Washington, Jun 6 (IANS): Robert Hanssen, a former FBI special agent who was arrested and charged in 2001 with committing espionage on behalf of Russia and the former Soviet Union, has died in a jail in Colorado state, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has confirmed.
The 79-year-old was found dead on Monday at Colorado's USP Florence ADMAX prison where he was being held since July 17, 2002, reports CNN.
In an official statement, the Federal Bureau of Prisons said: "On Monday, June 5, 2023, at approximately 6.55 a.m., inmate Robert Hanssen was found unresponsive at the United States Penitentiary (USP) Florence ADMAX in Florence, Colorado. Responding staff immediately initiated life-saving measures. Staff requested emergency medical services (EMS) and life-saving efforts continued.
"Mr. Hanssen was subsequently pronounced deceased by EMS personnel."
According to the FBI, Hanssen, using the alias 'Ramon Garcia' with his Russian handlers, had provided highly classified national security information to the Russians in exchange for more than $1.4 million in cash, bank funds and diamonds.
Hanssen's espionage activities began in 1985. Since he held key counter-intelligence positions, he had authorised access to classified information.
He used encrypted communications, "dead drops", and other clandestine methods to provide information to the KGB and its successor intelligence agency, the SVR.
The information he delivered compromised numerous human sources, counterintelligence techniques, investigations, dozens of classified US government documents, and technical operations of extraordinary importance and value, says the FBI.
The FBI began surveilling Hanssen in 2000 after he was identified from a fingerprint and from a tape recording supplied by a disgruntled Russian intelligence operative.
After he was caught in 2001, Hanssen told his US interrogators: "I could have been a devastating spy, I think, but I didn't want to be a devastating spy. I wanted to get a little money and get out of it."
He pled guilty to 15 counts of espionage on July 6, 2001. On May 10, 2002, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Apologising for his actions during his sentencing, Hanssen said: "I am shamed by it. Beyond its illegality, I have torn the trust of so many. Worse, I have opened the door for calumny against my totally innocent wife and our children. I hurt them deeply. I have hurt so many deeply."