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Spy: The Inside Story of How the FBI's Robert Hanssen Betrayed America

3.89  ·  Rating Details  ·  516 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
Spy tells, for the first time, the full, authoritative story of how FBI agent Robert Hanssen, code name grayday, spied for Russia for twenty-two years in what has been called the “worst intelligence disaster in U.S. history”–and how he was finally caught in an incredible gambit by U.S. intelligence.

David Wise, the nation’s leading espionage writer, has called on his unique
Paperback, 344 pages
Published October 14th 2003 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2002)
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The Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le CarréTinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le CarréThe Day of the Jackal by Frederick ForsythThe Bourne Identity by Robert LudlumThe Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
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Jun 05, 2016 Andrew rated it really liked it
Despite the difficulty of the subject matter -- such as the betrayal of one's wife and country in the ways Robert Hanssen betrayed his -- I found this to be a fair-minded, and not entirely unsympathetic or dehumanising depiction.

Hanssen unquestionably emerges as the villain, as he undoubtedly ought to be seen: his actions were reprehensible. At the same time, he was a terribly lonely, deeply wounded individual. Evil causes suffering, but the reverse is also true. Yet it does not minimise the suf
Jul 17, 2011 Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the 5th book written about Robert Hanssen, a man who loved his wife, technology, and being a religious member of Opus Dei but also loved the intrigue of working for the FBI while giving FBI Intelligence information to the Soviet Union/Russia. Well researched, this book lists many facts. It was amazing to find quotes of Bob's conversations about how he and the KGB should communicate and where "drops" would be. What is harder and difficult to understand is how the man lived with himself. T ...more
Sep 14, 2008 Patrick rated it it was ok
Robert Hanssen's motives are some of the most complex in American espionage, and Wise offers decent thoughtful insights on them while covering a lot of ground in great detail; however, the background information sometimes seems irrelevant. I'm not into Wise's writing style(and the last chapter is garbage), but this is probably the best book available on Hanssen due to Wise's research efforts - supposedly he interviewed some 150 key individuals and was, after Hanssen's approval, given exclusive a ...more
Jun 27, 2013 Ann rated it liked it
This nonfiction book tells the story of Bob Hanssen, the FBI agent passed numerous secret documents to the Russians over a 20-year period. The author weaves together two chronologies: Bob Hanssen's life and career, and the decade-long search for moles in the CIA and the FBI.

Bob Hanssen was an FBI agent with a special interest in computers, way back in the days when very few people understood these new tools. That specialized knowledge helped move him along in his career among the spy-catchers a
I recently revisited the movie Breach, with Chris Cooper and Ryan Phillippe, which impressed me with its taut retelling of the story of Robert Hanssen, the FBI story turned Soviet spy. Hanssen is an intriguing figure--a fundamentalist Catholic member of Opus Dei, father of six children, and former cop who sold invaluable national security secrets in exchange for a few hundred thousand dollars and plenty of ego-stroking on the part of the Russians.

The movie unwound the story masterfully, from th
Oct 03, 2008 Tom rated it really liked it
Shelves: life
Good book. I love reading what these guys do and how they operate (even, if in this case, he was working against the US). Is it strange that as a Christ-follower I find it fascinating and am enthralled with people who lie, cheat and use, at times, violence in their “career’? I guess it is wild, and somewhat disturbing, what our country (and many other countries) will go to, to protect and get secrets. Maybe what is scary isn’t the secret we come to find out (though they are many times), but rath ...more
Sara Bishop
Sep 16, 2015 Sara Bishop rated it it was amazing
It was an interesting read. It told Hanssen's story in enough detail and I liked the treatment of the aftermath. There is a chapter on possible motive given by the psychiatrist involved with the case. I thought it was fair and insightful.
Sep 16, 2012 yb rated it liked it
This is a weird, if interesting book. The narrative is not linear, which I suppose makes sense, in light of the way in which Hanssen's treason was discovered. Unfortunately, it makes it hard to follow, especially in light of how many characters -- CIA, FBI, KGB and GRU agents, moles, and defectors -- the book is dealing with. This is true no matter how many details Wise throws in about a particular person's height or build or town of origin, which frankly are just odd details that I think the au ...more
May 18, 2016 Lizzie rated it liked it
If you're interested in how the FBI and CIA work on tracking down moles and secret agents, this is a fascinating case! The author does an excellent job of providing background and explaining how the Bureau works. Pretty interesting case.
Jun 04, 2013 Paul rated it really liked it
An incredibly well researched story of the man responsible for the worst intelligence disaster in US history, Robert Hanssen. 22 years of betrayal, not just of America but of his wife and family. David Wise captures the world of spies and while Hanssen volunteered his services to the Soviet Union and then Russia, the constant attempts by both sides to "turn" resources was quite interesting. Not only does Wise dive into a detailed accounting of events but is able to establish, as well as anyone c ...more
Jan 08, 2010 Bill rated it it was ok
Recommended to Bill by: Nancy Pearl
Shelves: nonfiction
This book was a decent account of how Robert Hanssen spied for the Soviets/Russians for over twenty years. I read it because it was one of the books Nancy Pearl recommended in "Book Lust". Her description of the book made it sound a lot more interesting than it actually was. David Wise includes some rather lurid details about Hanssen's private life that only seem to be there for the sake of titillation. None of this adds anything to the story. I guess I was disappointed by the complete absence o ...more
Jul 01, 2016 RICHARD DAIGLE rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Excellent book. Excellent read. Kept me engaged. Didn't know the full extent of Hanssen's acts until now Unbelievable. Simply unbelievable.
George Copley
Nov 24, 2011 George Copley rated it really liked it
Shelves: cia-fbi-spy
It is interesting that a man can spy for another country and report/head up a team to investigate and prevent his own activities and yet not reveal what he was doing for 22+ years. Hiding behind his catholic faith or expressing it so vehemently I would think should have caused some suspicion of what he was doing with his spare time and where his money came from to support his lifestyle. is rather shameful behaviours of allowing his closest friend to watch him and his wife in sexual congress via ...more
Jan 20, 2014 Joe rated it really liked it
Spellbinding true recounting of most egregious espionage in FBI history. Insider tasked with finding spy himself the mole. Astounding missteps and beauracratic wrangling led to terrible damage to U.S. Must read for espionage junkies. Rating 4 of 5 invisible ink pens.
Aug 27, 2014 Craig rated it really liked it
There's a ton of detail about Hanssen's life here - the operations of a spy, the spy/counterspy intrigue, and the various mechanisms of the FBI, CIA, and the KGB. But there are a LOT of people to sift through, a ton of secondary characters - which the author has to describe each time a new person is introduced - and it's at time slow-moving. I guess it's slow moving because I was waiting for moment when Hanssen got caught. Still, some incredible revelations about how spies did their business in ...more
Aug 06, 2016 Econisland rated it really liked it
Excellent read - thanks Gary!!
Sep 16, 2011 Morgan rated it liked it
I gave it a three star. It was really kind of boring and I didn't care much for the lengthy psychobable at the end. Hanssen had no real motivation to do what he did and I feel he should have died. To me he was no different than McVeigh. Both were terrorists and both were responsible for the deaths of other human beings. McVeigh for contorted, distortded and tortured reasoning and Hanssen, if we are to believe his lawyer and psychiatrist, contorted, distorted and a tortured compulsion to prove he ...more
Rita Groneberg
Jan 01, 2014 Rita Groneberg rated it it was amazing
Very well written and researched. Fascinating look into Robert Hanssen's career as an FBI agent who committed the worst espionage in US history as a spy for the Soviet Union.
Shelton Stillings
Aug 24, 2016 Shelton Stillings rated it really liked it
"The U.S. can be errantly likened to a powerfully built but retarded child, potentially dangerous, but young, immature and easily manipulated. But don't be fooled by that appearance. It is also one which can turn ingenious quickly, like an idiot savant, once convinced of a goal..." - Robert Hanssen
Jessica King
Jul 10, 2013 Jessica King rated it liked it
We watched the movie Breach on Netflix one weekend and it's about Robert Hansen and his life as a spy. I love government/spy/military stuff so this was right up my ally. Once we'd seen the movie I wanted more details so this was the book. I enjoyed it. Pretty well written and really interesting stuff.
Jan 08, 2009 Weavre rated it liked it
Recommended to Weavre by: Albright's shelves, maybe?
Browsing OFL's shelves online, this caught my eye: "Hey, I've read that!"

Since it was several years ago, though, I won't attempt a real review now. I seem to recall the story was pretty interesting, but don't remember the writing style, etc.

Nov 06, 2011 Alex rated it really liked it
One of the most interesting book I've read in a long time. Frightening to see how the FBI missed so many opportunities to stop this man and more so even were his motivations. A surprisingly easy book to read, it provides an insightful view of the inner workings of the CIA and FBI.
Jan 01, 2012 Veronica rated it really liked it
This is the 2nd book I've read about Hanssen. I definitely recommend reading more than one book on the subject. I liked this one since it gave more background information. However, at times it was confusing because author jumped back and forth in the timeline a lot.
Jul 10, 2012 Anthony rated it really liked it
Shelves: fbi
Fascinating and a very fast read. It was both shocking and enlightening and even though he was an FBI agent, it was the FBI that nabbed him. Great job FBI! Now Hansen is in isolated seclusion in Supermax prison in Colorado . Rot in place traitor!
Terri Cochran
Aug 24, 2013 Terri Cochran rated it liked it
The book itself is not a compelling read because we know how it ends. But it is interesting in that it shows the inside of the CIA and FBI and gives just a hint as to why an American would give our secrets to Russia.
Aug 21, 2008 Erick rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anybody.
very good book, interesting to know how a FBI spy has been able to go undetected for 22 years. Tells you detailed accounts of how he was caught, and the damage he has done.
Douglas Graney
Aug 26, 2008 Douglas Graney rated it really liked it
Great book, suspense. I live in the area and my book group discussed this book on the bridge where Hanssen used to hide stuff for the Soviets to pick up.
An eluded trust worthy man, a devoted FBI at least from the outside, a sex maniac hides under church screen! Never guess anything can go wrong with this man!
Kathi Derevan
Sep 03, 2007 Kathi Derevan rated it really liked it
After seeing the movie "Breach" I was interested in finding out more about Robert Hanssen, and this was the best-reviewed book about him. Fascinating story.
Aug 29, 2012 Jason rated it really liked it

Not sure how this ranks among the other books written about Hanssen, but I found this to be a good read about an interesting subject.
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