One man was innocent. Another was guilty.
Guilty of spying for the Russians, of treason and espionage -- of being a "mole" deep inside America's counterintelligence force for years, and for selling out his country for cash.
One man worked for the CIA, the other for the FBI. Both appeared to be devout Roman Catholics. And both lived on the same street in Vienna for several years.
Then, 10 years ago, on Feb. 18, 2001, one of the men was arrested at Foxstone Park in Vienna, near his home, just after an FBI surveillance team closed in on him.
He had just come back to his car, after placing a cache of highly classified federal documents at the "dead drop" site he regularly used to pass secrets to the Russians, in a spot tucked away under the bottom side of a wooden footbridge in the park.
"What took you so long?" was all he said to them.
Two days later, when the news of Robert Hanssen's arrest -- after spying for 22 years -- was announced, the other man -- CIA senior counter-intelligence case officer Brian Kelley -- learned that the suspicion was over.
After four long years, during which time he spent two years suspended from work and was repeatedly warned he was certainly discovered as the long-sought mole, he was released from a living hell. No longer were his days as a free man numbered. No longer did a possible death sentence for espionage loom over him.
At last, Kelley could tell his wife and three children their long nightmare was over.
Last week, Kelley talked to the Fairfax Times about being "the wrong man" in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The right man, Hanssen -- who Kelley called "the most devastating traitor in American history" and "a far more damaging spy than most people realize" -- pleaded guilty following his arrest to 15 counts of espionage. With that plea bargain, Hanssen escaped the death penalty and was instead sentenced to life without parole.
Kelley, 68, who still lives in Vienna and is retired from the CIA after being reinstated in the wake of the Hanssen arrest, still consults for the intelligence community. He also teaches courses in counterintelligence at several Washington, D.C.-area graduate schools. But the FBI -- blasted after an inquest into the Hanssen case by the Inspector General of the Justice Department, the parent government agency for the FBI -- has according to Kelley "airbrushed" Hanssen from FBI history, and might not be teaching its agents about the "monumental failures" of the case.
The FBI was then what he calls "the gang that couldn't shoot straight." And he also suspects that another mole remained undetected. "If we don't learn the lessons," Kelley said Thursday, "we're never going to fix it."
"We lived with the real horror that I would be arrested and charged with a capital crime about which I was innocent," Kelley said. "My children, my sisters, along with many friends, were told repeatedly that, with 99.9 percent uncertainty, I was a trsaitor who was living a double life and that I caused the death of several Russians who had secretly worked for CIA and the FBI."
But have the lessons from the Hanssen case -- regarded by experts as one of the worst intelligence failures in U.S. history -- really been learned?
The FBI agents who relentlessly pursued Kelley in the late 1990s made many errors that were brought to light in the IG report. In a CBS News "60 Minutes" broadcast that first aired in 2003, Kelley expressed concern that the FBI was not teaching its agents about the critical mistakes of the investigation, which precipitated the wrongful pursuit of him. Nearly eight years later, that still appears to be true.
The FBI was pilloried in the 2003 IG report for its ineptitude and failures in letting the spy prowl undetected within its ranks for more than two decades of intermittent spying. The FBI never has accepted Kelley's offers to help them learn the lessons of the case.
"I've offered to go and lecture at the FBI about my case," he said. "But no interest."
In a statement provided Friday, the FBI did not answer questions about what had been learned from the case, why Kelley has not been invited to discuss the case and whether anyone responsible had been demoted or charged.
In the statement, Katherine Schweit, supervisory special agent for public affairs in the FBI's Washington Field Office, said none of the IG report's findings "suggest(ed) that the investigation into the CIA employee [Kelley] was unnecessary or improper," and that "given the information it had at the time, the FBI's initial selection of this CIA employee as the lead suspect was understandable."
The FBI's response was not surprising to Kelley. "The bureau's PR spin is legendary and they can be counted on to hand out platitudes about how good they were in finally capturing" Hanssen, he said. "I know from FBI colleagues that the case is rarely taught and the legendary mistakes are rarely cited."
Kelley said he mostly feels sorry for the agents who led the investigation against him, as well as the others whose careers suffered "collateral damage."
He said he can't be bitter, "because I have everything in life that anybody could want -- my family, my health, a job that I love." He also teaches at the Institute for World Politics and consults and teaches for U.S. intelligence agencies.
Asked what he would say to Hanssen, Kelley said he would ask why Hanssen betrayed his country, with "so much going for you?"
Kelley knows he never will get answers, although he puzzles over the case and has nearly completed a book on Hanssen's espionage and its impact on his life. When complete, the manuscript will go to the CIA's Publications Review Board, where he says such vetting and possible redaction, or "censorship," has "been known to take years to resolve."
Kelley singled out and praised many FBI agents involved with his case, who he said "stood up and repeatedly told the supervising agents that I was innocent."
"They were real heroes to me and family," he said.
He is less complimentary of former FBI director Louis Freeh, who served as the agency's chief from September 1993 to June 2001.
"Director Freeh should have asked my extended family to come to Washington and apologize directly to them for the numerous mistakes which were made by his investigators," Kelley said.
"My extended family suffered enormously," he said. "All my family ever wanted was a sincere apology, but Director Freeh chose not to do this, for reasons which we cannot fathom."
The Hanssen case has been the subject of best-selling books, but not all of them accurate, Kelley said. He singles out "Spy" by David Wise, with a chapter on Kelley titled "The Wrong Man," and "Enemies" by Bill Gertz with a chapter titled "The FBI's Wild Goose Chase," as the best so far. He wants his own book to be the definitive one.
The case also was the subject of a few films, including 2007's "Breach," starring Oscar-winner Chris Cooper as Hanssen. But Kelley said Hanssen was no "master spy" at all.
He was a "very mediocre spy," Kelley said, and took many risks -- including hacking into FBI computers and getting caught red-handed. Instead, it was the agency that employed him that was responsible for the longevity of his spying career. That betrayal began in 1979, when he began selling secrets, eventually for a total of $1.4 million in cash and diamonds. When grilled by the FBI following his arrest, Hanssen said he did it for the money, not the ideology. He sold Cold War secrets to the GRU, the Soviet military intelligence unit, to the KGB and finally to the SVR, successor to the KGB.
Hanssen was disdainful of the FBI's ability to catch him, regularly dropping in uninvited to FBI meetings, trolling for anything classified he could sell, to the point that he earned nicknames like "Lurch," the household butler in the 1960's TV series "The Addams Family, Kelley said.
Hanssen was hidden in plain sight, and only repeated failures within the FBI allowed him to escape detection for so long, Kelley said. It was the obsessive pursuit of "a single hypothesis, as opposed to competing or alternative hypotheses," and the FBI focused only on Kelley. He calls it "the case of the foregone conclusion."
"The FBI would take any facts and twist them to fit the conclusion," he says, "and if it wouldn't fit, then it was the 'evil genius' Brian Kelley."
It was Kelley's role in 1989 in unmasking another spy inside the government -- State Department official Felix Bloch -- that mistakenly directed the FBI's attention to Kelley. Bloch never was charged with a crime, as no evidence admissible in court could be produced, although he eventually lost his job and was denied his government pension. But the failure of the Bloch investigation was the motive behind the FBI zeal to find the mole, and the suspicion that the KGB had been warned by someone -- a mole at the CIA, not inside its own ranks.
So they zeroed in on the wrong man, and Kelley suffered, "twisting slowly in the wind," in the famous phrase from the Watergate affair, fearing at times he would go to his death without exoneration.
Kelley's voice is husky as he recalls, "to blow your brains out, it goes past your radar screen every day, but you wouldn't do it, you couldn't do it."
A year after first interrogating Kelley, FBI officials decided on a new tactic: buying the identity of the mole. They found a Russian businessman and former KGB agent who eventually was paid $7 million to hand over the file taken from SVR headquarters.
The Russians only knew their mole under the name "Ramon Garcia," and never knew Hanssen's real name. But inside the file were two pieces of evidence: a trash bag with two fingerprints and audiotapes from phone conversations between Hanssen and his Russian handler.
At first, these items did not reveal the mole's identity, although it was certain that Kelley was the wrong man; it was not his voice on the tapes. One FBI agent recognized the voice, but could not identify who it was -- until they found notes in the KGB/SVR file quoting "Ramon" using a colorful phrase from World War II Gen. George S. Patton that another agent remembered Hanssen using. When the fingerprints were tested, the FBI finally had its man.
But to win a conviction in court, they needed to catch him red-handed. Then a "smoking gun" was found, when Hanssen's Palm III PDA was downloaded and secret encrypted files were found.
Hanssen began to suspect that his time was up, writing to his Russian contacts that "something has aroused the sleeping tiger." But he remained "arrogantly confident," Kelley said, so he made his last drop. When the drop was made, the agents moved in on him.
"He wanted it all, and he decided he didn't have to play by the rules," Kelley said. "Why did it take so long for the FBI to catch a mole that operated with impunity within its ranks for such a long period of time?"
Kelley points to the 2003 IG report, which uses some variation on the word "failure" to describe how the FBI bungled the investigation. Highlighted are "widespread failings" of those responsible for managing "the squad responsible for the case ... (the latter) so committed to the belief that [CIA suspect Kelley] was a mole that it lost a measure of objectivity and failed to give adequate consideration to other possibilities."
FBI managers were guilty of "supervisory failures" when they pressed for the case to be completed, and "did not question the factual premises underlying it," which in retrospect were weak. That FBI oversight was ineffective, and there was "poor coordination" with the Justice Department.
"Longstanding systemic problems in the FBI's counter-intelligence program played an important role in the FBI's failure to uncover Hanssen," concluded the report -- with such "serious flaws" as the failure of the FBI "to consider itself as a possible source for a penetration" by a Russian spy. Thus, the FBI poured enormous resources in spotlighting the wrong man, the report said.
"The current regime in the Hoover Building had nothing to do with the problem," Kelley said, adding "all the black hats have gone."
But the FBI's National Security Division has decided "not to tell my story as part of the Hanssen saga," Kelley said.
"The traitor Hanssen," he said, "has been airbrushed from FBI history. He never existed."