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Transcript: David Charney talks with Michael Morell on "Intelligence Matters"

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INTELLIGENCE MATTERS - DAVID CHARNEY

CORRESPONDENT: MICHAEL MORELL

PRODUCER: OLIVIA GAZIS

MICHAEL MORELL:

David, welcome to the show. Thanks for being with us. I think our listeners are in for a fascinating and interesting discussion today.

DAVID CHARNEY:

Thank you.

MICHAEL MORELL:

David, I think the place to start is to ask how did you, a psychiatrist in private practice, get interested in the psychology of espionage? And how did you develop your expertise in that area?

DAVID CHARNEY:

Well, I think it starts in my service in the United States Air Force during the time of Vietnam, where was I was stationed for my second year at Andrew's Air Force Base and saw a number of people from a few intel agencies, like NSA. That put the bug in me of interest in the whole world of intelligence. When I got out I thought, "Wouldn't it be neat to see if I could become a consultant to a nearby intelligence agency?" Since I was moving to Northern Virginia, it would be CIA.

I asked for an application form. It was many inches thick. (LAUGH) It was intimidating and overwhelming, what with me starting a new practice and various other things. I said I just can't do this now. A number of years later, I made big decisions about expanding my practice. Started to hire other staff. Filled out all the offices that needed filling in my building, and then I get one more call. It was from a young social worker.

I just could not refuse her an interview because she mentioned that she was related to a dear friend of mine. I met with her. She was everything you would want a new employee to be, and I just figured I must make room at the table for her. Nine months later, I get a letter from CIA, "You are now qualified to receive referrals from our agency." And I said to myself, "What? What?" I didn't know that I was being looked over; didn't know I was in--

MICHAEL MORELL:

Is there some linkage--

DAVID CHARNEY:

--the pipeline.

MICHAEL MORELL:

--here between this young lady and--

DAVID CHARNEY:

Turns out her mother worked at the CIA and had been the person to stand up their first really potent employee assistance program and, on her own initiative, put me into the pipeline, got me cleared, and then I started seeing people from CIA from all the directorates, I would have to say, for a period of a whole decade or so.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yeah. Just to let people know, the employee assistance program is a program at CIA for people that might have an alcohol problem, or a drug problem, or mental health issues, et cetera.

DAVID CHARNEY:

Exactly. Well, that was what I called my immersion into the field of the intelligence world. Now, bear in mind that we were trained never to ask any questions about classified material. All the patients that I saw from there were also trained, "Don't reveal anything classified." Then really what you wind up learning about is the culture, the kinds of personalities, just the feel and the sense of things. That was a very deep immersion for me, and I found it fascinating.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Okay. How do we get from there to the study of espionage and why people spy?

DAVID CHARNEY:

Well, one of the people that worked for me very part time, a moonlighter is what we call it, was a government psychiatrist. Many of these kinds of psychiatrists get a little rusty in their essential skills of doing treatment and so forth because they're doing a lot of administrative psychiatry, adjudicative work and so forth. To keep their skills from going to full rust, they work at a place like mine. He worked for the State Department. But after a couple months at my place, he couldn't help but notice I was seeing a lot of people from CIA.

He finally said, "David, I have something to tell you." "Oh, what's that?" "I don't work for the State Department." "Oh?" "I work for the CIA." "Oh!" Well, that enlarged our ability to chat with each other about stuff. Two months after that, "David, I have something to tell you." "Oh, now what is that, Larry?" "I was playing squash with a lawyer friend of mine this weekend. He said, 'We would like you to consult on this fascinating case that came into our practice. And the FBI special agent who turns out to be a KGB spy.' Whoa," says Larry, "that is indeed very interesting, but hey, I work for the feds. That's a conflict. I think I know somebody who can help you." And that was me. That's how I got into it.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And this was Earl Pitts.

DAVID CHARNEY:

This was Earl Pitts.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Arrested in 1996 for spying for the Soviet Union and serving I think a 27 year sentence.

DAVID CHARNEY:

Not quite that long but close enough. And actually, he's due to be released in roughly a year from now.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Then you met with another as well.

DAVID CHARNEY:

Well, the next one that I met with was really the big one, the big fish, and that was Robert Hanssen, and that was a few years after that. People knew that I had some expertise in this because I had already learned a lot from my first case, and I did a lot of thinking about it, and started to develop my psychology of the insider spy.

MICHAEL MORELL:

This is Robert Hanssen, also a former FBI special agent.

DAVID CHARNEY:

Precisely.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Arrested in 2001.

DAVID CHARNEY:

Yes. I have to say that had these things happened in Washington, who can tell? They are accidents and surprises. It's a small world. It happens that I was shopping late one night at Sutton Place Gourmet and somebody shouts my name. It was already past 8:00. I was not really interested in any socializing. I was tapped out from the day, but she was all excited to see me. Why? Her son Peter had seen me on TV. "Oh my gosh." Yes, it's true. Why? In the media world when the Hanssen case popped up, they tapped on experts to just make comments on things.

I was one of those. Well, this woman says, "That's so exciting. Are you in on this case?" I tell her, "Well, Donny, actually I wrote a letter to the defense attorney and I haven't heard back yet. There's a chance that it'll happen, but who knows?" Well, she says, "What's his name?" It was Plato Cacheris, who's a very famous attorney in town. She starts jumping up and down and says, "Plato. Plato. Plato." I say, "Donny, what's the matter?" She says, "He's my next door neighbor. I'll write him a note. I'll put it in his mail slot tonight." And she does. Two days later, I'm having lunch with Plato. That kind of leads to me getting involved with the Robert Hanssen case.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Right. Then there was a third case as well, Brian Regan.

DAVID CHARNEY:

That's right. Air Force NRO.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Right.

DAVID CHARNEY:

I could tell another little anecdote, but let's just say that through accidents of-- who knows why they happened? Washington's a very small town. I got involved with that case as well.

MICHAEL MORELL:

You spent a lot of time with these gentlemen. Did they open up to you? How did that happen? One would think they might be defensive.

DAVID CHARNEY:

All true. I had these very thoughts when I was meeting with Nina Ginsberg, the attorney for Earl Pitts, when we were still trying to size each other up and figure out are we going to do this or not. I was hearing stuff that made me concerned as a psychiatrist about signs of depression, maybe even suicidal concerns. How do you handle that if you're just consulting to somebody inside prison, where he was already?

I was thinking, well, what would I do with somebody in my normal psychiatrist practice where I'm worried about them? The answer would be you have to give a person a sense of future, a sense of hope, of some way to justify existence going forward that makes life worth living. What do you do when someone's facing years and years of prison?

MICHAEL MORELL:

Or in Hanssen's case, life.

DAVID CHARNEY:

Yes. Well, the answer, just as a thought that wasn't proven, was proposing the idea that there would be some way for such a person to partially atone for the bad things that they did by opening themselves up to explain in more detail the motivations and psychology that led to them crossing the line. Because I knew already that the knowledge about that was actually rather thin in the intelligence community. This would be again golden opportunity.

All I could do is take a deep breath and say, "Would that make sense to you?" after I met with them maybe once or twice. In the case of Earl Pitts, the first spy that I met with, he-- and this is a quote-- said, "I'll be your guinea pig." He was very open and forthcoming about everything that was in his mind.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So David, through your interviews and through your study, you developed a theory on what leads people to spy. I want walk through that in some detail with you. But before we do that, I want to ask you if your work is applicable only to insiders in government who spy? Or does it also apply more broadly to insiders in government, like Edward Snowden, who leak massive amounts of information or even insiders in corporate America who, for some reason, might want to do damage to their company? Is this narrow? Or is it broader?

DAVID CHARNEY:

It's broader. It actually developed in my mind in a backwards way because my first instruction was to figure out the psychology of an insider spy. The more I delved into it and thought about it, it basically is a general psychology of man. What are we talking about? Male pride and ego and how we measure it within ourselves. Inside us, all men, is a need and wish to be successful in the major spheres of life. That would be in our careers--

MICHAEL MORELL:

So this is now the core psychology, right?

DAVID CHARNEY:

Yeah.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yeah. This is the core psychology of what you found.

DAVID CHARNEY:

Yeah. I found out about this by working with these spies. The more I thought about it am thinking back over my whole practice career, this is not limited to spies. It's not limited to people in government. It's not limited to people in the business world. It's a general psychology that you will see worldwide. I just happened to have sharpened the thinking about it, at least in my mind, by starting off with spies.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Gotcha. Before we get to that general psychology and how that leads to spy, let me ask another general question. We really don't know the extent, do we, of the problem of insider spying? We know the ones we catch, but we have no clue how many are out there that we didn't catch. Is that right?

DAVID CHARNEY:

I totally agree with that. I've made that point in my papers. The baseline prevalence of this problem is simply not known. You can make a case that the ones that we know about are the ones that didn't fully succeed at it. After all, there were caught. That means possibly that the very worst ones are still out there and we just don't know it.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Right. Right. Okay. Back to the core psychology. Why does that core psychology-- or how does that core psychology that you talk about lead somebody to spy? What's the narrative there?

DAVID CHARNEY:

The core psychology that I came up with was the following: An intolerable sense of personal failure as privately defined by that person. Now, what do I mean by that last part? It means that you can look at a man's life and say to yourself, "Okay. He didn't do that well. He had this problem, and that problem, and this deficiency, and that inability, but look, he also did some other things that were really okay. That was all right.

"Maybe not an A player, but a strong C or B-." Doesn't matter what you think is the point. What matters is what the man thinks about his own life and his own performance and success. That's very key. We're talking about an eternal negotiation that people go through on this point. Now, the next issue that's pertinent is the context of where a person is operating in their life as to how they handle all that. By no means am I saying this is the formula for spying. No. This is a formula for desperate actions and management strategies that people will do. For example--

MICHAEL MORELL:

Before they feel that way.

DAVID CHARNEY:

Yes. If you feel like you're a loser, that you're a failure, how do you handle it? Well, some people will drink too much. Some people will have affairs. Some people will quit their jobs. Some people will move. Name a thing that people will do. Now, the worst thing that we know about is that somebody if they happen to be working for the proverbial post office is that they got postal. We're talking about the context where people are embedded in their life as to what sort of solutions they come up with to deal with this awful internal feeling.

Sometimes there's a violent one, but sometimes there's personally self-destructive. It could be suicide. It could be depression. For the few that become spies, clearly they are embedded in the intelligence community, and that's where they can play out their internal trouble in the workplace setting because it offers them a chance to do it that way.

MICHAEL MORELL:

How does spying fill the void or solve their problem?

DAVID CHARNEY:

Well, there are many ways that spying can be their personal answer. For example: Does anybody work in any bureaucracy where they can't come up with 1,000 complaints, frictions, annoyances not being treated right? There's an endless supply of that feeling no matter where anybody works. But if you have a need to project outward and externalize your internal self-dissatisfaction, being at work and now locating this troubles from the outside is easier on you because, no, it's not you that's the failure, it's these other people that have failed me, not treated me right. I will get back at them and fix this.

MICHAEL MORELL:

You mentioned before and I want to come back to this-- that most spies are male.

DAVID CHARNEY:

Yes.

MICHAEL MORELL:

In fact, I think I saw in your paper that 95% of them are male.

DAVID CHARNEY:

Roughly 95%. Maybe a few percents less but not a whole lot less.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Why is that?

DAVID CHARNEY:

Again, I think we're talking about males are built to take action when they are under distress. Women are a little different. They will talk about things. They will internalize. They find it easier to talk about things to other women, but men keep it bottled up. When the pressure builds up inside, they are more activated to do something about it.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Are men more likely to feel that they've failed in their life than women? Or not?

DAVID CHARNEY:

That's a good question, and I'm not-- as much as I know about this from my practice, it's a hard thing to measure. What are the metrics of this? I don't even know. Let's just say that all us men-- I include me, certainly-- are very sensitive to how we're doing. How are we doing in life? We have a much more sensitive ego about these things than most people realize. Women are also measuring themselves, but they don't have quite the same flavor of it that men have. Therefore, they are somewhat less likely to be very activist about trying to solve it.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So David, you've also developed what you call the 10 life stages of an insider spy. We don't have time to walk through every one of them in detail, but can you give us a sense for why the existence of stages is important? Then maybe describe some of the most important stages for us.

DAVID CHARNEY:

I like to make a comparison to the difference between a still photograph and a movie. You look at a still photograph of something very interesting and you can read a lot of out just a single still photograph. But gee, don't leap to too many conclusions about it because it's just one tiny moment of life that you're looking at. Much more useful I think is to regard everybody's life as an unfolding movie where stuff happens along the way, good things, bad things.

The storyline builds up to create certain pressures and motivations that drive subsequent action. Screenwriters know how to play this very nicely. In the case of stages, I came up with that idea because it shows an evolution of things over time that we can better understand how can some diversity -- instead of looking at the one still photo of, oh, somebody got caught spying and we just leap to all kinds of conclusions about why that was. No. Think of it as a script that has unfolded and climaxed with that. Understand that it's much more subtle and nuanced than a simple photograph.

MICHAEL MORELL:

What are some of the key stages?

DAVID CHARNEY:

Well, the first stage I make a point about are the sensitizing stages when bad stuff happens to people growing up. I also make a point that as bad as those things are, if that was the reason that people chose to spy, we would be having to let go 85% of everybody who works for the police department, the Army, the intelligence community, all kinds of outfits that have people that have also gone through rough stuff growing up, but they didn't take the pathway of doing harm to our country.

No. Quite the opposite. They basically said, "I will not let this kind of bad thing happen to anybody else. In fact, I will protect people from that. I'm going to be a guardian. I'm going to be a protector." That's why people are drawn into these professions. It's not always a bad thing to be sensitized. It can be something that's motivated. The next stage has to do with when bad things to any person when it piles up way beyond their capacity scope. We're talking about a whole series of terrible things that we all have a capacity to absorb some onslaughts of bad luck and bad things being done to us.

But when the pile's too high, I like to call this a psychological perfect storm where everything happens over too short a period of time and is bad. That is what deranges people. That's what causes people to lose their sense of situational capability. They start to-- they're not operating with their full load of intelligence and rational judgment. That's what sets people up to start to consider reaching in a very extreme way for something to save them, just some dramatic, big, brilliant idea, an epiphany, that at one stroke will fix all of these problems.

For that small number of people in the intelligence community that are in that setting, it can be, "Oh, I know what will-- I'll show them. They think I'm stupid? I'm much smarter than they are. Gee, I'm a little tight with money. I'll get money." And so on and so on. Then all of a sudden everything makes sense to take that move of crossing the line.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Of course the intelligence officers who are recruiting these people are attuned to all of that.

DAVID CHARNEY:

Ah. They're trained into it. They are artists of being able to identity and target prospects that way. I think of them as the offensive team inside the intelligence community. Thinking if there's a football analogy. You have an offensive team and a defensive team. The offensive team is trained into a great appreciation of these considerations and how to make use of them.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Okay. Somebody has made this leap into spying. What happens next?

DAVID CHARNEY:

Well, once they have stepped over the line-- I want to make a comment that a lot is said about the art of recruiting somebody. In my opinion, a lot of the times these are self-recruitments. People have evolved in the ways that I've described and they have an internal readiness because-- think about this-- there are stories about certain people on our side working for the intelligence community that, unfortunately, decide to cross the line.

They can't get picked up by the KGB because the KGB isn't stupid. They're worried about a dangle, somebody who's pretending to be ready to be recruited. You have to go through a lot of vetting before you're picked up. There are stories about some of our people that throw over the wall documents-- or through the windshield of foreign agents because it's hard work to get picked up.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Right. Right.

DAVID CHARNEY:

But anyhow, once somebody is picked up, temporarily they are euphoric because, "Oh my God. I pulled it off. I did it. I really did it. Everything is getting solved now. Whoa. This guy. I had doubt about myself, but he thinks I'm brilliant. He's so complimentary about me. He's the first guy to truly appreciate how great I am. Plus, now it's fun because I'm learning all these new tradecraft things, and drop sites, and this and that." So it's like a euphoric honeymoon stage.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Now what happens?

DAVID CHARNEY:

Then, like everything in life, every crisis by definition peters out. It's the morning after where you wake up and you say to yourself, "Oh my God. What was I thinking?" That's this retrospective statement of the rationality filtering back into your mind and you're saying to yourself, "Gee, I don't know if I did the right thing after all." Now the most important thing is he comes to appreciate that he's completely stuck and trapped. Why is that? Well, what is he going to do?

Go to his KGB handler and say, "Gee, I made a terrible mistake. Could we pretend that this never happened?" A little bit like going to a mafia don to have you a favor and you come back and say, "Well, gee, can we pretend this didn't happen?" That will not occur. Plus, it's dangerous. So all right. That direction is shut down for you. What about doing the right thing? Well, what does that mean? Turning yourself into security and saying, "I made a terrible mistake. I didn't do very much, but I did cross the line a bit, and I really would like to tell you all about it and"--

MICHAEL MORELL:

And stop.

DAVID CHARNEY:

Yeah. Well, unfortunately, I call that sharks in the shark tank. What does that mean? Sharks can swim with each other fine, but if one of them gets nicked and starts to bleed, they'll all turn on him like prey and they'll cut him up alive. Does that happen to actual people in the intelligence community if they cross just a little bit and they turn themselves in? Sadly, yes. How do I know it? Because I've met those people, and they are the saddest people because they've messed up their careers, they are punished very severely for even the littlest bit of crossing over.

That gets out into what's called the corridor, not the official information that's out there but what people chat about. They tell little stories to each other. You learn, "Don't do that." Now you can't quit. You can't turn yourself in. What do you do? You figure, Oh, well, I made my bed. I'll just have to sleep in it. That is the situation of why people just stick with it, because they don't have alternatives.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Did all three of the folks that you spent time studying, Earl Pitts, Robert Hanssen, and Brian Regan, go through all of these stages?

DAVID CHARNEY:

No. No.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Or is the stages a generalization?

DAVID CHARNEY:

Generalization. I did that for more than one reason, one being to protect a certain amount of confidentiality about each of the stories and, secondly, I was aware of the Kubler-Ross stages of people anticipating dying from, let's say, cancer or whatever. It was never stated that people march lock step through each of these stages exactly as they were portrayed. These were generalizations that were pretty on target. People would go through one stage a little bit more than another person or a little bit out of sequence or whatever. Just to give a sense of organization to how things proceed, that's how I came up with the stages.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Okay, David, so let's switch gears again. I want to ask you how does the government try to deal with the problem of insider spies today? How do they try to do that? In your view, what's wrong with that approach? Then we'll get to your ideas on what we should be doing.

DAVID CHARNEY:

The U.S. government loves to take on high tech solutions to name a problem. It's in our DNA. We're Americans. We're so clever with that stuff. There are all kinds of concepts of using surveillance, watching keystrokes on machines, and having all kinds of fobs, and SCIFs, and name 1,000 high tech strategies. I'm not saying that these are wrong. These are absolutely essential to be done. There's a certain amount of limited thinking because the decision to spy by anybody starts off in the mind of a person every single time.

It's in the mind. That sensitivity to the psychology that I've described a little bit of in that stages, the way that it evolves, is not a strong suit in terms of how it's approached in the intelligence community. Now, one of the problems is that some of the ways to divert the worst things from happening would be if there were resources that were available that were safe for people to reach for. That's not so much happening anymore.

I think when the person that I told you about, June, who stood up the EAP at the CIA, she was very aware of the importance of keeping a stiff arm to some degree of her counseling resources from security and counterintelligence. She knew how to firewall it a bit. That got lost over time as things happen in the bureaucracy. Again, I'm going to talk about the corridor. If the corridor reputation is you go there and the next thing you know is you get a call from your friendly security officer, if you've got a small problem, you might say, "All right. I didn't do anything that bad. That will be okay."

A medium level problem where maybe your boss tells you, "Hey, I really need you to go to EAP." All right. That could work. There's some pressure involved. It could be better, but you'll do it. What I call Class C problems-- by that I mean really bad problems where somebody crossed over more than just a little bit and they really are in a terrible, problematic situation in their life-- they do not dare go--

MICHAEL MORELL:

Right.

DAVID CHARNEY:

--to EAP.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Right.

DAVID CHARNEY:

It's a death sentence for them.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Right. What should we do? Here, you have developed some ideas for both prevention and for stopping spying once it starts. That second one is quite controversial. I'll tell people right up front, and then we'll talk about that. 

MICHAEL MORELL:

Can you walk us through both your ideas on prevention and your idea on stopping the spying once it starts?

DAVID CHARNEY:

Yes. Even though it's backwards-- but that's the way it evolved my thinking-- was what to do with a problem of somebody who's crossed the line, as I mentioned before, is stuck and trapped. That's to the detriment of our national security because they continue to be productive in terms of giving our secrets to our adversaries. Well, I came up with the idea offramp exit solution for somebody who's stuck and trapped.

What that would mean is that there would have to be a deal that would be offered to somebody that would make sense to them, that represents safely getting out of this bad thing that they're doing. It would be a special, small government operation that would be designed to welcome back somebody who's crossed the line but not to give them a free ride at all. The one thing that makes--

MICHAEL MORELL:

Just to take advantage of that moment in the stages where they are questioning--

DAVID CHARNEY:

Yes.

MICHAEL MORELL:

--what they've done.

DAVID CHARNEY:

Right. Right. Just as a quickie sidebar, one of my stages is called dormancy. Well, what is that? Every one of the spies that I saw quite spying for sometimes a long time. The theory that these are evil, horrible people that just can't wait to harm us all the time is brought into question by the fact that, well, why did they stop then? Answer: Because they secretly are dying to stop. It's a wishful desire to end this horrific state that they are living in. They're always worrying about the other shoe dropping; a knock on the door.

So my theory about the solution is to say, Hey, let's recognize that, that there's a true wish to get out of it, and create a safe exit mechanism that serves everybody's purpose. Of course the controversial thing about my offramp for after somebody has crossed the line, as I say, you got to take one thing off the table: Jail. Why? Because I've seen what happens when that's still left on the table. Most spies will say if that's what I got to do and it's uncertain what will happen to me, I'll take my chances.

But all other punishments would have to be in place, such as you lose your job in the IC. You lose your clearance. You pay back the monies that you got that were badly acquired. You have lifetime financial scrutiny so that you can't tuck things away. You may even have to acquire a new identity because you might be worried about the KGB coming after you, like the witness protection program. A whole lot of bad things, except you don't go to jail.

MICHAEL MORELL:

We put people in jail for-- I don't know-- three reasons maybe: Deterrence, protecting society from people's further crimes, and punishment. How do you think of those three things in the context of, quote, 'letting somebody off the hook' from jailtime.

DAVID CHARNEY:

I had to think through what serves the highest purpose that I'm concerned about, that is to say national security. Sure, I would love to throw them in jail forever, but at the price tag of, say, risking the loss of a United States aircraft carrier with 5,000 people because certain codes are given away, you know, billions of dollars' worth of assets and 5,000 lives is more important than keeping one spy in jail 10 extra years. That's how I looked at it.

MICHAEL MORELL:

In one of your papers, you quoted Sun Tzu, a great Chinese philosopher who said, "Always give your enemy an exit."

DAVID CHARNEY:

Yes.

MICHAEL MORELL:

You also told a fascinating story about the FAA and alcoholic pilots who have something similar to this.

DAVID CHARNEY:

Yes.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Can you talk about that?

DAVID CHARNEY:

Yes. I was taught this by the chief physician of-- United Airlines, a dear friend of mine. I didn't know about this program, but apparently, it used to be that if a pilot was an alcoholic and the cabin crew knew it, they would not dare pull the whistle on him. Why? Because they were afraid that that would result in the loss of the pilot's job and all kinds of recriminations and all kinds of bad commentary. Maybe they're not fully right. It was just too risky for them on a personal level.

But that was a problem because it meant alcoholic pilots were flying around all over. They set up a new program. You can turn in the pilot, but be assured that that would not immediately lead to that pilot being fired. Rather, the pilot would be required to go through a pretty stringent alcoholism program with a lot of good follow up, and rehabilitated, and brought back to flying if he passed through all of that. As my friend Gary, the Chief Physician of United Airlines, said, "The way to look at it is this. When somebody says, 'You mean I might be flying in a plane with a recovering alcoholic?' And the answer would be, 'Oh. Would you prefer flying with an active alcoholic?' Take your pick."

MICHAEL MORELL:

What's the reaction been inside government to your ideas? Are you talking to the government about your work?

DAVID CHARNEY:

I've done a lot of speaking inside the government, outside the government, and here's what I've learned: People who are still inside the government are not so quick to express support from this idea because they have to adhere to the common wisdom that's inside the building right now. Once they got out of the government it's surprising how many people have expressed support to me because they don't fear that they're going to be saying that's simply unacceptable to the culture.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Interesting. I'm going to ask you one question about Robert Hassen and how you found him. You spent I think a year with him. He's possibly the spy that did more damage than any other spy in American history. What was he like? Did he want to talk? Did he show remorse? What kind of person was he?

DAVID CHARNEY:

He was a very complicated person. Let's use one term that is a very common thing as to how people's psychology is structured. He was a very compartmentalized person. What does that mean? He could be one sort of a person in one block of time, and then in another block of time very different, and then in the third block of time still different again. Now, is that weird? No. I do it all day in my practice.

During the time that I've with the first patient of my day, I'm in that compartment. All there. When that session is over, I've got to close that little door and open up a new compartment for my next patient. I do it to survive being a practicing psychiatrist. We all do that in some way. But some people do it a whole lot more than others. Robert Hanssen I believe did it more than anybody I've ever met.

Now, I got to know him quite well because all three spies in jail I met with them for roughly two hours a week for an entire year. It's not like a superficial experience of living with them in that setting. Robert Hanssen was very bright, very smart. But I also figured out that he was not quite as smart and bright as he tried to project. For example: he would talk about all kinds of arcane scientific subjects. He knew that most of the time people would not know what he was talking about.

It happens that I love various other subjects, such as physics, and he would start talking about arcane physics subjects, but he got some things wrong. Now, I didn't say that to him. But I said to myself, oh, he can lather it up in this way that most people would be intimidated and very impressed by, but he doesn't always get it right. That was another side of him. He just worked very hard at being impressive to people. He overshot his full capacity by a certain amount. You asked about remorse.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yeah.

DAVID CHARNEY:

Well, that was there too. Again, one of the compartments of his mind was he admitted in an ashamed way of how bad he felt about some of the stuff that he did. Then in another compartment he projected as an extremely devout Catholic devote to Opus Dei. He actually ordered me to read up on material from Opus Dei and to actually meet with the chief of Opus Dei here in Washington, D.C., which I did, trying to absorb the different sides of him.

There were have a devout Catholic who did all kinds of horrible things, and yet at the same time, he was brilliant in many ways but not so brilliant in other ways. There was no way to stitch together everything in a way that made complete sense because he was so compartmentalized.

MICHAEL MORELL:

David, this has been an absolutely fascinating discussion. Thank you for joining us. I want to let people know that they can find your work at www.noirusa.org. David, thanks again.

DAVID CHARNEY:

Thank you for inviting me.

MICHAEL MORELL:

You're welcome.

* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *

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