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The BBC's Stephen Sackur
"There will be months of interrogation"
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John Line in Washington
"The FBI wants to get to the bottom of how much information he gave away"
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Friday, 6 July, 2001, 14:53 GMT 15:53 UK
FBI agent admits spying for Moscow
FBI agents confiscate letters at Hanssen's house
Hanssen's home was scoured for clues after his arrest
Former US Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Robert Hanssen has pleaded guilty to charges of spying for Russia.

How he did what he did is important for the government to know

Hanssen's lawyer Plato Cacheris
The move came after Hanssen made a deal with prosecutors, who dropped their attempt to seek the death penalty in exchange for an agreement that the 57-year-old would give a full account of his spying activities.

Hanssen, who was an FBI agent for 25 years, has been charged with selling secrets to Moscow for $1.4m in money and diamonds.

Wearing a green prison suit and looking tired and nervous, he admitted to 15 counts of espionage and one count of conspiracy to commit espionage.

A BBC correspondent reporting from the high-security courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia, says that when the judge asked him whether he was innocent of any of the charges, Hanssen replied: "No, I'm not."

Robert Philip Hanssen
Hanssen: Spied intermittently over a 20- year period
Hanssen's lawyer, Plato Cacheris, told the court that his client had spied intermittently from 1979 until his arrest earlier this year.

During that time, he said, Hanssen transmitted sensitive classified information to his Russian handlers.

US officials believe Mr Hanssen sold some of the nation's most closely guarded secrets to Moscow. They also hold him responsible for the deaths of at least two American double agents.

The plea agreement involves life imprisonment for Hanssen, but he has yet to be sentenced.

Mr Cacheris told the court the plea agreement was a victory both for his client, who would avoid execution, and for the government, which would be told in full by Hanssen of his spying activities for the Soviet Union and later for Russia.

Foxstone Park, Washington
Information drops were made in a park near Washington
Talking to reporters outside the courthouse, Mr Cacheris said Hanssen had information that the government wanted.

"How he did what he did is important for the government to know," he said. "They're going to learn things they did not know."

Correspondents say the deal averts further embarrassment for the US Government, which had been concerned that a trial would reveal the extent of damage done to national security and raise serious questions about the internal failings of the FBI.

Hanssen had originally pleaded not guilty and a trial had been set for October.

He was arrested in February after allegedly dropping off classified material at a park near his home in suburban Virginia to be picked up by his Russian handlers.

He was just a few years from retirement at the time of his arrest.

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See also:

05 Jul 01 | Americas
Bush names new FBI chief
21 Feb 01 | Americas
Profile: Unassuming double agent
22 Feb 01 | Americas
FBI scours 'spy' home for clues
20 Feb 01 | Americas
FBI man 'betrayed double agents'
21 Feb 01 | Americas
Insider knowledge
20 Feb 01 | Americas
Fifty years of spies
20 Feb 01 | Americas
Who's being spied on?
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