IN THE NEWS #470 - Spy Case

By Paul Thompson

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS.

Investigations continue in the case of an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation who is accused of spying.

The United States government has presented more than one-hundred-pages of legal documents to a court. They contain charges that Robert Hanssen began working as a spy for the former Soviet Union in Nineteen-Eighty-Five. The documents say he continued spying for the Russian Federation until his arrest Sunday, February Eighteenth. Mr. Hanssen is accused of accepting one and a half million dollars and diamonds as payment for his work as a spy.

Mr. Hanssen reportedly provided Russia with more than six-thousand pages of secret American documents. Government investigators say it may be several months before they know how much damage has been done to the national security of the United States.

F-B-I Director Louis Freeh said a committee will study the damage done by Mr. Hanssen's reported spying. Former F-B-I Director William Webster will head it.

Robert Hanssen's work in the F-B-I involved investigating foreign citizens who might be spying in the United States. He served as the F-B-I's link to the State Department for the past five years. Part of his job was to carry secret intelligence documents between the F-B-I and the State Department. Officials say this provided him with information about suspected intelligence agents in the United States.

F-B-I officials had received information that Mr. Hanssen might be spying. They began watching him closely in January. The F-B-I began gathering evidence against him. He was arrested February Twentieth.

The Senate Intelligence Committee met Wednesday with Mr. Freeh, Attorney General John Ashcroft and Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet. Senator Richard Shelby heads the committee. He told reporters the committee wanted to know how an F-B-I agent could have been a spy for fifteen years without being caught. He said the committee was not satisfied with the answers and will continue to investigate.

Government lawyers say Mr. Hanssen could face a death sentence if he is found guilty in a future trial. They say documents from the former Soviet Union show that he may have identified two Soviet agents working for the United States who were killed.

Mr. Hanssen has a wife and six children. Family members, friends and other F-B-I agents say they cannot understand why he would spy for a foreign government. They say he always spoke strongly against the former Soviet Union and the communist system of government. They also say they do not think he did this work for the money.

Mr. Hanssen's lawyers have said he is expected to say he is not guilty of the charges when he appears in court.

This VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS was written by Paul Thompson. This is Steve Ember.

Voice of America Special English