RAY SUAREZ: For more on the case of Robert Hanssen, we turn to: Robert Heibel was the FBI's deputy chief of counter- terrorism in the mid-1980s. He's now director of the intelligence analyst program at Mercyhurst College. Roy Godson is a professor of government at Georgetown University and president of the National Strategy Information Center. He's the author of Dirty Tricks or Trump Cards: U.S. Covert Action and Counterintelligence. And Elaine Shannon covers the FBI and Justice Department for Time Magazine. Elaine, you were at court today. Take us in there. What happened?
ELAINE SHANNON: Well, the most interesting part was when Hanssen stood up and when he turned around quickly and gave kind of a slight smile to the two rows of FBI rank and file field agents who made the case against him. We didn't know how to read that, whether that was "you got me" or "I got you."
RAY SUAREZ: And were they out of Robert Hanssen's own mouth these admissions, or did he simply have to agree to things that were being stipulated in court?
ELAINE SHANNON: The statement of fact comes from the affidavit and the indictment that was filed based on the KGB Files that were liberated by a source for the U.S. Government. So he agreed that what the government put in evidence, except for certain counts that were stricken were factual. The real statement of fact is something we all want to hear, which is what he tells personally to the FBI and Justice Department now that he is going to be debriefed.
RAY SUAREZ: Are we going to hear any of that, Roy Godson?
ROY GODSON: I think we'll hear some of it. It will become public gradually and some will be put into the record of the various panels that are investigating the FBI, the weaknesses that have been formed. But I think some of this we will not hear. The government at least will strive mightily not to reveal all the information because it looks like he gave away a great deal of information on the kinds of techniques that the United States uses, the kinds of sources that it has been able to develop.
The Russians already know this now because he has made it available to them, but there are others in the world that don't about these techniques unless the Russians have sold that information to them or traded it, which sometimes the Russians have done with others, such as the Iraqis. But if they haven't made it all available, there are others that we might still want to be able to use the techniques against. And it would be a mistake to release that information.
RAY SUAREZ: Robert Heibel, Mr. Hanssen got a chance to keep his life. His family gets to keep the house, the cars, even part of his pension. Why do you think the government would structure the deal in this way?
ROBERT HEIBEL: This deal was done for a number of reasons the way it was. One of the reasons was so that the FBI will understand what's gone on here, and that they will be able to counter the tricks that Hanssen used in the past. They've got to understand what secrets were given away, and this also will not only serve the FBI, but it will serve the U.S. security community as a whole.
RAY SUAREZ: They've got him. They've got him for the rest of his life, presumably. Now that they have a chance to really sit down and talk without the cloud of a trial hanging over them, how do they piece together what he gave away, what he sold and match it to what they know?
ROBERT HEIBEL: They do that through a series of interviews. They're going to be interviewing him over the next six months. And what they're going to be doing with those interviews, they're going to be comparing the results of those interviews with the records that they have. They're going to be taking those interviews and talking to other government agencies. What they're going to be doing here is something that is normal in an investigation like this, confirming the facts that are being given to them by a source. In a large part, the honesty that Hanssen shows in this, the candor that he presents, is going to be whether or not this deal goes through. He has got to be completely open on this thing for it to be a success.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, how would they know if he is lying to them, if he's covering up some things he did or exaggerating some things he did?
ROBERT HEIBEL: Through this comparison of documentation that they have, they're going to be reaching out to sources that they have, people, prior defectors. They may even be talking with other intelligent services, friendly intelligence services. There are any number of means they can use to verify what he is telling them, plus an active investigation.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, maybe we can talk a little bit about the triggers and provisions of the deal that might focus Mr. Hanssen's interest in on cooperation now, the way his family goes from here on out depends on whether the government decides he's telling the truth?
ELAINE SHANNON: Well, yes. The FBI has never had any desire to torture his wife, particularly, and the children by taking away the house. They could file a lien of some kind. There could be tax charges. Those aren't completely off the table yet, if they were to go hard and demand that she sell the house to pay part of that forfeiture. She has admitted having knowledge of this murky spying incident that's not in the indictment in 1979. They said they don't believe she is criminally culpable for that. So they could make life very miserable.
I think he felt this was the least he could do for them. But if they find him minimally cooperative, they could come in to the judge and say the deal is off and we go back to trial. And then he does risk -- he is exposed to the death penalty, although, again, that would have to be litigated. The acts for which the death penalty is applicable occurred before Congress passed the federal death penalty in espionage statute. So you would get into a legal issue of retro activity. I'm not sure you would get the death penalty but certainly this agreement satisfies both sides needed to keep things behind closed doors. It doesn't satisfy mine. I'd like to hear it all but that's the way it is right now.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, is there a degree to which non-cooperation would be bad for both sides because the government would have to say things in open court it would rather not talk about?
ELAINE SHANNON: Oh, absolutely. As Mr. Godson has referred to, there are things about the way the national security agency intercepts the communications of Russia through the satellites that they don't really want to talk about out there because we're intercepting other people's communications in the same way.
RAY SUAREZ: Now, when you read the complaint, Roy Godson, can you tell by the way the government brought these charges the kinds of things they assume or suspect Robert Hanssen turned over?
ROY GODSON: Well, in the complaint originally issued in today's indictment, it's a wealth of information about the specifics or many of the specifics that Hanssen is apparently pleading guilty to have done. Their range is extraordinary. I can't think of another case ever in the history of American intelligence, and few in other intelligence systems or intelligence history that have shown such a wealth of material both in the indictment and complaint. And assuming he has done all these things, this is extraordinary.
He has information about some of the most important analytical judgments the Americans were making about Russia and the Soviet Union. He had information about our human sources, the techniques we use as well as individuals. He had information about America's technical capabilities, which are very expensive and very sensitive. Once revealed, it is very difficult to recreate these kinds of capabilities. These are all listed in the government's public disclosures today. And so even if he just did these things and didn't do other things that we don't know about, this would be an extraordinary range of espionage -- almost unprecedented in espionage history.
RAY SUAREZ: Robert Heibel, do you agree with that assessment, of the seriousness of what was turned over?
ROBERT HEIBEL: Yes, as I said before he was a chicken-- he was a weasel in the hen house but he looked like a chicken. In view of the past history of the FBI, as far as not being penetrated by the Soviets to any extensive degree, it was natural for Hanssen to have access to this information in the role that he fulfilled.
RAY SUAREZ: And if the $1.4 million price tag they're talking about really holds up under some scrutiny, it sounds from what Mr. Godson is saying that the Russians really got a deal.
ROBERT HEIBEL: They got a wonderful deal. Wonderful deal.
RAY SUAREZ: Will it be even more expensive to replace the things that were lost this way and also harden them so they can't be compromised in the same way?
ROBERT HEIBEL: That's the reason that we have this guilty plea today, and the agreement that's been reached is it's so necessary for the Bureau now, and not just the Bureau but the U.S. intelligence community to be able to look at what they lost, understand the ramifications of what they lost, and also to be able to take corrective action to try to prevent it in the future. So I agree, it is a good deal for both sides.
ELAINE SHANNON: I wanted to point out this bargain that the Russians got. When you look at they gave him $20,000 for things that other spies would have gotten hundreds of thousands of dollars probably, priceless things. That's one of the reasons that there is a lot of belief in the FBI that it is not all about money There was something else going on that there is anger, resentment, he was not well liked by agents he was working with in 1979, '80, '81. They made fun of him. He was geeky. He wasn't one of the boys. He didn't do the things they did. He was very prissy, nosy, superior, arrogant, that's what they called him. And they made up nicknames for him like Dr. Death. Now I've talked to a lot of them and he they feel like he is a school shooter. He is getting back and he ripped a hole in everything they did from 1979 on. Maybe that's the reason for the smile.
RAY SUAREZ: But so far in court he hasn't said anything and his attorneys haven't said anything that goes directly to motive, have they?
ELAINE SHANNON: No, they shied away from that and said well, it's been said it's greed. But he didn't bargain. He didn't send something little and say if you want more what are you going to give me. He just sent it in and said send me whatever you think it's worth. Well, what a deal.
RAY SUAREZ: What are people spying about? At the end of the last century and the beginning of this one, what is the game being fought over now, Roy Godson?
ROY GODSON: Well, in historical perspective it is not very different now than it's been for centuries and millennia. People want to know other people's secrets. Everybody has secrets. Governments have secrets, non-governmental organizations have secrets. People want to know other people's secrets. They believe secrets give you an advantage. If you know somebody else's secrets, you have an advantage over them. If somebody else can keep a secret, you can use it in his or her planning to gain an advantage over you. So the job of intelligence and counterintelligence is to get other people's secrets and prevent others from getting our secrets and prevent others from manipulating or deceiving us about their secrets and their plans.
If I can make an analogy to a sports team, imperfect analogy but maybe illustrates the point -- the game plan, getting the opposition's game plan before the game would help one, so would one like that, presumably it is not part of the game to get the game plan but you pay a lot of people money to try to identify the strategies of one of your opponents in sports, and that's the same in the intelligence business. You also pay people to protect you from other people's intelligence gathering against your sports team. And that would be analogous to counterintelligence's role for governments and not only just for governments but non-state actors, criminal organizations that are around today. A lot of people have intelligence capabilities. Hundreds of thousands of some of the more able human beings in this planet are engaged in intelligence either working for governments or non-state organizations.
RAY SUAREZ: And this goes for so-called friendly and nations that might be thought to be hostile as well vice versa?
ROY GODSON: In a way regretfully that would be true for so-called friendly states. Democracies do this, dictatorships do this, criminal organizations do this, business corporations do this. This is-- this has been going on for a very long time. I don't see any diminution of it. We have friendly governments in the world that we cooperate with that spend a lot of money to try to learn our secrets to deceive us. Sometimes they have done quite well recently; for example, the Indians have done quite well. So here you have a democracy deceiving another democracy, us, about their nuclear plans. And I'm afraid they did rather well. They learned how we see and hear them. They were able to exploit that by hiding their test plans from us. And so we were caught off guard. They got an advantage which was temporary, but we have to be on the alert for the fact that our friends in the world will do this as well as more hostile groups.
RAY SUAREZ: Guests, thank you all.