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We spy an injustice



Published: Tue, July 10, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



G-man-turned-spy Robert Hanssen got off easy.

Hanssen was the vilest of spies, operating not out of misplaced admiration for the Soviet system, as some atomic-era spies were, but out of simple greed.

Robert Hanssen sold out his government for money -- about $1.4 million. And in the process he has cost this nation untold millions of dollars -- certainly in the tens of millions, if not the hundreds of millions -- to plug the holes he opened in national security.

Hanssen gave first the Soviet Union and later Russia information about U.S. satellites, early warning systems, means of defense or retaliation against large-scale nuclear attack, communications intelligence and major elements of defense strategy, the government has said.

False contrition: Hanssen's lawyer, Plato Cacheris, said his client wants to make amends, and that he's "very troubled by what he's done." We don't believe that. We believe he's troubled by the fact that he got caught.

If he wanted to make amends, he would have simply confessed and told the government everything it needed to know about how he compromised national security, no strings attached. Instead, he made the best deal he possibly could, and considering the circumstances, we think it was too good a deal for the likes of Robert Hanssen.

We don't argue so much with the waiving of the death penalty, although we suspect that the families of the two Russian counterspies who were executed after Hanssen exposed them would disagree. If the government wanted to learn the extent of Hanssen's betrayal, it pretty much had to keep him around to talk.

The deal: We take umbrage at that part of the deal that protects the Hanssen family's suburban home and three cars from forfeiture and provides for a pension of almost $40,000 a year for Hanssen's wife. Why should the taxpayers have to foot the bill for the middle-age wife of a spy to live a comfortable middle class life?

From one end of this nation to the other, women find themselves alone through the death of a spouse or through divorce, and they are forced to cope with their loss in a variety of ways. The vast majority don't have a $40,000 pension to fall back on.

And why should Robert Hanssen get to spend the rest of his life in jail secure in the knowledge that while he betrayed his country, at least he provided for his family. He doesn't deserve such peace of mind.




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