Death for Brian Regan, accused spy?

I hadn’t heard of this case until just recently; if you’re not familiar with it either, here is a short synopsis of it.

I’m thinking that he’s a pretty poor case for execution. Maybe there’s some secret evidence that we don’t know about, but I’m thinking he’d have no chance to exceed Aldrige Ames, for instance (whose activities directly led to the deaths of many American agents). We just haven’t been executing spies recently. So what do the Dopers think?

I’m anti-death penalty to begin with, but before I got shaken up about this case, I would note that Hanssen (and maybe Ames?) were each threatened with the DP before their trials and ::: amazing! ::: each pleaded before the trials could get under way.

Since this guy’s trial is not scheduled for another month, it sounds more like the prosecutor is playing hardball for a confession and a plea of guilty than it sounds like the Justice Department really wants to execute him. (Of course, if he stonewalls them, they might get pissed off and go for the execution.)

I’m wondering exactly how the federal government can justify executing this spy after rewarding the infamous FBI spy with a pension while he’s in jail. Of course, the government says “He’s not getting the pension, his wife is. We can’t punish the family for what the criminal’s done.” Horse apples, that. First–the government rewards the family for what the employee’s done (pension, benefits, etc.); second–the government should, if that methodology is valid, never stop any employee’s (civilian or military) benefits upon cessation of employment.

I’m still of two minds regarding death penalty; however, this doesn’t mean that my opposition to this particular case being a candidate for such isn’t valid.

Hanssen’s got a pension? You’re right, threatening this guy with death doesn’t make much sense, then. Unless the prosecutor’s playing for a plea, as Tom suggests. On the other hand, I was thinking that this might be an artifact of the Administration’s current line on Iraq. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

I’m gonna give this thread one nudge, and then let it die the death if it’s so inclined.

I think there’s a critical difference here, tom. Hanssen and Ames had something to offer the gov’t in exchange for taking the death penalty off the table - information about exactly how much damage they caused.
It appears that Regan wasn’t part of a spy ring, and wasn’t all that successful (if successful at all) in actually sending information to the Bad Guys. So his cooperation isn’t that valuable to the gov’t, so hell, fry 'im.

Let this be a lesson to all you wannabe spies out there - if you are going to be a spy, be a successful spy. Make sure you have something to offer if/when you get caught.


I agree completely that Regan should not be executed. Sua, you acknowledge that he was a largely unsuccessful attempted spy, and you still think he deserves to die?

Oh, and about Hanssen: While he is still technically drawing his pension, it is for the benefit of his wholly innocent wife and children. He isn’t receiving jack.

And where, exactly, did I say that, gentle reader? tomndebb made the point that the prosecutors are likely simply playing hardball with Regan and would likely accept a guilty plea in exchange for a life sentence. tom looked to support from the experiences of Hanssen and Ames, in both cases the death penalty was threatened but not sought.

I rebutted by noting that the real reason Hanssen and Ames did not receive the death penalty was because both had significant information to trade, and Regan doesn’t. Therefore, Regan is more likely to face the death penalty.

I expressed no opinion as to whether Regan should get the death penalty. If you want my opinion – he shouldn’t.


Please see above about my take on “he’s not receiving jack.” The fool’s pension was part of his pay package. The fool committed espionage against his employer; therefore, ALL of his pay package should be forfeit.

Sorry, Sua, my bad. I misread the “hell, fry him” line. Sorry 'bout that.

Monty, I was clarifying, and the fact remains that Hanssen himself isn’t receiving a red cent. Personally, I think it’s great that his family is being taken care of.

I don’t see why the government must “take care” of his family based on the work he supposedly did to earn said pension. After all, while he was doing said work, he was violating his oath and committing espionage.

Sounds to me like he got rewarded for his crime.

That’s not even close to being right.

I didn’t say the government “must” anything. You disagree with my opinion. Fine, I’m wrong, whatever.

andros, on re-reading, I think I’m the one who owes you the apology. My “fry 'im” comment was sarcastic, but nothing in the tone of what I wrote indicated that is was sarcastic. Your interpretation of what I wrote was reasonable.

I’m a little over-sensitive to people reading opinions into my posts that aren’t there. Sorry you got caught in the cross-fire.


andros: I didn’t say you were wrong–I said the governemnt’s paying the pension is wrong. More specifically: the spy getting rewarded by his employer for crimes against his employer is wrong.

Yes, I realize that.

Mostly, it seems to me that this is no different than any other plea bargain. Honestly, I don’t see Hanssen’s arranging to avoid the death penalty and provide for his wife and children any differently from Sammy Gravano turning state’s evidence against Gotti.

What was Gravano’s payout? Was he convicted of a crime? Did his pension carry the disclaimer that he forfeited said pension if he was found guilty of treason and/or espionage?

There’s a huge difference between some run-of-the-mill non-governmental official crook getting tossed a bone to help the prosecution and a high governmental official while in office carrying out espionage.

Way I see it: the SOB did not earn the pension and therefore it shouldn’t be payed.

BTW: Lots of court-martial convictions carry the sentence of “forfeiture of pay and allowances.” Those allowances are what the family lives on. There’s no difference here. Except that Hanssen got rewarded for his crime.

When Ames was arrested espionage was no longer a capital offence. After his arrest, Congress passed legislation making certain acts of espionage a capital offence.

Hanssen’s wife didn’t receive his full pension. According to David Vise’s “The Bureau and the Mole,” she received exactly the same pension as if he had died.

The purpose of the pension is to provide the intel community with continuing leverage to ensure Hanssen’s cooperation. Debriefing of a mole can take years, if he stops cooperating, the FBI can shut off his wife’s pension. It was part of the deal prosecutors worked out to determine what Hanssen revealed.

One of the crimes Regan is accused off is supplying Iraq with information to help them shoot down an American or British jet patrolling over the no fly zone. This seems to be the act that prosecutors are basing their decision to charg him with capital espionage as it fits one of the criteria of the new legislation.

:shrug: Sammy the Bull got to live. He could have faced the chair, but prosecutors felt it was worth more to them to let him keep his life (in effect, “rewarding him for his crimes”) in exchange for putting more and bigger fish behind bars.

Otherwise, what madmonk said. They made a deal in order to get the information from Hanssen. Did he deserve the deal? Maybe not. Was it necessary to win his cooperation? The FBI believes so, and so do I. It helps Hanssen’s family (the appropriateness of which you can debate all you want) and it gets him to cooperate with a debriefing. Cha-ching.

I see that the government wanted to get some cooperation out of Hanssen. It just galls me that there’s this catch-all “we can’t punish the family” malarkey. The family didn’t earn the pension, the worker did. In this case, the worker didn’t really earn the pension, now did he? He was spying and the job for which the pension is paid was merely his cover. In the end, Hanssen was rewarded for his crime. A more appropriate deal would’ve been less jail time–not a freaking monetary payout.

Monty, my memory is fuzzy, but I think you and andros are arguing about a non-issue. IIRC, Hanssen’s family wasn’t “entitled” to the pension, but Hanssen made the pension (as well as no death penalty) part of his price of cooperation.

Whether that is an appropriate bargain on the part of the Justice Department is another issue.