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FBI: Hanssen suspected he was under surveillance

WASHINGTON -- Accused spy Robert Hanssen suspected he was under government surveillance, telling his Russian contacts "something has aroused the sleeping tiger," the FBI said in an affidavit released Tuesday.

The comment came from a letter that FBI officials said was encrypted on a computer diskette found in a package -- taped and wrapped in a black plastic trash bag -- that Hanssen dropped underneath a foot bridge in a park in Northern Virginia, immediately before his arrest.

The FBI decrypted the letter and described it in an affidavit filed in support of its search warrant.

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Hanssen, a 25-year veteran in the FBI and a counterintelligence expert, was arrested February 18 and charged with spying for the Soviet Union and later Russia over a period of 15 years, dating back to the waning days of the Cold War.

FBI Director Louis Freeh said Hanssen, 56, was paid $1.4 million in cash and diamonds for passing top-secret information to Russians.

He was arrested after FBI agents watched him allegedly drop off a package of classified information at a park near his northern Virginia home, which was to be picked up by his Russian handlers.

The package and letter retrieved by authorities were meant for his Russian handlers, FBI officials said.

"Dear Friends," the letter reads, according to the affidavit. "I thank you for your assistance these many years. It seems, however, that my greatest utility to you has come to an end, and it is time to seclude myself from active service.

"Since communicating last, and one wonders if because of it, I have been promoted to a higher do-nothing senior executive job outside of regular access to information within the counterintelligence program. It is as if I am being isolated. Furthermore, I believe I have detected repeated bursting radio signal emanations from my vehicle ... Something has aroused the sleeping tiger. Perhaps you know better than I."

Hanssen also said he strongly suspected the Russians "should have concerns for the integrity of your compartment concerning knowledge of my efforts on your behalf."

After it began investigating him, the FBI in January transferred Hanssen from his job at the State Department to FBI headquarters.

The new letter was contained in an affidavit by FBI agent Stefan Pluta in support of a search warrant for the office where Hanssen worked at FBI headquarters and his former office at the State Department.

Pluta said FBI agents on surveillance saw Hanssen on the day of his arrest take a black plastic trash bag from the trunk of his car. The taped-up package, recovered by the agents after Hanssen's arrest, contained the diskette.

The letter, which also referenced future possible contacts, was signed "Ramon Garcia," one of Hanssen's aliases, according to the FBI.

Inside the package were seven FBI secret documents, dated from October to December, about FBI counter-intelligence investigations against Russian targets, Pluta said.

FBI Director Louis Freeh has said an internal FBI investigation began late last year after an intelligence audit revealed the presence of a mole in the agency. The United States then secretly obtained Russian documents that led them to suspect Hanssen.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is scheduled to hold a closed-door hearing on the Hanssen case Wednesday afternoon. Attorney General John Ashcroft, CIA Director George Tenet and Freeh are slated to testify.

If convicted of the espionage charges, Hanssen could face the death penalty or life in prison. He is scheduled to appear in federal court March 5 in Alexandria, Va., for a preliminary hearing.

Other court documents released Tuesday gave an inventory of what FBI agents found when they searched Hanssen's car and home right after his arrest.

Among the more than 50 items found in the car were a rosary, a large counter-intelligence poster, several spy books, including one titled, "U.S. Counterintelligence, Ethics and Conflict," and a bottle of Russian vodka.

In Hanssen's house, agents listed more than 250 items, including a brown file containing an original FBI document about a Russian defector, account statements from two Swiss banks, Credit Suisse and Bank Leu, and a number of guns.

Agents seized a computer and a number of computer disks, a manual entitled "Soviet Active Measures in the Post Cold War," and a photo of the grave site of George S. Patton Jr. -- the tough World War II U.S. general.

Reuters contributed to this report.



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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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