Thursday, April 14, 2011

Revisiting the Hanssen case

For Vienna man, case of notorious spy Hanssen hit too close to home
Former CIA employee was thought to be guilty of passing information to Russians

After four long years, during which time he spent two years suspended from work and was repeatedly warned he was certainly discovered as the long-sought mole, he was released from a living hell. No longer were his days as a free man numbered. No longer did a possible death sentence for espionage loom over him.

There is a lot to chew on in this article.

The FBI's hunt for the mole inside CIA may be the most egregious counter-intelligence failure since the Soviets set up camp inside the Manhattan Project. It was bad enough that the Bureau let Hanssen rifle through our secrets for 22 years. It compounded the error by conducting a reckless witch hunt inside CIA.

Whole forests have died to produce a library of books denouncing James J. Angleton's “paranoid” molehunt in the 1960s. The press has no similar interest in examining the FBI's futile search for the spy inside CIA. Yet, as Mark Reibling notes in Wedge:

FBI agent Edward J. Curran, chief of the counterespionage group at the CIA Counterintelligence Center, became "The Executioner." ....Eventually he isolated three hundred suspects (an "A to Z list"). By all accounts, the inquiry soon devolved into inquisition. Curran later conceded that his agents treated CIA officers 'like criminals.' One highly decorated station chief was interrogated six hours a day for five days.... It was a vicious and induiscriminate surpassed by magnitudes of indecency the discreetly focused 'witch-hunt' Abgleton led.

I'm surprised that the MSM has shown so little interest in this destructive investigation.

The Hanssen case deserves further consideration for other reasons as well. Kelly believes that the FBI is still covering up its mistakes. It will not come clean about all the damage Hanssen did. Kelly calls him “a far more damaging spy than most people realize” and “the most devastating traitor in American history.”

The FBI refuses to address why it failed to catch him. They don't seem to think that the investigation went that badly.

Katherine Schweit, supervisory special agent for public affairs in the FBI's Washington Field Office, said none of the IG report's findings "suggest(ed) that the investigation into the CIA employee [Kelley] was unnecessary or improper," and that "given the information it had at the time, the FBI's initial selection of this CIA employee as the lead suspect was understandable."

Here's something else to haunt a patriot's nightmares:

And [Kelly] also suspects that another mole remained undetected

Some of the FBI's failures are classic examples of the Rosenhan trap (see here and here). The investigators got stuck on a single track and shut their mind to other possibilites.

Hanssen was hidden in plain sight, and only repeated failures within the FBI allowed him to escape detection for so long, Kelley said. It was the obsessive pursuit of "a single hypothesis, as opposed to competing or alternative hypotheses," and the FBI focused only on Kelley. He calls it "the case of the foregone conclusion."

"The FBI would take any facts and twist them to fit the conclusion," he says, "and if it wouldn't fit, then it was the 'evil genius' Brian Kelley."

A related-unrelated point: The FBI's hyper focus on Brian Kelly and its determined attempts to make the evidence fit their theory should make reasonable people skeptical of their conclusions about Bruce Ivins and the anthrax letters.

See also:
Robert Hanssen: 9/11's forgotten man

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