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Why Spy Robert Hanssen Betrayed the U.S.

In SPY: The Inside Story of How the FBI's Robert Hanssen Betrayed America, author David Wise tells of his exclusive meetings with Dr. David Charney, the psychiatrist who evaluated Hanssen.

During his years of spying, Hanssen received $1.4 million from the Russians. Of the possible motives for betraying his country, Hanssen pointed to "financial pressure." According to Charney, Hanssen wanted money for one reason: to assure his wife that he was not a failure.

Dr. Charney commented:

Bonnie [Hanssen's wife] was the one person who brought life into his life.
She was the last person he would want to think he was a failure. He reached to prove to her he was a good provider and good husband. So that when she would express wishes for various things, he would always buy them for her.
He felt it was necessary to sustain his image in her eyes as successful.
That put him into a financial corner, because he agreed to take on various financial burdens, by buying a house out of his reach financially, in Scarsdale. It's not that it's wrong to say that he did it for the money; you have to go deeper and ask why he wanted the money. Why did Bob Hanssen get into a corner financially? Because he had to keep up his reputation with his wife. Because that was the one person in the world whose opinion mattered.

Ironically, Bonnie was not the sort to place burdensome financial demands on her husband. According to Charney, Hanssen did not blame her; he blamed himself.

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