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on May 4, 2003
Post 9-11, how many people really know how deeply Robert Hanssen damaged national security? A recent dinner with several academics suggested, not a whole lot, if that sample counts in any way. Havill's book may not satisfy the connoisseurs of this niche of investigative journalism, but the book serves an important function; it exposes the depth of the betrayal and the nature of the agency that he ravaged. That system and the people who oversee it, have much to be ashamed of. The press has magnificently implied that the damage was minimal. The adopted supposition then by a large part of the citizenry was that it was "low level" information that he handed to the Russians. The press did a great job of keeping the public snookered. Havill does his darndest to refute that suggestion with the details of the top secrets that were handed over to the Russians.
As a psychological case study; Hanssen is the archetype of the Jungian shadow. The religious, dour and convinced patriot by day and the vulgar, ... depraved, traitor at night. Indeed Hanssen betrayed everyone, primarily his overworked and short-changed wife, but also his country, his church and of course, his employer. Why then, did people just fall for his act? They didn't according to the author; there were members of his own extended family, starting with his brother in law, a fellow agent and fellow employees who at least hinted at the deceptive and twisted nature of his allegiance or lack thereof.
How can we correct such ... neglect of self-policing in our governmental offices? Well, it will not be easy, if the educated voter and the concerned public is somehow "picking up" that the damage was superficial. There are, afterall too many government sponsored daily security news items to sift through and ponder. Havill's work needs to be read and if it is as a form of entertainment; which it can be, all the better!
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on September 11, 2003
Havill, once again, has written an engrossing book. I will proclaim my own bias by pointing out something, though. On page 173, Havill mentions the Clinton years "begin with the shoot-outs at Ruby Ridge and Waco." Well, actually, no, George the first was president at the time of Ruby Ridge. And Havill's comment about "King William" make me wonder about his agenda when most of the spying going on is during the Reagan-Bush years. In books about policies or personalities you expect that: you know where the author is coming from and you digest the material accordingly. In a book that is SUPPOSED to be about Robert Hanson I find it telling that the only president he mentions in a derogatory manner is Clinton. Makes me wonder if there is other information he left out. . .Still, you can't fault the guy's talent for spinning a phrase. A worthy book.
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on December 31, 2003
Let me say I was shocked to read this book and how this guy spied for so many years, was a very devout catholic and supported a hooker on the side and nobody including his wife and co-workers caught on. That is amazing.
Now getting to the book review - 4 stars - compelling story, well researched, it all flows together. Havill does a nice job of bringing some facts together and making a smooth running story. It borders on being a page turner, but not quite.
Excellent if you like thus stuff. Recommend buying.
Jack in Toronto
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on July 3, 2002
This is a well-written and footnoted account of the Robert Hanssen spy case. Author Havill provides ample background information on Hanssen's early years and his involvement in Opus Dei that sheds some light on the spy's troubled personality. On the face, Hanssen was dedicated to his family, his religion and was a right of center flag waver. On the other side of the coin, Hanssen spent tens of thousands of dollars on a stripper he "adopted" while his family struggled financially, and was a traitor who sold out his country for ego strokes and money. Havill did a solid job of describing Hanssen's acts of espionage, but Hanssen's motivation remains an unexplained, contradictory jumble.
The biggest shocker in all of this is how a genuinely fouled-up personality like Robert Hanssen eluded the FBI's internal security apparatus for 25 years, rising quite high in the Counter-Espionage hierarchy. One can only hope that FBI Director Mueller and Attorney General Ashcroft will do a better job at policing the agency than their predecessors did.
With people like Robert Hanssen in the FBI it is no wonder that terrorists can have their way with us and we never find-out about it until they fly airplanes into buildings. On September 11, 2001, nineteen terrorists hijacked four airliners with horrific results. We all know the rest of the story. After you read this book you will not feel as safe as you beforehand. Hopefully there is not a Robert Hanssen in the Middle-East Section.
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on May 8, 2002
I managed to delve into this book as required reading for English 111 class. This was a very promising subject, but was a very hard book to read. The structure breaks under the weight of unnecessary information, and even the necessary parts are jumbled and mishmashed. What I found the most interesting was the many eccentricities in which Robert Hanssen exhibited. If Adrian Havill included more of this guys freakish nature this book would be a must read.
Robert Hanssen was apparently not a stupid man, but he was idiotic in many ways. To feel the need to join a group such as Opus Dei one has to be a little moronic. He was also insane, and that is the main appeal of this book. I would like to read more about groups such as Opus Dei than the espionage parts, because the spy game while interesting is nothing compared to wackos and unstable individuals. This is the main reason I wanted to originally read about the Zodiac killer.
The fact that this guy would waste his money trying to reform a stripper with the intention of trying to redeem himself (p141-149) shows you that he was not playing with a full deck. On pages 155-159 you can read about Bob assaulting his female employee Kim Litchenburg and dragging her about on the floor.
The fact of the matter is that Mr. Hanssen never cared about anybody but himself. He was computer literate yet selfish and a social moron. I know there are more people like this in charge of government agencies. I would like to read their stories also. Maybe they will cannibalize someone as a means for redemption,or have all their underlings drink poison Kool-Aid Like Jim Jones.
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on April 30, 2002
" The Spy Who Stayed Out in the Cold" By Adrian Havill had its moments, but overall it left me cold. I did gain some insight into the motives and mind of a spy, but not nearly enough to warm me up to this book. Havill covered the basics of espionage 101 with dead drops and payments, as well as illegally accessing computer files and sending them to the enemy. While sharing his story, I never felt close to his spy, Robert Hansen. The author does discuss possible motives for Hansen's traitorous behavior, but they are just his theories and some of the spy's former co-workers opinions. I would have enjoyed reading a professional psychiatrist's personality profile of Hansen. There was some timely writing about Opus Dei, a little known part of Catholicism. This cult-like group, which speaks of celibacy for the unmarried, held more interest for me in light of the recent Catholic clergy difficulties. Overall, if you are looking for a hot read, "The Spy Who Stayed Out in the Cold" should stay on the shelf for now, although breezing through the first half of this book on a summer's day could hold your interest. It is perhaps a good introductory warm up into the world of espionage.
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on March 11, 2002
Another example of an author trying to capture the moment by rushing to the market with the "inside story". The book was a disappointment since all it did was gather public information and lay it out in an orderly fashion. No insights into the man and his possible motivation for betraying his country, his wife, and his family. In order to fill out the book, we get explorations of Opus Dei, exact reproductions of every letter sent between the Russians and Hanssen and pictures of his old high school, houses, and a group photo from the State Department. No pictures of his wife, children, or other family members. No details of the internal life of the Hanssen family when Robert was a boy. What was the relationship between Hanssen and the father, which I have read about in the press but not in the book. Possibly the book was already in galley proof before this information became available. Buy the book that is on the best seller list if you want to read about this tragic figure.
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on February 16, 2002
Much like the nerdy guy in science lab who made your skin crawl, the sight of Robert Hanssen is a creepy sight. Adrian Havill briefly describes the life of the man described as the most destructive known double agent in the US's history. What makes this spy so sinister is his ability to blend into the everyday, perhaps a bit odd, but no odder than your Uncle Larry.....What emerges is a portrait of a man so convinced he had (or may still have) the inside track on what is RIGHT...and the true way, spying for the Russians because he felt he was superior in his knowledge and value system. There are times when I felt the author is over his head, and when the story is just too weird. Hanssen's involvement with tryong to "save" the souls of exotic dancers would be amusing if you didn't have the thought of a devoted wife and family in the back of your mind. Because Hanssen is not saying much this book leaves much untold, and much unexplained. It did reveal more of the scope of the betrayal and damage done by this interesting book, but left me wishing I could know more.
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on January 10, 2002
Consider this to be a sort of consumer's guide to the three Hanssen books on the market, from one who's read them all . . .
1.THE BUREAU AND THE MOLE has a good photo section but no index or bibliography, both essential in my opinion. Half of it is a bio of Louis Freeh, who should hang his head in shame rather than be credited for uncovering Hanssen. The sex revelations are here, but unless you like pornography I advise you to skip the part about Hanssen's postings on the internet. Still, the information about Bonnie Hanssen's brother--an FBI agent--who suspected him and was ignored is almost worth the price of the book. Four stars.
2. THE SPY NEXT DOOR has an index but no photos and no bibliography. The writing is a little wooden and there are little mistakes like getting the church where the Hanssen's were married wrong. They have some sex stuff too, but thankfully no internet ramblings. A workmanlike job that reads like a Time magazine cover story.
3. THE SPY WHO STAYED OUT IN THE COLD has photos, a bibliography, and an index. It's also about 30 pages longer than the other two. Alas, no sex though the chapter on the stripper runs for some 12 pages and is titillating.It's the most complete with its biggest scoop being that Hanssen told friends he wanted to be a double agent long before he joined the FBI and thus should have never been hired. Four-and-a-half stars.
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on December 2, 2001
Author Adrian Havill, never knew Robert Hanssen personally though they lived only a few miles apart for several years. His public lifestyle didn't change to attract suspicion. Much of the money he received for spying went to pay for a Catholic education for his children to a school forty miles from home when some of the best public schools in the country were available only a short distance from his home. His only extravagance was spending lavishly on a platonic female friend before the relationship turned sour. This went on while his wife Bonnie struggled with daily homemaking chores in addition to her commitment that involved her six children. While stationed in Scarsdale, New York, Mr. Hanssen once passed off information he knew to be of no value to the Russians for money which his wife later became aware of. Other than that, she had no idea of the double life he was leading. He was not one to show affection to others even in his family and required the children riding in his car not to speak while approved Russian symphonies were played and listened to instead. Neighbors found Hanssen to be cold and distant, not exchanging waves or verbal greetings when situations warranted. His wife is to receive 55% of his pension, and many in the FBI complained about that since she knew of the Scarsdale incident in 1979. It is hard to imagine the shock Mr. Hanssen's mother, wife, children, and agent brother-in-law felt when he was arrested. The stress of wondering when and if he would be caught must also have been extremely difficult to deal with. The letters Hanssen and his Russian correspondents sent back and forth were confusing to me at times, but this is a book that will hold your interest and I would highly recommend it to you.
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