Robert Hanssen, a former FBI agent who was convicted of spying for Moscow in the 1980s and 90s, has died at the age of 79. Hanssen’s death was confirmed by sources at the Federal Correctional Complex in Florence, Colorado, where he had been serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. According to reports, Hanssen was found unresponsive in his cell on Tuesday afternoon and was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.
Hanssen’s espionage activities were discovered in 2001, when he was caught passing classified information to the Soviet Union and, later, Russia. He pleaded guilty to 15 charges, including espionage, conspiracy to commit espionage, and tax fraud, and was sentenced to life in prison in 2002.
News of Hanssen’s death has sparked renewed interest in the high-profile case, which was one of the most damaging spy scandals in US history. Hanssen’s spying reportedly led to the execution of at least two Russian agents who had been working for the US, and caused significant damage to US intelligence operations.
Hanssen’s case has also been the subject of several books and movies, including the 2007 film “Breach,” which starred Ryan Phillippe as the young FBI agent who helped catch Hanssen. The film was based on the true story of Eric O’Neill, who posed as Hanssen’s assistant in order to monitor his activities.
Hanssen’s death is likely to reignite debates about the severity of his sentence, as well as the effectiveness of US counterintelligence efforts. Critics have long argued that the FBI should have caught Hanssen sooner, and that his case exposed systemic weaknesses in the agency’s security protocols. Others have praised the FBI’s handling of the case, and lauded O’Neill as a hero for his role in bringing Hanssen to justice.