Hypocrisy 101 (The Hanssen Spy Case)

–Louis Freeh, Director of the FBI

–Pres. George W. Bush

–The Associated Press

Gee, double standard much?

[sub](Standard disclaimer: were the quotes above attributable to a Democratic Administration, I’d still have posted this thread. So spare me the inevitable charges of partisanism.)[/sub]

One of the main functions of a state is to ensure its continued survival. Therefore, states spy and also prosecute people who spy for other countries. Those are the understood rules of the game. I’m not sure it’s hypocritical. My dictionary’s most relevant definition of hypocrisy is “1: a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not…”

It’s stated in the Constitution that treason is a punishable offense. The US isn’t feigning anything. In fact, the US really doesn’t argue that other nations shouldn’t prosecute those found spying for us. The government just generally denies that the person was a spy, but accepts that there are penalties for spying.

I wasn’t arguing the punishment, Zoff, so much as the tortured hyperbole. It’s a wonder Bush was actually able to keep a straight face when he called spying un-American.


I don’t see any hypocrisy here.

This is about survival and self-preservation. The Soviets (he was originally recruited by the Soviets) can legitimately be viewed as our enemy. We had a whole cold war thing going on for 40 something years.

If you view it as a good Vs. evil thing, then spying for the US could be considered coming over to the “good” side, while spying for the Soviets would have been selling out to the “evil” side.

[sub]Standard disclaimer: No ad hominum attacks were used in the production of this post, so spare me the pit thread.[/sub]

Here’s a link for anyone who hasn’t seen the paper yet.


Eh, no charges of partisanship, Gadarene, just, maybe, naivete? “Ho-hum, another spy scandal…” Been there, done that.

I’m such a cynic.


I agree with you, Freedom. Playing the spy game isn’t in itself hypocritical. Like I said, though, my issue’s with the shocked “what a horrible betrayal this is!” sound bites emanating from our nation’s leadership, which is why I selected the quotes in the OP. When Freeh and Bush call Hanssen’s actions “the most traitorous actions imaginable against a country” and “a reminder that we live in a…world that sometimes does not share American values,” I swear I can almost see little halos appearing above their heads.

Punish the guy all you want. Just don’t act like a disappointed parent.

I was going to talk about the Bush comments, but I had already hit submit and didn’t want a double-post.

I don’t really see how his comments were any different than comments made after every spy scandal. It’s just rhetoric. I also question whether Bush was saying that spying is un-American. I think it can be interpreted to mean that the act of spying itself shows that we live in a dangerous world. In other words, because of the expense and consequences of spying nations only do it because they want to screw other countries. Furthermore, many of those countries who spy (and arguably want to screw the US) do not share America’s values.

Why not? I imagine they feel like disappointed parents, especially Freeh.

The distinction I would draw, and that I have assumed they are drawing, is between spying on behalf of your country (not particularly savory, obviously nefarious, but arguably necessary) and spying against your own country on behalf of another. The latter is treason and IMO a gross betrayal of national trust – especially for people working in the FBI and the CIA. The former is not.

I agree that Bush’s comment might induce a little eye-rolling to the extent that it says espionage (as opposed to treason) is un-American – I doubt the CIA would agree – but I think Freeh’s comment is dead-on. It is one of the most traitorous acts imaginable against a country. How can you be any more of a traitor than to sell national security secrets to your nation’s – well, if not enemies, certainly not its friends, not that that would be okay either – and do it not for principle (bad enough) for money?

If the guy’s guilty, I hope he rots.

Shame on you, as an attorney. You know that treason has a specific Constitutional definition, and that espionage is not automatically treasonous. Or did I imagine someone being convicted of espionage for spying for Israel, one of our allies?


From your posts, I don’t think we do agree on this. Let me clarify.

I see spying for the US against the Soviets to be morally better than spying for the Soviets against America.

To me it is the moral equivalent of an informant in a terrorist organization. That “spy” is doing a service for the better good of mankind. If a member of the US gov’t were to cross sides and send the terrorist group information to help protect it, that person would be hurting mankind.
I see the moral difference between spying for the US and spying on the US as being similiar to the differences between a doctor amputating your arm to save your life and Hannibal hacking it off for dinner.

Yes there are similairities, but it is not the same.

Just so you don’t feel like the Lone Stranger.

I am not particularly shocked,of course, and I think that Bush did not intend “American values” to contradict the idea of suplying information to a foreign power. Obviously, it is only un-American when the bad guys benefit. I mean, when we recruit moles they are being un-Russian (or whatever). That’s a whole different thing. :wink:

Excellent OP, Gadarene. But having thought about it, I’m going with a sort of combination of Zoff and Freedom. 1. It’s all a bunch of rhetoric anyway. 2. Everyone thinks of themselves as the good guy. Every country truly believes that they want peace and prosperity for the world. It’s just the bad guys over there that want war. So every country thinks they are doing nothing more than protecting themselves from the possibility of aggression from those Ruthless Fiends. When a couple of guys in the Ruthless Fiend country spy for us, they are not undermining their own country - they are saving their country (for whatever motive) from being such terrible aggressors. By contrast, when our guys sell out to the enemy, they are opening us up to an invasion by the Ruthless Fiends.

Of course the Ruthless Fiends feel the same way about us.

The only ones who don’t feel this way are those self-hating commie liberals. :smiley:

I knew them Hansen boys couldn’t be trusted! Doo-Wop indeed!
It wan’t Top 40, it was code! :wally


Excuse me? Reread my post and show me where I said that espionage was automatically treasonous, much less that espionage and treason are the same thing. I said that I believe Freeh and Bush were distinguishing between spying against another country (espionage) and spying against your own country (arguably treason). Y’know – “distinguish,” as in “these two things are not the same.” I also specifically said that espionage on behalf of friendly nations would not be okay either.

Thanks for the update on the Constitution, which, just so we’re all on the same page, defines “treason” as consisting “only in levying war against them [the United States], or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.” There is a strong argument to be made that selling national security secrets to an unfriendly government falls within the ambit of “giving aid and comfort” to the enemy. Moreover, “treason” has a more general, non-Constitutional definition, easily found in any dictionary you might happen to pick up.

Shame on you for being so eager to jump all over me you didn’t bother to read or comprehend my post before responding.


Yep. It’s rhetoric. I don’t like rhetoric. :slight_smile:

Let me give Bush’s quote again:

I honestly don’t see how this can be interpreted to that anything other than the espionage itself is counter to “American values.” What he’s saying, if you trim the subordinate clause, is that “allegations of espionage are a reminder that we live in a dangerous world that sometimes does not share American values.” In that sentence, not sharing American values is a result of the espionage, rather than any other qualities that foreign countries might have. Either that, or the bit about American values was a meaningless non sequitur.

It simply strikes me as hypocritical to condemn espionage on those terms while we’ve got people doing exactly the same thing for us as Hanssen was doing for the Russians. Obviously, I’m not condoning Hanssen’s actions–treason is bad, mmkay. But it’s not inherently worse, from a moral standpoint, just because we’re the ones who in this case are the victims. Despite what you say, Freedom. :slight_smile: I’ll come to your post in a sec.


That’s fine. But a Russian citizen could make exactly the same point, substituting “KGB” for “FBI and the CIA,” and be equally correct with regard to American spies. If Bush and Freeh would like to draw a specific distinction between spying for the U.S. being moral and spying against the U.S. being immoral, then they’re welcome to make that case. If they want to express disappointment in the particular betrayal of trust committed by Hanssen, then they can have at it. But they’re not entitled, in my opinion, to blanket condemnations of espionage and treason without at least a tacit acknowledgment of our own complicity in traitorous acts against other countries.

Treason, as a general term, encompasses more acts than those which are committed solely against our own country. A KGB agent secretly working for the FBI is no less treasonous than an FBI agent secretly working for the KGB.

Imagine Bill Clinton condemning Bob Barr for his adultery on the grounds that, say, “adultery is a betrayal of the sacred compact between husband and wife.” Hypocritical, yeah? That’s how I feel in this case.

Me too. Have I said differently?


I’ve got no problem with that view. It’s not what Bush and Freeh said. :slight_smile: If that’s what they mean, they should acknowledge as much–then we could judge the relative morality of the cases on their merits.

See, now you seem to me to be edging toward blind nationalism. Countries pursue courses of self-perpetuation and self-interest. If covert operations are to be an accepted course in this regard, then countries are free to operate covertly (and suffer the consequences, if such operations are violative of treaties or international law). But why are our interests any more moral on their face than the interests of a country with whom we conflict? I don’t automatically accept that the United States is on the “correct” side of every dispute.

One nation’s terrorists are another nation’s patriots. Some causes are more morally grounded than others, but I don’t believe it’s fair to delineate “for the good of mankind” and “hurtful to mankind” quite so stringently along national lines. Not in the real world. Which “mankind” are you talking about, anyway?

Izzy and Spiritus: Nice posts. I agree 100 percent with the both of you, particularly about the underlying “well, it’s okay if we do it” mentality. (…And they accuse the self-hating commie liberals of moral relativism! ;))

Um, gosh, OK. I’ll bold and underline where necessary. I’ll also use a couple of ellipses to eliminate parenthetical phrases:

“The distinction I would draw . . . is between spying on behalf of your country . . .and spying against your own country on behalf of another. The latter is treason . . .”

Is that sufficient? :rolleyes:

Whelp, sorry to disappoint you, but the latter is not treason. It’s espionage. Treason and espionage are different crimes (Espionage is covered under 18 USC 37, and Treason under 18 USC 115). Spying is espionage no matter who it is done for (they’re, like, synonyms, get it?); espionage is not treason unless it is performed in the service of enemies of the United States, and sometimes not even then.

No, spying against your own country is espionage, whether for a friendly or unfriendly government. See 18 USC 37, Section 794.

Treason is specifically defined, as you note below, in 18 USC 115, Sec. 2381, as “Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere.”

You may personally consider Hanssen’s actions treasonous, but legally speaking, it isn’t treason; and given your propensity for taking people to task for using words like “privelege” inexactly, and given the potential magnitude of this case, I think it would behoove you to recognize the difference. Of course, since I said it, you’ll refuse to own up to it.

Good luck. Even the Rosenbergs weren’t convicted of treason, I’m afraid. They were convicted of espionage. It’s largely academic, since both can carry the penalty of death.

Oh, gee, and here I thought we were discussing things in the legal context of what this guy did.

Actually, I don’t think you comprehended your post. I was aware from Gad’s OP that Bush and Freeh were saying, “Spying for us good–spying against us bad!” You’re the one who said that “the latter” – spying against us – “is treason.”

While I can’t stop you from replying, I would recommend you save yourself the trouble. We, as well as everyone else, can see what you typed, and, well, you were wrong.


Well, no, but equally correct with regard to Russian spies. In other words, spying is just espionage; spying against one’s own country (whatever country that may be) is treasonous (to that country) and a betrayal of the trust owed to that country.

Uhhh, what do you mean “complicity in traitorous acts against other countries”? A person can only commit treason against his own country. Do you mean they are complicit in allowing/encouraging other people to be treasonous with respect to their own countries? Sure they are. But that doesn’t make them hypocrites. It is perfectly possible to exploit the treasonous impulses of others for your country’s own good without approving of treason as a general matter, or treason against your own country as a particular matter.

Each is treasonous to his or her own country; not to the country for which he or she spies. Treason does not encompass acts other than those committed solely against the country of the treasonous spy. Again, the encouragement of treason in others for your own country’s gain is not IMO hypocritical, since it does not require that one approve of treason. Is it exploitive? Sure. But that’s not the same thing.

Yes, I understand that, but the analogy doesn’t work. Louis Freeh is not a man who has ever committed treason. Like him or hate him, you must admit he’s the type of guy who would cut his own throat before he would even dream of such a thing. It is not as if he is condemning an act he would (or has) undertaken himself. The fact that he may sanction it in others (those who spy for our country and against their own) for reasons of the security of our country, does not mean he thinks it is an admirable thing to do, or a thing not worthy of great condemnation.

I said “If the guy’s guilty, I hope he rots,” to which you reply, “Me too. Have I said differently?” No. Have I said you have?

Jodi: Per Phil’s post, forget about treason. :slight_smile: The OP wasn’t about treason, the quotes in the OP don’t discuss treason, and the definition of treason has nothing to do with what I find hypocritical in Bush and Freeh’s rhetoric.

The fact remains that Bush and Freeh are condemning Hanssen’s espionage as a despicable, traitorous act while facilitating the commission of traitorous acts against other countries in the name of our own interests.

C’mon. If Slobodan Milosevic condemned the racially motivated murder of James Byrd in Texas, would you shy away from calling Milosevic a hypocrite just because he’s never actually killed a Kosovar Albanian with his own two hands? You’re really splitting hairs by ceding Freeh the right to condemn espionage because he’s commanded spies rather than having been one.

Welllll… In the absence of any other evidence, I’d say that sanctioning (and, hell, initiating) espionage against other countries is a pretty good indication that he doesn’t think espionage qua espionage is inherently condemnable. When he responds to the discovery of Hanssen’s duplicity with a statement that “the criminal conduct alleged represents the most traitorous actions imaginable against a country,” it’s reasonable to assume that he thinks such actions are, y’know, bad…and there’s a definite implication that he’s on solid enough moral ground with respect to those actions as to be able to cast the first stone.


Print it out in cursive with garlands of roses; that won’t change what it says. Which, of course I am the one to clarify, if clarification is needed, since it was, after all, my post.

It is BOTH. Get it? Espionage against your own country is arguably a form of treason. Do you READ the citations you post, or do you just post them?

For your future information and my ease in trying to follow you, the U.S. Code is divided into volumes, chapters, and sections. The citation is to volume and section number ONLY, not to chapter number. In other words, when you cite “18 USC 115,” it reads as “volume 18 United States Code, section 115,” which covers, just for your infomation, “Influencing, impeding, or retaliating against a Federal official by threatening or injuring a family member” – not espionage or treason. If you wish to direct me to entire chapters, such as chapters 37 and 115 of volume 18, you’ll have to say so, though I don’t recommend it as my inclination to troll through entire chapters, as I did this time, to try to figure out what the hell you’re talking about, is generally very limited. The citations you meant to give were 18 USC 2381 (treason) and 18 USC 793 (espionage, though not denominated specifically as such). And, I would note parenthetically, the US Code definition of “treason” “netiher restricts nor enlarges the Constitutional definition,” which I have already given you. (Stephan V. U.S., 133 F.2d 87 (6th Cir. 1943), cert. den. 318 U.S. 781, 87 L.Ed. 1148, 63 S.Ct. 858.


Duh. I have posted nothing that disagrees with any of this, except your assertion that espionage is not treasonous when performed “in the service of enemies of the United States,” which of course would turn on whether the spying constituted “giving aid and comfort.” I NEVER said espionage was not the same as spying; I said espionage (spying) was not the same as treason. Can you not read?

Do you understand that espionage can be a form of treason if it is against one’s own country? Do you understand that while the two are not synonymous, they are also not mutually exclusive? Hitting someone with a hammer is a battery. If they see you coming, it is also an assault. That does not mean that battery is the same as assault, even though the same action may be one or the other, or both.

Based on what I know as of right now, I do.

Sez you. “Giving aid and comfort” to an enemy of the State is treasonous. Whether Hanssen’s actions were treasonous or not turns on whether he was “giving aid and comfort to an enemy.” Certainly less egregious actions have been deemed treasonous in the past. See United States v. Haupt, 47 F Supp 836 (D. Ct. Ill. 1942): “Intentional act which strengthens or tends to strengthen enemies of United States, or which weakens or tends to weaken power of United States to resist and attack such enemies constitutes adhering to such enemies (i.e., treason).” and United States v Fricke, 259 F 673 (D. Ct. NY 1919): “American citizen with knowledge of spy who concealed spy’s identity, or supplied him with funds, or assisted or attempted to assist him in any way which might be useful in his mission in this country gave aid and comfort to enemy, and thereby committed treason.”

What? What are you talking about?

Which relates to this discussion how? If it was less important, would I then be constrained to take your spin on Federal law as necessarily correct? I don’t think so.

I KNOW the treason and espionage are different. I NEVER said they were the same.

How self-loving of you. I assure you that such willful misunderstanding of my posts would be objectionable no matter who posted it. If this is personal with you, that is your problem; it is not personal with me.

I know this. It is not, however, academic, because treason requires the testimony of two witnesses to an overt act in order to secure a conviction. It is therefore by definition very difficult to prove; espionage much less so.

Well you were wrong, weren’t you? This was a discussion about the alleged hypocricy of the officials in question, and their alleged double-standards. Check the OP if you doubt this. It was manifestly not about the “legal context of what this guy did” until you decided that I could only employ the Constitutional definition of treason – as if I need to check with you before making a word choice, and as if you can unilaterally change the topic of a thread. Now it is a legal discussion, but that does not make you correct in your analysis, or me necessarily wrong in mine.

That is such a patently ridiculous thing to say that it does not merit a response.

Read the OP again, a little more carefully. The person who painted Hanssen’s actions as treasonous was Louis Freeh. I was merely saying that I saw the distinction he was making – between spying for your country – mere espionage – and spying against your country – treasonous espionage, and I don’t think it is a hypocritical one to make.

Hm. As always, I’ll give your recommendation the attention it deserves.

We being you and the frog in your pocket? I realize that everyone else can see what I typed, so I would appreciate it if you didn’t work so hard to willfully misrepresent it. That and a little more understanding of citation on your part would make this conversation a lot easier for me, since that is apparently one of your concerns.

{fixed code --Gaudere}

[Edited by Gaudere on 02-21-2001 at 05:49 PM]

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