Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

The Bureau and the Mole

The Unmasking of Robert Philip Hanssen, the Most Dangerous Double Agent in FBI History

by David Vise

“A first-rate spy story.” –Entertainment Weekly

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 304
  • Publication Date October 01, 2002
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-3951-1
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $17.00

About The Book

The Bureau and the Mole is the sensational New York Times bestseller that tells the inside story of FBI counterintelligence agent Robert Philip Hanssen, a seemingly all-American boy who became the perfect traitor, jeopardizing America’s national security for over fifteen years by selling top-secret information to the Russians. Drawing from a wide variety of sources, Pulitzer Prize­winning author David A. Vise shows how Hanssen betrayed the country’s most closely guarded secrets in a devious game of deceit–simply because he could. Vise also interweaves the story of FBI director Louis B. Freeh, who led the government’s desperate search for the betrayer among its own ranks, from the false leads, to the near misses, to its ultimate, shocking conclusion.

Compelling and provocative, The Bureau and the Mole is a harrowing tale of how one man’s treachery rocked a fraternity built on Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity–and how the dedicated perseverance of another brought him to justice.

Tags Espionage


“Absorbing . . . Fascinating.” –The New York Times

“Intelligent and well researched.” –The Washington Post Book World

“A first-rate spy story.” –Entertainment Weekly

“Brisk, well-documented. . . a penetrating study of the villain and a gripping summary of the appalling evidence against him.” –Charles McCarry, The Wall Street Journal

“A carefully researched and compelling account, with a startling bombshell.” –David W. Marston, The Baltimore Sun

“Excellent . . . Using the stunning reporting skills that won him a Pulitzer in his day job with the Washington Post, Vise provides an eminently readable account of what Hanssen was up to and how, after years of suspicion, his FBI masters finally cornered him. . . . The Bureau and the Mole is a book everyone ought to read.” –Morning Star-Telegram

“Comprehensive. . . . [Vise] has collected an impressive amount of information, which he relates in an admirably straightforward fashion.

” –Linda Rothstein, Bulletin of the Atomic Sciences

“A chilling portrait of a man who betrayed his country simply to see if he could. . . Vise’s research and reporting are first-rate and his sources are excellent.” –Publishers Weekly

“David A. Vise untangles Hanssen’s web of deceit to tell the story of how he avoided detection for decades while becoming the most dangerous double agent in FBI history.” –MSNBC.com

“The story comes straight out of a Cold War spy novel . . . [a] dramatic account.” –Brad Hooper, Booklist


A New York Times Best Seller


Ever since his childhood days in the Norwood Park neighborhood of Chicago, Bob Hanssen had been something of a loner. His mother, Vivian, noticed that whenever something upset him, Bob would head for the safety of his room in their modest, two-bedroom bungalow on Neva Street and immerse himself in books. Bob–an only child born just before the end of World War II–seemed too quiet for a healthy growing boy, and Vivian didn’t understand why her son acted the way he did.
At the time, however, Vivian wasn’t preoccupied by Bob’s taciturn demeanor. He was a dutiful son, his teachers at Norwood Park Elementary said he was a good student, he participated in Cub Scouts at the Lutheran church, and he didn’t get into the kind of mischief that led many other boys in the leafy neighborhood astray. Bob walked home daily during the noon break at school. ‘my son appreciated coming home from school for lunch and having me there. He has told me that time and time again,” Vivian recalled.

While the pair enjoyed a loving mother-son relationship, Vivian would have been happier if Bob had not turned inward so much. “He was a loner as a kid. He had friends, but when he was home he would be in his room reading or out watching TV with us. But there were never too many deep conversations.”
One of Bob’s favorite books was The Codebreakers by David Kahn, a thick volume about secret codes and intercepts that fueled his boyhood fascination with the technical aspects of intercepting confidential communications. “If you write the word CLANDESTINE on a piece of paper and think of everything you can imagine, there it is. From bugs to eavesdropping to spying to lock picking to false identities to code breaking to secret messages. Pick up a book on spies, and run through the list, and he had some interest in it,” a friend of Bob Hanssen’s said.
Vivian met Howard Hanssen in 1929, the year of the stock market crash on Wall Street when both of them were working in retail, trying to help their families scrape by during tough times. The two native Chicagoans got to know each other downtown at the city’s best-known department store, Marshall Field’s, after initially meeting at a much smaller shop that went under.
“Howard and I went together for a long time before getting married,” Vivian explained. “I was left with my mom, he was left with his mom, and we were the sole support. ” My mother’s husband had died, and she was alone. Earning fifteen dollars a week, or from twelve to twenty dollars a week, doesn’t stretch that far.”
In 1935 Vivian and Howard wed in a modest ceremony that took place in the pastor’s house beside the Lutheran church Howard attended, rather than in the church itself. “We had a small party afterward that my sister arranged at her home, in keeping with the times. It was a desperate time for a lot of people.”
The couple began their married life in an apartment on the south side of Chicago. Howard was not content sitting behind a desk and considered becoming a cop, a job he believed would be exciting. “It was hard to get on the police force in those days,” Vivian said. Decisions about who would get every city job, from trash collector to police officer to health worker, were imbued with the politics and patronage of the municipal machine. But the family had the right political connections for Howard to be hired as a police officer. “He took an exam and passed it and didn’t need anything else,” Vivian said.
In the early 1940s, with World War II raging, Howard enlisted in the Navy rather than taking the risk of being drafted into the Army and dispatched on a dangerous assignment. “I have friends whose husbands were in that D-Day massacre,” Vivian said. “Howard thought the Navy was a little easier than the Army might have been. I imagine he would have gone overseas if he had been in the Army.” Instead, Howard stayed far from the battle front, working in the United States as a shore patrolman searching for Americans who had gone AWOL. Eventually, he ended up with a Navy assignment in the Chicago area, permitting him to spend weekends with his bride, who soon became pregnant.
‘my son was born in April 1944 and that was a good thing,” Vivian said.
The Hanssens became a family of three, eligible for some additional benefits from the federal government because of Howard’s service in the Navy. “There were allowances for families and we had a little more money,” Vivian said. “Things did get better.” Vivian devoted herself to keeping house and caring for their infant son.
After the war, Howard returned to his job on the Chicago police force, and the couple moved to the northwest part of the city. With the help of the G.I. Bill, they bought a modest home on an L-shaped lot in Norwood Park, a popular neighborhood for police officers and their families. They picked the house, built at an angle to Neva Street, largely because the public schools in the area had a good reputation.
Bob was exposed to religion as a youngster, attending a Lutheran church on Sunday mornings with his mother, who felt it was an important part of raising her son. “The Lutheran church fit in because I think every child should have that kind of upbringing at the beginning of life,” Vivian said. “Every child should have religion and know the Bible and get a good start in that respect. I would go and Bob would go to church, but my husband not as often. He was working or whatever.”
On the Chicago police force, Howard Hanssen tackled a variety of assignments, including working for a special unit that hunted down suspected communist sympathizers. Some of his assignments stirred up ill will, but he told himself that was just part of the job. After many years on the force, the truth was he didn’t particularly enjoy the work the way he once did, but it paid the bills. And that was one notch up the ladder from his younger brother, Edward, who could not seem to hold a steady job for long. Howard was street-smart to be sure, but his choices for career alternatives were limited severely by his lack of a formal education. So Howard remained a Chicago cop, even after his promotion to lieutenant left him in the type of job he loathed, behind a desk.
But Howard Hanssen did have an abiding passion in life, something that lifted his spirits and kept him going through the day-today monotony. He loved to go to the track and bet on the horses. The pastime became the focal point of the couple’s social life, and Vivian enjoyed going with him. “That is where we spent all of our spare time, watching the races,” Vivian recalled. “Howard had friends who owned horses. That made it interesting. It makes a difference when you know the horses and jockeys.”
Vivian emphasized that Howard’s affinity for the horses did not mean he was an addicted gambler or an irresponsible bettor. Instead, she described it as an outlet for his energy and a place where he felt comfortable, whatever the town. “We took a vacation once,” Vivian said, “and I didn’t realize we were hitting every race track in Canada and the East Coast. I didn’t realize it until after the third race track. He had planned it out that way. It gives you something to do in strange towns.”
Howard Hanssen also had an agenda for his son that Vivian failed to recognize from its inception. Howard spoke of a better life for Bob. He wanted him to go to college, get an advanced degree, and become a doctor. But in the course of raising his son with an extremely firm hand, he succeeded in destroying Bob’s confidence. Instead of praising his schoolwork and encouraging him to succeed, Howard Hanssen’s approach was to criticize and berate his son repeatedly. It wasn’t tough love; it was tough luck. And, according to Vivian Hanssen, her son came to feel emotionally abused by his father.’sometimes people make themselves feel better by not allowing someone else to feel too good,” she said. ‘maybe Howard had been treated that way. Maybe I just looked at things as the way I hoped they were. ” I think [Howard] had the idea that if he complimented someone too much, they might get bigger than they should.”
Bob was both physically and emotionally abused by his father, according to family members and others.
On at least two occasions, Howard Hanssen physically abused his son while exhorting him to “be a man.” When Bob was six or seven years old, his father wrapped him in blankets and twirled him around and around until he became so dizzy that he vomited. Another time, Howard grabbed one of Bob’s legs by the ankle, forcefully pulling it into the air and stretching his son’s hamstring until he urinated on himself involuntarily. The torture left Bob feeling helpless and humiliated.
“The person you are supposed to trust and identify with is doing everything from hurting to humiliating you, and it is confusing. It creates the beginning of negative feelings about individuals who are supposed to be your protector and authority figures,” said Dr. Stephen Hersh, a longtime Washington psychiatrist who has treated FBI agents and many senior federal officials. “He is swung until he gets sick and vomits. Vomiting is a loss of control of your body in the context of extreme distress and fear. This is a child who had repeated experiences that totally destroyed his capacity to identify in a healthy way with male authority figures.”
When Bob became old enough, his father took him to get his driver’s license. Bob was ready for the road test and excited about the freedom and independence driving would bring. But his father had other ideas. He bribed the official administering the test to fail his son. Bob was aware of what his father did, and it left him feeling that the world was crooked and set up to deny him any sense of control over his own destiny. “I didn’t approve of it,” Vivian Hanssen said. “[Howard] thought Bob was too cocky and thought he believed he was too good a driver.”

Although they could do little or nothing about it, some of the parents of students in Hanssen’s grade school were mortified by the way Howard publicly belittled his son to anyone who would listen. ‘my mom would apparently run into Mr. Hanssen in the grocery store shopping,” one classmate recalled. “Howard Hanssen used to say terrible things about Bob.”
The problems were exacerbated, Vivian Hanssen said, because her son never raised objections with her about the way he was treated. And so the pattern of abuse, of being rebuked and put down again and again, continued throughout his childhood. Bob suffered enormously, but quietly. “He wouldn’t come out and say anything to his dad about it, and would harbor that inside, and it gnaws at you,” she said. “That was the kind of thing Howard did that I didn’t notice enough of. I thought that they were far enough apart and isolated incidents. I didn’t know they were so important to [Bob]. He must have brooded on them.”
Vivian caught a glimpse of Bob’s resentment of his father one day, when Howard received the results of an exam he had taken. “Howard took a test for something, and he was not a real educated man,” Vivian said. “His grade was not too hot and Bob, when he saw that, he laughed and said, “Look at that,” as if he had been told to get good grades and Howard hadn’t done so well himself.”
While growing up, Bob did find some joy at home. Vivian remembers holidays as special times around the Hanssen household, especially Christmas, when her relatives from Indiana often visited. A neighbor regularly dressed up as Santa Claus when Bob was young and the house would be alive with festive decorations. After his paternal grandparents moved in, Bob also found some companionship with them. Having divorced years earlier, his grandparents stayed in separate makeshift bedrooms. The attic was converted into a bedroom for Bob’s grandmother; his grandfather, at times, stayed in the basement. Bob spent time with his grandfather, an engineer, playing with a train set and learning how to put things together and take them apart. He also enjoyed using a ham radio with his father and grandfather.

Bob’s serious and melancholy nature can be seen in his 1962 yearbook from Chicago’s Taft High School. Most of the graduating class members had glib or light remarks beside their photographs. Beside Robert Albert Heroux: “If I ever became rich with too much green, I would pledge to build a monument for the late James Dean.” Beside Carolyn Marie Hinds: “Of all 57 varieties, this “Hinds’ is the best.” Beside Anthony Gutilla: “Leader of men, follower of women.” Beside Robert Philip Hanssen: ‘science is the light of life.”
The few high school classmates who remember Hanssen recall an extraordinarily quiet boy, awkward in his interpersonal skills, unusually bright in science, and talented in the nuts and bolts of how things work. ‘my chemistry teacher looked out at him and said, “There is old slipstick Hanssen,” and Bob was using a slide rule,” a classmate recalled. “He was always on the cutting edge. In those days, slide rules were cutting edge technology. He seemed to automatically grasp things like that, the guy who sees relationships very quickly and clearly in a scientific way. I’m not so sure he has it down sociologically.”
Others had recollections of Hanssen participating in the ham radio club, talking to operators from around the world even as he remained quiet amid his fellow students. Tom Kozel, a fellow member of the club, said Hanssen enjoyed the four-member group immensely. Yet there is no photo for the ham radio club in the school yearbook–Hanssen’s photo appears only in his official graduating class portrait. “We were kind of considered geeky, the ham radio guys,” Kozel said. “That’s probably how our friendship started. That was a common interest and then it branched out into other areas, an interest in cars, girls, careers.”
Hanssen, who was not athletic himself, attended many of Taft High School’s football games but usually didn’t socialize with the kids who were playing sports, either at school or informally, and did not date much. That placed him on the periphery of life at Taft, which had school spirit and a championship football team that included a fullback, Jim Grabowski, who went on to play for the Green Bay Packers.
“WHAT IS TAFT?” Bob Hanssen’s high school yearbook asks–”bewildered Freshies? a desperate game? carefree Seniors? college hopes? a rough Chem test? career dreams? safe drivers? 7:30 chorus practice? tears at graduation? Taft is all of these, but, most of all, Taft is friends, the ones you share yourself with.”
Hanssen didn’t share himself with many of his Taft classmates. Kozel’s clearest recollection of Hanssen concerns the way he just went about his business and did things, without boasting. “I remember him as someone who did not brag about things; he just did them,” Kozel emphasized. “He did things and showed up with the evidence afterward. And I kind of admired him, because I was not that way and most people were not that way.”
Various classmates’ memories of Hanssen are mixed, mostly due to his quiet, inward nature. “People would say he is weird,” one classmate recalled. “That is just the way he is. I remember a girl I was dating thought Bob was really strange.”
Kozel disputed that assessment, saying Hanssen was ‘reticent” and awkward around people he didn’t know, leaving a false impression that he was that way all the time. He said that Hanssen loosened up around friends. Kozel also remembered Hanssen as the ‘most conservative” member of their clique. And he blamed Bob’s parents for being overprotective when they refused to allow him to join Kozel and two other friends on a backpacking trip to Rocky Mountain National Park after high school graduation.
If she could turn back the clock, if she had another chance to raise her son, Vivian Hanssen would do some major things differently. She would take a firmer stance against her husband’s heavy-handed treatment. She would take steps to encourage Bob to get more involved with people and spend less time locked away in his room. She would encourage Bob to speak up for himself, rather than letting problems fester. And she would pay more attention to what was taking place all around her as her son struggled to develop his own personality and identity.
As she reflects on it, Vivian Hanssen wishes she would have done more to protect her son from his father. “I had a good relationship with Howard and could have told him to cut out whatever he was doing. I think he would have paid attention.”
There was another side to Bob Hanssen’s personality, a side that scared his friends and was concealed from his parents. It would manifest itself in an instant, leaving Hanssen feeling exhilarated and in control. His friends weren’t sure where it came from or what caused it, given his normally quiet and straitlaced approach. Sometimes it was fun, but other times it could rattle them so much that they feared for their own lives. From his friends’ vantage point, the hardest part involved its unpredictable nature. “When he got a crazy idea in his head, he was going to do it,” one high school friend said. There was no talking him out of it. And Hanssen’s friends never knew how, when, or where this other side of Bob would take charge.
On the surface, Hanssen’s penchant for taking enormous risks belied everything that surrounded the rest of his personality and demeanor. He never exhibited a need to be the center of attention–to the contrary, he generally seemed at ease with life on the fringe of the social milieu. As he moved through his high school years, he appeared content reading books, especially anything dealing with secret codes, clandestine modes of operation, or deception. Often, he enjoyed getting together with his friend Jack Hoschouer, whom he met during freshman biology class. The two would sit for hours in a room, silently reading and only occasionally exchanging ideas. Together, they delved further into science, teaming up as chemistry lab partners during their sophomore year of high school. But mostly they enjoyed being in each other’s company and entering the world of images, ideas, and fantasy that reading provided. In that world, Hanssen felt inferior to no one.

Yet one day Jack Hoschouer also saw the other side of Bob Hanssen. The two were firing Hoschouer’s father’s rifles at point-blank range into a bullet trap in the basement. Suddenly, Bob took one of the guns, went about a dozen feet away from the trap, and took aim. “I can shoot that!” he shouted. Before anyone could stop him, Hanssen fired the rifle, hitting the wall two feet above the target and sending shards of concrete flying into the air.
After Hanssen studied the physics of Grand Prix auto racing in high school, he would climb into his 1962 Dodge Dart and test its limits by trying to find out the maximum speed his car could reach when turning a corner. “We would challenge guys to races,” said a high school friend. “Not drag races. We would find twisty, turny streets and challenge someone to follow us through them. We were screaming through a residential street and went around the corner with two guys following us in a Buick. They ended up in the middle of some guy’s front yard.” Bob did not stop to ask his friends if they minded taking wild rides whenever his daredevil streak overcame him. Instead, he would get the impulse to act and just take off. “It scared the crap out of me a couple of times,” one said.
Hanssen’s tendency to push things to the edge didn’t reveal itself much at Knox College, a small liberal arts school in Illinois. Bob respected his father’s job and thought he wanted to pursue a career in law enforcement. Police work had an unpredictable element that kept things interesting and fresh. “I think Bob was proud of Howard’s job,” Vivian Hanssen said. “He liked having a policeman for a father.” But his father pushed Bob to take premed courses, along with math and Russian. After a while, Hanssen’s resentment began to build to the point where he did not want his parents, especially his father, to visit him at college. Bob feared the kinds of things his father would say to his professors and friends. Living on his own, Hanssen was feeling somewhat better about himself, dating a bit and relishing the freedom he had out from under his father’s day-to-day control.
Hanssen’s fears were confirmed when his parents came to see him at Knox. His father sought out Bob’s professors and undercut him.

His mother Vivian said: “I’m afraid Howard wasn’t the best one to come to college and visit. You are on your own, and if a professor likes you, that is great. But if somebody belittles you just a bit, that is going to hurt. Howard would say, “He has good grades, but next time, he won’t be so hot.” He had the idea that Bob would work real hard and then slide.” The more accurate description of Bob’s work habits was that he was naturally bright but didn’t focus much on subjects or courses that didn’t interest him. ‘some things he didn’t care about, he didn’t worry about,” one former college classmate said.
Despite the anger he felt toward his father, Bob stayed on the premed track at Knox and worked during his summer break from college as a recreational therapist at a state mental hospital in Chicago. Bob found the job intriguing; the work involved interacting with mental patients and trying to get them outside for games and activities on the grounds, including volleyball and badminton. “[In addition to] the student nurses, he enjoyed dealing with the people and trying to figure out what made them tick and understand them,” a coworker said.
One of the student nurses Bob met in the summer of 1965 was an attractive, vivacious woman named Bonnie Wauck, who admired the way he carried himself and made the patients feel comfortable. ‘she was very much impressed at how effective he was with the patients,” recalled her father, Leroy Wauck. “He was very effective, very nice and kind and considerate.” Bob’s relationship with Bonnie played a pivotal role in the decisions he made in the years immediately after they met. Their courtship proceeded slowly, with exchanges of letters and holiday visits in Chicago. Bob was attracted to Bonnie’s friendly, outgoing manner, and with her light brown hair and big brown eyes, Bonnie reminded him of the actress Natalie Wood. The second oldest of eight children, she had grown up in a large family, often caring for her younger siblings in their 1920s four-bedroom, Dutch Colonial house on Vine Street in Park Ridge, one of Chicago’s northern suburbs. The daughter of a psychology professor at Loyola University and a deeply religious homemaker, Bonnie had had a happy childhood, which included summers living on a private lake with her family where they enjoyed canoeing, sailing, bike riding, gardening, and just spending time together. “Bonnie was perfectly normal,” said her mother, Fran Wauck. Bonnie attended a Catholic high school in Evanston, Illinois, and then went on to college tuition free at Loyola, majoring in sociology at the Catholic university. After returning to Knox College, Bob thought about Bonnie often.
Bob encountered difficulty with medical-school admissions, so he applied to dental school instead. He didn’t want to be a dentist any more than he wanted to be a doctor. But his father was still pushing him to go into medicine. Bob applied, and was accepted, to Northwestern University’s dental school. He studied there from 1966 to 1968, even though it became clear to him early on that dentistry was not what he wanted to do with his life. His first-year roommate, Jerald Takesono, said that while everyone else dressed casually, Hanssen wore a coat and tie daily, even to human anatomy lab. “I was really glad to get rid of my anatomy outfits because they smelled. And I joked with Bob, “Now you can get rid of your suits too.”” Hanssen kept his negative feelings about dental school largely to himself, declining to tell family members and friends how much he hated it. Along the way, he kept himself amused as a devoted reader of Mad magazine, which Takesono said “we all loved because it flouted authority.”
On August 10, 1968, during the same summer that violence and rioting disrupted the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Bob married Bonnie Wauck. The Catholic wedding ceremony was performed by Bonnie’s uncle, Monsignor Robert Hagarty, Vice Chancellor of the Archdiocese. Tom Kozel, who attended the wedding and reception, recalled the entire celebration as joyous and first-rate in every way. There were guests of all ages, a range of music for all tastes, and an abundance of food, drinks, and happy people. “It was a great reception,” Kozel said. “Everyone that I saw seemed like they were having a great time. I’ve been to few that have equaled it. There was a huge wedding cake.”

Bonnie married Bob even though Howard Hanssen told her it was a bad idea. “Why are you marrying this guy?” Howard Hanssen asked her before the wedding. Within a few weeks, Bob dropped out of dental school. Though he had completed much of the course work necessary to become a dentist before the wedding, his marriage to Bonnie gave him a fresh perspective, as well as the strength to make a break from the medical path his father had chosen for him. “He didn’t like dentistry, didn’t like working on people’s mouths,” Vivian said.
Howard Hanssen was furious. How could Bob have allowed the family to spend all that money on dental school and then quit? How could he throw away all those years of study that had prepared him to become a medical professional? After all that he had done as a father, this seemed to Howard Hanssen the ultimate betrayal, and it left him extraordinarily disappointed in Bob. After years of struggling on the salary of a Chicago police officer and the sacrifices that went along with it, Howard Hanssen angrily expressed his remorse to family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers.
Friends of Bob Hanssen remember the trouble he had making his own decision, given the pressure he was under from his father. At the same time, Bob seemed elated over his marriage to Bonnie. “Bob seemed happy, getting married to a beautiful girl and a smart girl,” one friend recalled. Meanwhile, Bonnie was enraptured with her man, whose knowledge and understanding of the world seemed to her to be limitless. During dinner, Bob typically wouldn’t say much, focusing on his food rather than conversation and continuing a habit he had picked up from his family of tilting his glass to indicate he wanted more to drink. Bonnie quickly grew exasperated with this practice, telling her husband, “You’re going to have to speak up around here.” But once the plates were cleared, Bob would break his silence, opening up a world of ideas and sophisticated thought for family and friends, and Bonnie would sit and listen, hanging on every word.
Even though the young couple’s parents lived in Chicago, the two families didn’t mesh well. “There was not much interaction,” one friend said. ‘different interests, different levels of education, perhaps. I would say different fundamental interests. A philosopher [psychologist] in one house and a policeman in another. They wouldn’t mix and meet on that kind of level.”
There were other, darker problems as well. Within days of their marriage, Bonnie received a nasty jolt that destroyed her postwedding bliss. The telephone rang, and Bonnie answered; the voice on the other end of the line sounded familiar. It was an old girlfriend of Bob’s he had met while working at the state mental hospital. She bluntly told Bonnie that she and Bob had just made love and that she was the one he really had wanted to marry. The woman staked her claim on Bonnie’s new husband, saying that Bob was her man and urging Bonnie to back off. Bonnie hung up the phone and burst into tears. This was a bride’s worst nightmare–but to Bonnie, the wedding vows they had made were sacred and immutable. Her faith in Bob, at least momentarily, had been shaken, but her conviction about the holiness of their marriage remained intact. If Bob had committed adultery, he would have to face up to it and seek forgiveness, or he would compound the problem further by lying.
Bonnie confronted Bob about the disturbing phone call later that day. She told him she wanted to know the truth and had to know the facts, no matter how painful. Bob, stunned by the brash nature of the surprise phone call Bonnie described, admitted his sin and begged Bonnie for forgiveness. He said he wasn’t worthy of her love. He also promised repeatedly that nothing like that would ever happen again. He was not in love with the other woman, and he said there was no truth to the notion that he had really wanted to marry her. Bob had been preyed upon and had given in to temptation. He couldn’t explain it any other way. Maybe, he said, the woman wanted to marry him, but those feelings were not reciprocal and he would sever all ties to her.
Over and over, Bob told Bonnie that he loved her. Again and again he said he felt ashamed and did not deserve to have such a wonderful wife. Bonnie, a woman of extraordinary religious conviction, reassured him of her love, and they agreed to keep his indiscretion a secret, a pattern that would repeat itself in later years. Thanks to Bonnie, the young couple had survived the first major test of their nascent marriage, but her faith in Bob would never be the same. While Bonnie could forgive, she couldn’t forget. Bonnie would worry about their relationship from this point forward and remain suspicious of her husband’s fidelity. But she would do so stoically, silently, and, for the most part, alone.
Bob’s marriage to Bonnie, its early triumph over temptation, and his decision to forgo becoming a dentist marked seminal moments in his life. Though the path ahead was not entirely clear, Bob had found the will to break away from his father. Yet at another level, the career move away from dentistry introduced additional complexity into his life and his already strained relationship with Howard. Bob felt guilty that he wasn’t living up to the goals his father had established for him years earlier, leaving him with a sense of emptiness and a belief that he could not measure up, could not make his father proud. His father may have had a quiet demeanor, but on the subject of his son “the failure,” it didn’t take much prompting to get him to speak up.
Bob’s decision to abandon dentistry as a career naturally raised the question: What was he going to do next? He had majored in both math and chemistry as an undergraduate, and ultimately decided to continue his studies at Northwestern University’s business school. Building on his natural aptitude for numbers, Bob played to his strengths, earning a master’s degree in Business Administration with a dual specialization in accounting and information systems. He liked the meticulousness, the internal consistency, and logic inherent in these fields. In accounting, there was a right way and a wrong way to do things, and Bob felt very comfortable with that degree of certainty.
“When he graduated from high school or college, he had his first electronic watch ” and he said, “It really is nice to know what time it really is,”” a friend recalled with amazement. Years later, Bob would seek absolute precision in numerous aspects of his life, feeling a strong inner need to be exacting. He would even put a program on his computer that frequently dialed up the mega-clock at the U.S. Naval Observatory to synchronize its settings.
Bob received his MBA in 1971, and it appeared that the false starts in his studies, career, and marriage were behind him. Ready to head out into the world of work, Bob joined one of the big accounting firms in Chicago and was assigned to the mammoth Sears, Roebuck and Co. account. It sounded prestigious, but he found it hopelessly mind-numbing and mundane. For someone with an active imagination, the work seemed downright drab.
Once again, Bob had ventured forward only to find himself where he didn’t want to be. Without Bonnie’s support, it was possible Bob would have undergone a personal crisis. Even with her backing, it was tough for Bob to overcome what was beginning to feel like one misstep after another. Maybe it was time to listen to his gut, rather than trying to meet the expectations of others. Deep down, Bob knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life, and he had known for years–work in law enforcement. Despite the litany of problems he had had with his father on a personal level, Bob always respected that his dad was a cop. Howard Hanssen wielded real power, did interesting things, and was making a difference. When he carried his badge, he was one of the good guys.
But could Bob make the leap, given his abundance of education and his father’s negative feelings? There were two things Howard Hanssen had made clear for many years–he wanted his son to become a doctor and he did not want him to become a cop. To his father, Bob had had the chance for a better life and career based on a sound education. In the face of those pressures, the loyal son was haltingly trying to break away and blaze his own trail.