I’m not sure if I’m posting this to the correct forum, because I’m hoping to get some clarification on things, which might be a GQ sort of thing, and also to hear some other people’s opinions, heading into IMHO territory. The fact that I don’t have a strong position on this probably should have led me away from GD, but I suspect other people might have strong positions, so here I am.
I’ve been trying to follow the news coverage about Robert Hanssen, the FBI agent who was spying for the Russians. Overall, my basic reaction is that this man violated his oath of duty, he committed treason, and should be punished for it. But some of the things I’ve read have made me ponder some of tangental issues surrounding this story.
Hanssen sent mail to Viktor Cherkashin, a KGB agent, at the Soviet Embassy. I’m slightly amazed that it’s so easy to contact the KGB at their Washington Headquarters. If it was so obvious to Hanssen that Cherkashin was running KGB operations out of the Soviet Embassy, it must have been known to many people in our government — why do we let this happen? Why do we allow high-ranking spies to enter the US? Our country denies entry to many people for various reasons, shouldn’t “running KGB operations” be one of them?
When Hanssen first approached the KGB, he gave them the names of three Russians who were secretly working for US intelligence. Two of these men were executed. There seems to be a big outcry that Hanssen is responsible for their deaths. While this may be true, it’s not as if they were two helpless orphan children. They were men who were spying for the US, they were traitors to their own country. Why the outrage over their deaths? Is the US appalled that Hanssen would spy for the Russians, and also surprised that the Soviets did not look kindly upon people spying on them?
I guess this ramble is mostly about my ignorance of the politics of intelligence (the spying kind). As I read more about Hanssen, I’m just stunned that these operations seem to be treated like a big game, a game that risks human lives. Treason is among the most vile of crimes, yet we actively recruit people willing to turn traitor against their own countries. Am I simply the most naive person in America, or is there something wrong with this?