Robert P. Hanssen, the Russian mole in FBI counterintelligence, reportedly told an Opus Dei priest in 1980 that he had begun his paid work for the KGB in Washington DC in 1979-1980. The KGB officer at the Soviet Embassy in Washington then in charge of vetting Americans who offered their services was Vitaly Yurchenko. As such, Yurchenko would have had to sign off on the cash payments to Hanssen (payments which the Opus Dei priest suggested should be donated to charity.)

Yurchenko also had two later liaisons with the Hanssen case. After Yurchenko returned to Moscow in 1981, he became deputy chief of the KGB department that had the responsibility for coordinating all KGB moles in the FBI, CIA, NSA and other United States intelligence services. He thus would be continually monitoring Hanssen's paid contributions to the work of the KGB. Then, on August 1, 1985, Yurchenko defected to the United States and offered to expose a high-level KGB mole called "Robert" in a US intelligence service. Robert Hanssen was part of the FBI counterintelligence team that was then guided by Yurchenko in its search for the elusive mole codenamed "Robert."

Did Yurchenko lead the FBI and CIA investigators towards or away from active KGB moles in place, including Robert P. Hanssen?


The temporary defection of Yurchenko from the KGB to the CIA on August 1, 1985 coincided with a US intelligence investigation into the trapping of a prize CIA mole in Moscow~ A.G. Tolkachev.

Tolkachev was an electronics experts employed by an elite Soviet think tank that researched problems of military aviation and space detection systems, putting him in a position to pass on to the CIA technical data on the state of the art of Soviet radar. American mole-hunters were searching for the source of that betrayal when Yurchenko arrived in Rome to meet with the CIA.

Yurchenko offered an answer: a KGB agent code-named "Robert." Yurchenko's "Robert" turned out to be Edward Lee Howard, an ex-CIA employee who had fired by the CIA in 1983 after, during a polygraph exam, he had admitted he had used illicit drugs. Howard, who had hardly been more than a trainee at the CIA, then called the Soviet Embassy and met with a KGB officer in Austria. (After Yurchenko's tip, Howard eluded FBI surveillance on his house and defected to Moscow).

The problem was that although Howard had been a Soviet source on other matterss, he had not been privy to information that would have identified Tolkachev in 1985.

. Howard was a red herring. So what Yurchenko accomplished by furnishing this information about "Robert" was to steer the CIA-FBI investigation away from the actual KGB moles in the counterintelligence units of both the CIA and FBI. By doing so, he helped divert attention away from Robert Hanssen.

(Yurchenko then re-defected to Moscow in November 1985.)


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