BREACH_0215.jpgAssociated Press

In this photo provided by Universal Pictures, young FBI trainee Eric O'Neill (Ryan Phillippe, left) and suspected spy Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper, right) are seen in a scene from "Breach."

Former Knox College student focus of movie

FBI agent sold secrets to Moscow

Thursday, February 15, 2007

GALESBURG - Robert Hanssen, a 1966 Knox College graduate, is the subject of a new movie coming out Friday starring Chris Cooper and Ryan Phillippe.

"Breach" tells the story of the FBI's investigation of suspected mole Hanssen, played by Cooper, from the viewpoint of Eric O'Neill, another FBI agent hired to work with Hanssen, earn his trust and uncover his true alliances.

The film was written and directed by Billy Ray and based on O'Neill's personal experiences with Hanssen at the FBI.

At 56, Hanssen was arrested Feb. 18, 2001, in Vienna, Va. He was convicted of selling American security secrets to Moscow for a total of $1.4 million in cash and diamonds over 15 years. In 2002, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

According to Karrie Heartlein, director of public relations at Knox College, there isn't much known about Hanssen's time in Galesburg. He grew up in Chicago and attended Knox from 1962 to 1964, graduating with a degree in chemistry. School yearbooks show he was active in intramural sports but didn't participate in other clubs.


"Since we know so little of him and his time at Knox, there really isn't much to say," Heartlein said.

Most of the students at Knox are not familiar with the notorious spy, or aware that he is an alumnus.

"I get the sense not a lot of people know who he is," said Knox senior Bill Mayeroff. "I didn't know anything about the movie until I saw a commercial for it."

Mayeroff, editor of Knox's weekly newspaper, The Knox Student, helped write a staff editorial in the paper's Feb. 8 edition asking why Knox doesn't promote its more notorious alums, including Hanssen.

"Why does Knox talk up certain alumni and not others," the editorial asks. "We don't know how Knox chooses which alumni stories to tell. But we want to hear them all."

It is unknown if the movie "Breach" will mention Knox College but Mayeroff said he definitely will see the film.


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