Robert Hanssen, FBI agent who spied for Russia, dead at 79

Robert Hanssen's espionage exploits were a striking throwback to the cold war at a time people thought that sort of thing was history–he had, of course, been at it for decades by the time authorities collared him. Jailed for life for handing secrets to the Soviet and then the Russian government, he was found dead yesterday in his prison cell at the federal prison in Florence, Colorado.

Hanssen appears to have died of natural causes, according to two sources briefed on the matter. Three years after he was hired by the FBI, Hanssen approached the Soviets and began spying in 1979 for the KGB and its successor, the SVR. He stopped a few years later after his wife confronted him. He resumed spying in 1985, selling thousands of classified documents that compromised human sources and counterintelligence techniques and investigations in exchange for more than $1.4 million in cash, diamonds and foreign bank deposits. Using the alias "Ramon Garcia," he passed information to the spy agencies using encrypted communications and dead drops, without ever meeting in-person with a Russian handler.