Last week the U.S. F.B.I. announced the arrest of Robert
Philip Hanssen on charges of spying for the Soviet Union
(and later Russia) for over 15 years. Hanssen was a trusted
and high- level FBI counterintelligence agent with access to
almost every intelligence secret that the United States
government possesses. He used his trust and his access to
turn over tremendous amounts of very secret, high quality
information in exchange for money and diamonds.
Hanssen is not the typical picture of a master spy. Though
highly intelligent, he did not lead a flamboyant life. He
was a devout Christian and attended church regularly (the
same one attended by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
and FBI head Louis Freeh, though the latter said he had only
met Hanssen casually) and often went to church during the
week as well. He sent his six children to private religious
schools. Except possibly for the tuition at those schools,
he spent nothing that was not comfortably covered by his
$100,000 salary as an FBI special agent.
Mr. Major, his former supervisor, said that he believed that
Hanssen felt, ". . . that it was just a game. It's too
simple to say thrill, but I do believe that he was in for
the game, not the gain."
Rusty Capps, a retired counterintelligence agent who worked
with Mr. Hanssen at F.B.I. headquarters in the early 1990s,
agreed that Mr. Hanssen was a "brilliant guy" who may have
needed "the thrill -- this is a guy who needs stimulation,
who liked to walk on the razor's edge."
"I probably recruited 50 or 60 people over the years to
provide information to the United States, and the vast
majority of them did it because their lives weren't all that
exciting," Mr. Capps said. "Certainly money is always there,
revenge, disgruntlement, ego gratification. But it's also
It is fascinating and stunning to think that someone who
lived so simply and solidly would do something that could
cause such devastating damage to his family and himself
(Hanssen may get the death penalty because two Soviet double-
agents that he betrayed were executed as a result.)
Moreover, he was very anti-Communist because of the atheism
that is part of their system. Nonetheless, he offered his
services to the Soviet Union of his own accord.
There is a presumption in modern society that life should be
exciting. When people see that their lives do not have the
drama that they see in the media, they sometimes take
drastic steps to liven things up.
This is not the way of Torah and one place this is most
evident is in the story of Purim. The megillah is a
collection of fairly ordinary, apparently unrelated events
in the life of the Persian court. Yet we know that they all
reflect the definite guidance of Hashem in history.
Everything that we do, no matter how mundane, is under the
direct supervision and guidance of the Ribono Shel
Olom. When we do right or, chas vesholom, wrong,
it has consequences throughout the material and the
spiritual world. For true and positive excitement in life,
one should concentrate on davening with greater
kavonnoh or learning more and better or on being more
honest or on helping his fellows.
If we find a novel way to help someone in our family, that
should provide all the excitement that we need for that