggen and Walter Pincus

The FBI’s “pervasive inattention to security,” including a failure to monitor the computer use and personal finances of its agents, enabled Robert Hanssen to pass secrets to Moscow for more than 20 years, according to a special commission’s sharply worded report released Thursday.

“Simply put, security is not as valued within the Bureau as it is in other agencies,” concluded the commission, headed by former CIA and FBI director William Webster. The report quoted an FBI Internal Security Task Force that found “security policies are too often viewed as a nuisance to negotiate around, rather than (as) edicts with which to comply.”

Hanssen, whom the commission interviewed and quoted publicly about his spying for the first time, told investigators that he passed secrets to the Soviets and Russians because of financial pressures that created “an atmosphere of desperation.” He gloated over the lack of scrutiny by his superiors at the FBI.

“The only thing that possibly could have uncovered my espionage activities was a complete investigation of my financial positions and deposits to bank accounts,” which would have revealed wealth that his salary couldn’t explain, Hanssen said. “If I had been a more malevolent spy than I was,” the FBI “would have had a very difficult time finding me.”

“I could have been a devastating spy, I think, but I didn’t want to be a devastating spy,” he told the commission. “I wanted to get a little money and to get out of it.”

Webster said in an interview he believed Hanssen’s espionage activities were fueled by money “plus anger,” which came from his not getting the recognition and advancement he believed he deserved. Webster, who was FBI director when Hanssen carried out some of his espionage activities, will brief the Senate Judiciary Committee on the report on Tuesday.