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

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  859 ratings  ·  58 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 h
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Paperback, 344 pages
Published October 14th 2003 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2002)
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Spy by David WiseThe Unexpected Spy by Tracy WalderThe Threat by Andrew G. McCabeSpying Blind by Amy B. ZegartGhost by Michael  R. McGowan
Best FBI Nonfiction
42 books — 8 voters
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
Espionage
864 books — 1,094 voters


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Community Reviews

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Average rating 4.01  · 
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Start your review of Spy: The Inside Story of How the FBI's Robert Hanssen Betrayed America
Andrew
Jul 25, 2014 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 mini
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Peg
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
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Beth
Jul 17, 2011 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
Amanda Hanson
Jul 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Okay, so I’ve changed the rating on this book a couple times already. I have mixed feelings! It was interesting, but some of the chapters felt out of place, and some of the information really didn’t seem necessary, and it DRAGGED. But when I finally got to the end, I was glad I read it. Idk. Maybe I’ll change the rating again later. 🙈
Bill
Feb 06, 2009 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
Patrick
Sep 02, 2008 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
DanielL
Aug 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I hadn’t know that Spy: The Inside Story of How the FBI's Robert Hanssen Betrayed America was based on a true story, I would have said that David Wise had written a wild and improbable cloak-and-dagger fiction novel. A story so wild and improbable that it was beyond belief and somewhat laughable. The fact that it is a true story makes it AMAZING. If you enjoy cloak-and-dagger spy thrillers, you’ll enjoy this true story.

Robert Hanssen is a former Chicago policeman and the son of a Chicago policeman who
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Ann Vallimaa
Why did you spy on Ray and Mary all these years? All the movies and books. Was I some kind of target? I believe it was an Inheritance Scam. We recently had a lamp busted in our house. They knew about bloody wash cloths. They knew about cutting crosses. Read page. 208. Trash searched, underwear sniffed, toys destroyed. G's were there to keep me alive? They were watching for suicide. You know what, I started taking to them. You could probably make a documentary. You also know what else was recorde ...more
Robyn Chumley
Nov 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting Spy Story, But...

David Wise takes us thru Robert Hanssen’s “inside story” as a Soviet spy. It’s definitely a fascinating 5-star read, but here’s why I rated it 4 stars: Who edited the book? I felt like I was reading a draft copy versus the final book. It jumps all over the place. Almost gave up because the writing, at times, aggravated me. Maybe my standards are too high?
Ronnie Cramer
Jun 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Intriguing story of an FBI agent who for twenty-two years spied for the Soviets (and then the Russians after the collapse of the USSR). The author was granted permission to speak to Hanssen's psychiatrist and therefore gained great insight into his reasoning and motivation. See also: THE SPY WHO STAYED IN THE COLD: THE SECRET LIFE OF FBI DOUBLE AGENT ROBERT HANSSEN by Adrian Havill, which came out the year before.
Frank Brennan
Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An amazing story about how one mid-level FBI agent turned over a treasure of US secrets to the Soviet Union, then Russia. If you can, watch the movie Breach beforehand. Then the book. The movie takes all kinds of liberty with the real story. The book will fill in the blanks and give you a greater appreciation for how sick Robert Hanssen actually was (is).
Michael Hinton
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An insightful look into the career of one of the most damaging spies in our nation's history. What made Robert Hanssen spy for the Soviets, and how did he get away with it for so long? The author's detailed and well-researched account goes a long way towards answering these questions. If you're interested in espionage and the FBI, this book is well worth your time.
Gary Kubit
May 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The spy who killed but lives

Interesting read and documentation of a very damaging spy who indirectly caused the death of other counter intelligence agents in a betrayal of trust for very complex and difficult motivation factors.
Stavros Kanakaris
Interesting read, but somewhat incoherent. I would have been interested in the take of intelligence experts, former spies from both sides (interview format) or Bonnie's account included in the book. All in all commendable.
RACHEL E PEACOCK
Thorough, detailed, endlessly interesting

If you want to know how and why spies betray their countries, read this book. Describes his spying and how he got away with it for over 20 years.
Tom
Jul 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Sorry to say not very well written. But, fascinating story, very worthwhile read. Oh. And. Just horrible: the man, his actions, and the obliviousness of the FBI (which I'm not bashing; just noting). Still nothing compares to the Cherkashin book so far.
Allison
Apr 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
I didnt love the writing style and the timeline jumped around a lot, but the story itself was fascinating.
Steve Paulson
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Could not put this down. What an interesting story. Really well written. Boy this guy was a brazen douche! Great book.
Adrienne
Nov 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting subject, but the writing is fairly repetitive.
Beverly
Sep 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Scary deviant let loose on an unsuspecting govt.--Ours!
Dylan
Jun 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Well-researched, comprehensive, deeply impactful story about a man, an agency, and a series of missed opportunities.
Ann
Jun 27, 2013 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
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Tom
Oct 03, 2008 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
Paul
Jun 02, 2013 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
yb
Sep 16, 2012 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
George Copley
Nov 24, 2011 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
Morgan
Sep 16, 2011 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
Craig
Jul 25, 2012 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
L K
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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.
my review: Excellent, precise, amazing how long he operated without being caught and how much damage he did... even causing executions.
Shelton Stillings
May 26, 2016 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
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From Wikipedia:
«David Wise (May 10, 1930 – October 8, 2018) was an American journalist and author who worked for the New York Herald-Tribune in the 1950s and 1960s, and published a series of non-fiction books on espionage and US politics as well as several spy novels. His book The Politics of Lying: Government Deception, Secrecy, and Power (1973) won the George Polk Award (Book category, 1973), and the G
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