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Senate Intelligence chief: Spy case a 'debacle'

Hanssen
Hanssen  

Hearings to begin Wednesday

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will hold hearings Wednesday in the case of FBI agent and accused spy Robert Hanssen, according to a spokeswoman for committee chairman Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama.

In a written statement, Shelby said, "I intend to have the committee examine the entirety of the Hanssen case in hopes of avoiding another such national security debacle."

FBI Director Louis Freeh and CIA Director George Tenet will attend Wednesday's hearing.

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CNN's Kathleen Koch broadcast a Webcast showing the park where Hanssen was arrested and activities the FBI says he conducted there

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CNN's Kelli Arena says 25-year veteran Philip Hanssen is charged with spying for Russia for the last 15 years

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This will be the first time that all the committee members will hear from both Freeh and Tenet at the same time. Until this time only chairs and ranking Democrats had been briefed on the matter.

The committee's second-ranking Republican, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, previously told CNN there likely would be two sets of hearings into the Hanssen case. The first will inform the committee of the status of the case, the losses incurred and the steps that were taken to protect U.S. interests.

Hanssen, a 25-year FBI counter-intelligence agent, was arrested Sunday night at a park in suburban Virginia after allegedly dropping a package of documents for his Russian contacts, authorities said. FBI agents confiscated $50,000 hidden for him at a nearby drop site.

An FBI affidavit alleged that for more than 15 years Hanssen was betraying his country for a total of about $1.4 million in cash and diamonds.

A court hearing was set for March 5 for the father of six, who was charged with espionage and conspiracy to commit espionage. Hanssen could face the death penalty if convicted.

At a court appearance Tuesday, Hanssen was not asked how he pleaded to the charges. But outside the courthouse, his lawyer, Plato Cacheris, told reporters: "At this point, not guilty."

Kyl told CNN that a second round of Senate intelligence hearings later would examine security vulnerabilities and measures that may be required to "tighten the system."

Kyl said the committee will be interested in finding out how Hanssen escaped discovery while allegedly spending 15 years as a spy. He accused the Clinton administration of failing to invest enough money in counter-intelligence operations.

"We couldn't enhance the intelligence budget in large part because of the administration," Kyl said.

"Obviously it's shocking," he said of the allegations against Hanssen. "We'd known for a long time that not all of the losses (of secure intelligence) we were aware of were explainable by Aldrich Ames." Ames, a former CIA agent, was convicted of spying for the Soviet Union in 1994.

Cacheris
Plato Cacheris, Hanssen's lawyer, said the accused spy was "quite upset" and "very emotional" during their initial meeting on Tuesday  

Kyl said the revelations about Hanssen's alleged activities reinforce the need for intelligence in a post-Cold War world.

"We cannot relax on intelligence activities. That's what prompts terrorist attacks," he said. "We're not talking about stealing technology. But we need to know how (other nations) operate."

Shelby said he and ranking Democratic Sen. Bob Graham of Florida had been kept appraised of the Hanssen case for the past few months by Freeh. Shelby said he was extremely dismayed when he heard about the case.

"Mr. Hanssen's alleged activities are of such scope that I don't believe that we will know the true extent of the damage for years to come," Shelby said.



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RELATED SITES:
Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • FBI Press Room - Press Release - 2000 - Veteran FBI Agent Arrested and Charged with Espionage
Central Intelligence Agency
US Department of State
U.S. Department of Justice
Embassy of the Russian Federation
Russian FSB (former KGB, in Russian)

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