Monday, September 26, 2011

"The Wrong Man" Has Died

You probably remember the two most famous American spies in recent years, the CIA's Aldrich Ames (who was arrested in 1994) and the FBI's Robert Hansen (who was arrested in 2001).  Several books were written and movies made about the lengthy 'mole hunts' that ultimated led to their discovery and identification.

But what's considerably less celebrated is that these lengthy 'mole hunts' first came to focus incorrectly on a string of totally innocent suspects long before the real spies were finally found.  These poor souls found themselves in a horrible situation: unable to prove a negative ("I am not a spy") when the evidence against them may have been no more than mere suspicion and coincidence, and, because of the nature of their work, they were usually blackballed at the office for years at a time, if not outright suspended. To say nothing of the round-the-clock surveillance, and harsh interrogations.

One such "wrong man" has just died. CIA counterintelligence officer Brian Kelley was accused of being a spy in 1999 and was suspended from his job at the CIA for almost two years before Robert Hanssen was finally found in 2001, according to his obituary in The Washington Post HERE. In light of the fact that he was entirely innocent all along, I thought that the following was darkly humorous. "Attempting to lure Mr. Kelley into a trap, the FBI sent an undercover agent to his home in Vienna [Virginia] late one night. When Mr. Kelley opened the door... a man speaking in a thick Russian accent told him: 'I come from your friends, and we’re concerned. Meet us tomorrow night at the Vienna Metro. A person will approach you. We have a passport for you, and we’ll get you out of the country.'”

After Robert Hanssen was finally arrested in 2001, Kelley's suspension from work was lifted and he was reinstated by the CIA until he retired in 2007.  Imagine how awkward that first day back at work must have been for everyone involved.  ("We're terribly, terribly sorry... Won't happen again....")

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