Interview With Dr. Alen Salerian

Robert Philip Hanssen, FBI agent accused of spying for Moscow for more than 15 years and giving the KGB the names of three Russian intelligence agents working for the United States in exchange for cash and diamonds. AP

The government is accusing former FBI agent Robert Hanssen of passing U.S. secrets to Moscow for 15 years in exchange for $1.4 million in cash and diamonds. The FBI said it obtained original Russian documents that detailed Hanssen's activities, including letters he allegedly wrote to his Russian handlers and secret codes used to signal when and where he would drop documents.

Fourteen of the charges against Hanssen are punishable by death.

The following is a transcript of an interview with Hanssen's psychiatrist, Dr. Alen Salerian, conducted by CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart:



Salerian: There are psychological problems that contributed to his activities, spy activities.

Stewart: Can you be more precise?

Salerian: I can say that there is a factor X and that's a psychological problem that he had and that that affected his behavior. He does not meet the regular profile of a spy, that he was somebody who was hurting, and he shared his pain with others.

Stewart: Hurting?

Salerian: Hurting, psychologically hurting. There were psychological problems, and they did affect his behavior.

Stewart: You can say there were problems, but you can't identify them in any other manner?

Salerian: That's correct.

Stewart: You're giving him an excuse.

Salerian: I'm really not giving him an excuse, I'm just saying my medical opinion that there are medical, psychiatric issues that he was confronted by, he was troubled by, and they did impact his behavior.

Stewart: What impact did this have on his family?

Salerian: They are all affected negatively, it's a source of tremendous pain.

Stewart: Are you saying that he did this not out of any greed factor for money?

Salerian: I know that money was not a factor.

Stewart: Do you know if he did it out of a desire to hurt the United States?

Salerian: Again, I can't comment on that, but the man I got to know is a decent human being and honorable, and I know he loves his country. They (the visits) took place in the prison. I visited him and I had privacy. I had privacy and we talked very openly, he talked very openly and I thought he was absolutely very candid with me.

Stewart: If this were a private patient of yours, not in prison, would you say that he needs additional care and treatment in a psychiatric facility?

Salerian: I think again it will be a violation, I will be crossing the line about what kind of treatment he needs, inpatient or outpatient, but no doubt that he's somebody who's hurting. The bureau, that's the FBI, did not have a system to identify people, agents and spies, and other people with psychiatric problems that we were often very reactive, rather than taking measures preventively.

Stewart: Do you think the FBI let Hanssen down?

Salerian: I'm convinced that that's the case. With Bo Hanssen and with other people like him there are always missed opportunities and there were missed opportunities with Bob Hanssen to help him. He was hurting and he was sharing his pain with others, and that was one of the missed opportunities that his clergy and the FBI both missed.

Stewart: You sound like you're giving this man a cop-out, that you're creating for him an excuse to do what he did.

Salerian: It's really not a cop-out. In a civilized society we have to be able to look at the bigger picture as to where problems come and where they end, and why people act in a certain way. There are reasons and if we can take preventive measures to help people, I think that's what's expected from a civilized society. Deep in my heart I know that I am being a good physician (by speaking out) and I have the best interests of my patient and his family.

Stewart: The patient's attorney says that you signed an agreement to never discuss anything that came out of these conversations.

Salerian: Absolutely true, but there are gray areas in medicine and in psychiatry as well. One of them is what's in the best interest of the patient and particularly in a situation where there is life and death involved. If I see any of my patients in trouble, committing suicide or getting ready to kill somebody I'm not going to say confidentiality stops me I'm going to say, 'Please help," do something about it. With Bob Hanssen, as his doctor, I faced a situation similar to it. I faced a situation where there was life and death involved and I had to make a call as a physician to say what I think was right. There were psychological problems and they did impact his behavior and that these psychological problems were critical in making any judgements about Bob Hanssen. The FBI and the Church and the medical system let him down because this is one person who spoke with different people, with his clergy and with his doctors and had annual check ups and he was hurting and his psychiatric illness, his pain, was not diagnosed and he was not given proper counsel.


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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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