An agent integral to spy Robert Hanssen’s capture has said the former FBI agent “had blood on his hands” – and that Hanssen’s death in prison this week left a chapter in his own life unresolved.
Eric O’Neill, a so-called “spycatcher” who helped take down the career traitor, tweeted on Monday: “BREAKING: I just heard that the FBI’s most damaging spy Robert Hanssen, code name: Gray Day, passed away in his jail cell today. This closes the door on a huge moment in my life. I had hoped to confront him one last time, face to face.”
The former agent continued: “I had hoped to meet with #RobertHanssen one last time in his cell at ‘Supermax’ in Colorado. With his death this morning, I won’t be able to fully resolve the impact this spy had on my life.
I had hoped to meet with #RobertHanssen one last time in his cell at "Supermax" in Colorado. With his death this morning, I won't be able to fully resolve the impact this spy had on my life. A great lesson to never delay important actions. The future is always uncertain. I had… pic.twitter.com/ZzTlZOjN9A
— Eric O'Neill (@eoneill) June 5, 2023
“A great lesson to never delay important actions,” tweeted Mr O’Neill, who authored 2019’s Gray Day: My Undercover Mission to Expose America’s First Cyber Spy. “The future is always uncertain. I had hoped to one day revise the final chapter of Gray Day with a conversation with the spy who was one of the most influential people in my life.”
Mr O’Neill had been just 26 years old when his FBI bosses assigned him to work undercover as an assistant for Hanssen, who had become the focus of a long-term search for a mole within the agency. Hanssen, a conservative father of six, had been passing secrets to the Russians for 22 years by the time he was caught by the FBI.
He was found dead in his cell in Colorado on Monday at the age of 79.
Following news of his death, the International Spy Museum in Washington DC tweeted a photo of an electronic device that’s on display within its walls.
“Former FBI operative Eric O’Neill @eoneill worked undercover as Robert Hanssen’s aide. His mission? To expose his boss as a Russian spy,” the museum tweeted. “O’Neill acquired Hanssen’s PalmPilot which held an encrypted dead drop schedule... ‘the smoking gun’ needed to take down Hanssen.”
Mr O’Neill also called attention to the device on Twitter on Tuesday, sharing a picture of a PalmPilot used in the 2007 movie Breach, which was based upon the thriller-esque true tale of Hanssen’s espionage and capture.
Robert Hanssen arrogantly felt that the FBI didn’t appreciate him. The Soviets did. They paid him at least $500,000 in cash.
In @IntlSpyMuseum's collection & on display are the spoils from his life: Hanssen’s Rolex Watch, Walther PPK & the original Handcuffs from his arrest. pic.twitter.com/y8T98vlC6X
— The Spy Museum (@IntlSpyMuseum) June 6, 2023
Hanssen was arrested on 18 February 2001 after leaving a “dead drop” location at a suburban Virginia park.
The spy, Mr O’Neill tweeted on Tuesday, was “directly responsible for deaths of our sources in Russia.
“Hanssen certainly had blood on his hands. In 1984 and 1985 (what we call the ‘year of the spy’) Hanssen and Aldrich Ames are responsible for the loss of every asset we developed in Russia. We were blind.”
When asked by a Twitter user about the cause of Hanssen’s death, he answered: “Natural causes. He was 79 years old and Supermax is a horrible place.”