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Breaking News

FBI Spy Case: Affidavit Issued; Search Continues

Aired February 20, 2001 - 1:34 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, we're concentrating on the FBI arrest. And here's Natalie with more about that.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: And again, Robert Hanssen is a 27- year veteran of the FBI. And today, he becomes only the third FBI agent ever charged with spying.

Let's go to CNN's Jeanne Meserve. She's in our newsroom in Washington with more about what evidence they have against this agent -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, one of the intriguing things we learned this afternoon is that the Russians didn't know Hanssen's identity. And they didn't even know what government agency he worked for.

He used his 25 years as a counterintelligence agent to cover his tracks. He was, in the word of Louis Freeh, FBI director, "obsessed with matter of his security."

We also got some detail about his arrest on Sunday night. We are told he went to a park in northern Virginia. And he left a mark, a piece of white tape on a parked sign. Then he walked into the woods to the bridge you're looking at here. And at the footing of one of those bridges, he left a bundle. This bundle contained highly classified documents, damaging, according to Louis Freeh.

He was arrested there as he emerged from the woods. He was Mirandized. We are told that he was shocked at his arrest.

Meanwhile, the FBI has kept up surveillance at a second drop site in Arlington, Virginia. There, they found $50,000 that allegedly were dropped there by the Russians for Hanssen to pick up.

Bob Franken is at the courthouse in Alexandria.

Bob, money and diamonds, we talked about here today. How much?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's -- well, let's see. First of all, the money. They say that he was paid directly $600,000. He was given an escrow account of $800,000, which will explain why in the court proceeding today they identified the man as having been paid $1,400,000 that doesn't count the diamonds. To my knowledge, nobody has done appraisal of that yet. But that is the amount of the money. Now, what happened here today was really quite perfunctory compared to the detail that is being alleged in the 100-plus pages of an affidavit that is being passed out at the FBI following this news conference.

What was alleged here was a combination of two charges. One of them dating back to the beginning of what officials say was the spy career of Robert Hanssen.

In October of 1985, he is alleged to have compromised three KGB agents who in fact, he said, were members of U.S. intelligence. And he told the KGB and Russians, the Soviet Union that. 1989, they charge that he gave some documents that were important, national defense documents.

Those are the only two charges. However, those charges carry with them the possibility of the death penalty under certain circumstances, in addition to a monetary fine that would be set at twice what he's alleged to have been paid.

Now, he is represented at the very beginning of this by Plato Cacheris, who since he was just getting the case, who came out to speak to reporters, was noncommittal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PLATO CACHERIS, HANSSENS'S ATTORNEY: It's very embryonic. I've been handed a lot of materials. I haven't read it yet. They always talk that they've got a great case, but we will see.

QUESTION: His preliminary feeling on what has happened, can you characterize it for us?

CACHERIS: The preliminary feelings of what...

QUESTION: His preliminary feeling on what has happened?

CACHERIS: Well, it's a serious matter. An FBI agent is charged with espionage. And we will have to see -- we'll have to see what the quality of the case is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN: In case you recognize, Plato Cacheris -- he is the personification of the term "superlawyer" in Washington. With throughout his career, he has represented the likes of former U.S. Attorney General John Mitchell in the Watergate matter. He also represented Fawn Hall. Fawn Hall was the secretary to Oliver North during the Iran contra investigation. He was the man who represented Aldrich Ames here in Alexandria. You heard a lot about him today. He's the former CIA agent who is a mole, who was considered one of the most serious breeches of U.S.' national security in the entire nation's history. Most recently, of course, you remember him as one of the lawyers who took over and continues to represent Monica Lewinsky. Let's get back to Aldrich Ames as a matter of fact. Aldrich Ames was a CIA agent, as I mentioned, who was convicted of impossibly -- of getting, causing the execution of any number of double agents in the Soviet Union. What we heard today is that Robert Hanssen, in fact, may have given the confirmation to some of the Ames information to the Russians, which resulted in the deaths of two of those double agents and possibly the imprisonment of another -- Jeanne.

MESERVE: Bob, what we heard today that he first volunteered to spy for the Russians back in 1985. That's the allegation. Isn't the big outstanding question how he managed to this undetected for more than 15 years?

FRANKEN: Well, it was quite interesting. As a matter of fact, during the news conference, Louis Freeh said that this was, his quote, "bread and butter," that this was a counterintelligence agent, somebody who was extremely well-schooled on the ways to spy and avoid being spied and to penetrate that. And he was able to apply the lesson that the FBI taught him about that to deceive the FBI for a long time.

As you know, that is going to be the basis of an investigate that is going to be led by William Webster, who is former FBI and CIA chief, to find out exactly just how was it that he was able so long to fool the FBI.

MESERVE: OK, Bob Franken in Alexandria, thank you.

Louis Freeh saying today that they were alerted to the presence of a mole by some original documentation from the Russians. But he would not spell out any specifics on that.

Natalie, back to you in Atlanta.

ALLEN: All right, we will continue to talk with those who know about the game of spying throughout the day here on CNN. So, for more developments and insight into this story, keep it right there.

Now, here's Lou.

WATERS: And as we mentioned just a couple of minutes ago, the Hanssen's neighbors in suburban Washington are literally stunned over the arrest of Robert Philip Hanssen. Some of them expressing their mom-and-apple-pie relationship with the Hanssens, who some describe as good Catholics, a good family. There were six children involved.

Joining us now from Vienna, Virginia, where the Hanssens live, CNN's Kathleen Koch.

What's going on out there today, Kathleen?

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Of course, a flurry of FBI activity here since the wee hours of the morning. About 7:30 this morning is when some dozen FBI agents descended on this very modest, split-level home in a very quiet neighborhood of Vienna, Virginia, which is a suburb west of Washington, D.C. The yard behind me is draped completely with police tape. There are FBI vehicles in the driveway. FBI vehicles lining the street. There's also an evidence collection truck parked out in front of the house.

Now, Robert Hanssen and wife Bonnie (ph) and their six children moved to this neighborhood in 1987, some two years after the FBI alleges that he began spying for the Soviet Union.

If this a truly difficult day for the FBI, then indeed the same thing can be said for this neighborhood because neighbors here say that they are truly stunned by Hanssen's arrest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They may know about the fact he was with the FBI. And so we've always known that.

Bonnie (ph) teaches classes part time at a religious high school -- Catholic high school. She teaches religious studies. And the kids are great kids, well educated, polite, nice kids. It's just a great family.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They didn't appear to unusual. He didn't appear to be unusual in any way. I mean, there was nothing that would raise a red flag or, you know, make me as an individual suspicious.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOCH: Agents continue searching this house as we speak. We have seen FBI agents with clip boards, taking notes, making diagrams and sketches of the house. We have seen them videotaping the house.

We've also throughout the day seen agents coming and going from the evidence truck which is parked in front of the house. Just a few minutes ago, several of them came out and removed some flattened boxes. It could be popped up, and then we assume filled with evidence. We haven't yet seen those boxes filled and carried out.

Neighbors, again when we spoke with them about this family and about how they lived, they did not at all, from what neighbors report, live an opulent lifestyle. This home purchased by the Hanssens in 1987 for $205,000. The home at the time was about nine years old. And the home now is valued at nearly $300,000. Neighbors say that they would go to church every Sunday morning in a fairly old, beaten- up van. So certainly if Mr. Hanssen was able to fool the FBI, he was also able to fool his neighbors.

Back to you.

WATERS: What about the family, Kathleen? I -- we understand some of the children are grown and have children of their own. I don't know how old the youngest are. But where does Bonnie (ph) Hanssen and those children go now?

KOCH: At this point, we haven't seen any members of the family here. Neighbors have told us that there are some of the members, some of the children are grown and married. Some of them are at college.

Earlier, there was a strange incident in which a FBI agent came out, got into his vehicle, drove it down the street. And then a young woman ran out the of the house with a brown bag on her head. Left into the rear seat of the vehicle, and the vehicle sped up the street. So we don't know if perhaps that was one of the children who had been in the home while it was being searched by the FBI. We don't know yet.

WATERS: Still a lot yet to learn in Vienna, Virginia, at the home of Robert Philip Hanssen and his family -- Mr. Hanssen, the veteran FBI agent who has been arrested and charged with espionage -- Kathleen Koch.

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