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FBI Espionage Case: Accused Agent is Arraigned in Federal CourtAired February 20, 2001 - 12:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We begin this hour with a developing story coming out of the nation's capital.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Our Jeanne Meserve joining us now with the latest on the alleged case of an espionage case inside the FBI -- Jeanne is in Washington.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Daryn and Leon.
A 27-year veteran of the FBI arrested on espionage charges: The allegation is that he spied for Russia and the Soviet Union since the mid-1980s. He was arrested Sunday after dropping some classified information, allegedly, at a park in northern Virginia for later pickup by the Russians.
He has a wife and six children. They have left his home. However, FBI agents are on the scene. They are combing the grounds there and looking inside. They are trying to find evidence to support the case they are making against Robert Philip Hanssen. Hanssen was arraigned this morning at federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.
Our Bob Franken was there and is there to fill us in on the details of the charges against Hanssen -- Bob.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Interestingly, Jeanne, the charges date back to the 1980s. The first one: that he passed national defense secrets to the Soviet Union on March 20, 1989 -- top- secret documents. The other charge: that on October 1, 1985, that he identified for the Soviets three KGB agents as double agents who were working for U.S. intelligence forces.
These were charges that were recited to him by the federal judge here in Alexandria, Virginia, Theresa Buchanan. This was a very, very a short procedure. All it is an effort to officially charge somebody. Now, he stood silent as these charges were being recited. The judge went onto say that he faces a possibility of life imprisonment. Or, under certain circumstances that were not identified, he could even face the death penalty.
And, also, there is a monetary fine involved: either $250,000 on each charge or double the amount that he allegedly was paid. The amount that was alleged that he was paid for this information: $1,400,000. Another interesting tidbit: His attorney is Plato Cacheris. You'll remember him from his days with Monica Lewinsky, as her attorney. You will also remember, perhaps, that he represented Aldrich Ames, who was a superspy, a CIA mole, who was convicted in 1994 and is serving a life sentence.
Cacheris just was appointed this morning. And he was really noncommittal when he talked to reporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PLATO CACHERIS, HANSSEN ATTY: It's very embryonic. I've been handling a lot of materials. I haven't read it yet. They always talk that they have got a great case. But we will see.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) ... preliminary feelings on what has happened? Can you characteristic them for us?
CACHERIS: The preliminary feelings on what...
QUESTION: His preliminary feelings.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) preliminary feelings on what has happened.
CACHERIS: Well, it's a serious matter. An FBI agent is charged with espionage. And we will have to see -- well, we will have to see what the quality of the case is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKEN: At Cacheris' request, the next proceeding will be a preliminary hearing on March 5, a little less than two weeks from now, at which point he will be asked to make a plea. And they'll come up with some sort of penalty. In the meantime, he is being held. Obviously, he is not going to be let lose from detention -- Jeanne.
MESERVE: Bob Franken in Alexandria, thank you.
Now we turn to Kelli Arena, who is over at the Justice Department. We expect a news conference there shortly, with several high-profile players -- Kelli, tell us more about that.
KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jeanne, here at the FBI, we are expecting to hear from FBI Director Louis Freeh, CIA Director George Tenet and the U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Former FBI and CIA Director William Webster will also be here. We are told that he will be put in charge of a blue-ribbon commission to review security issues. We should be hearing more about that panel at the press conference, and also possibly some more details about exactly when the FBI caught on to the fact that Mr. Hanssen was allegedly passing secrets to the Russians, and perhaps enlighten us on how extensive the damage is that he caused -- Jeanne.
MESERVE: Kelli Arena at the Justice Department.
Federal prosecutors also say they will make available at 2:00 Eastern Time the affidavits and some of the other documents which are supporting their case. We will bring it all to you.
I spoke a short time ago with Ronald Kessler, the author of several books on the FBI and the CIA. He called this the FBI's equivalent of the Aldrich Ames' case, a very big case indeed.
Now back to Atlanta -- Daryn.
KAGAN: Well, Jeanne, before we, I think that's a good differentiation that you can make, perhaps: that this is a man -- this suspect is a man who worked with the FBI. And usually when we hear about spy cases, aren't we usually talking about the CIA?
MESERVE: Indeed we often are. But this man worked in counterintelligence. He was one of the people at the FBI who kept an eye on the people that the Russians and the Soviets were using to spy on the United States. So, in his particular position at the FBI, he was well positioned to know a lot about the assets that were in place and how we kept tabs of -- how the U.S. kept tabs on Russian agents.
KAGAN: It will be interesting to hear more. Jeanne Meserve in Washington, thank you so much.
And as you heard Jeanne mention, we expect to hear more about this spy case in this news conference that is coming up at the FBI. That one is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. Eastern, 9:45 a.m. Pacific. You will see it live here on CNN when it happens.
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