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Ethics | Patriotism | Politics | Security
In 2001, Eric O’Neill helped capture the most notorious spy in United States history, Robert Hanssen, a 25-year veteran of the FBI. The remarkable true events of his life are the inspiration behind the critically acclaimed dramatic thriller, Breach, starring Ryan Philippe as O’Neil. The film set inside the FBI–the gatekeeper of the nation’s most sensitive and potentially volatile secrets–is the story of the greatest security breach in US history.
Only 26 years old, Mr. O’Neill was hand-picked to serve as the focal point of an elaborate sting operation and assigned to FBI Headquarters to serve as Hansen’s subordinate. Preceding Hanssen’s arrest, Mr. O’Neill worked with the spy within the information assurance division that protected all classified FBI intelligence. He gained Hanssen’s trust and used that relationship to slowly draw the traitor out of deep cover. Engaged in a lethal game of spy-versus-spy, he found himself fighting to bring down Hanssen before the treacherous double agent could destroy him, his family and the nation they are both sworn to serve.
Throughout his 25-year career with the Bureau, Hanssen spent the last 22 years of his service selling thousands of pages of valuable classified documents to Russia during the Cold War—and subsequently to the former Soviet Union. His betrayal included identification of KGB agents who were spying on behalf of America, as well as the United States template for relocation of the president in the event of a catastrophic attack.
Eric O’Neill began his career in the FBI as a graduate of the FBI’s Intelligence Program. He spent the first five years of his career as a Special Surveillance Group field operative tasked to surveil and monitor foreign, national, and domestic terrorists and spies. He transitioned from field operative to direct undercover work focusing on Hanssen. Although his prior training had focused on “ghosting” targets from the shadows, he engaged his target in conversation in order to elicit information needed to catch Hanssen in the act of espionage. The singular nature of the assignment, one with little backup or support, required Mr. O’Neill to draw from deep reserves of courage and confidence within himself to battle Hanssen’s mind games and aggressive probing and learn to “stop reacting to Hanssen and begin acting.”
Mr. O’Neill’s story is one of patriotism, of decisive action in the face of fear and of learning to maintain confidence in ability even if it seems success is impossible. He has told his story in national media, in print, radio and on television such as 20/20, Nightline, Hardball with Chris Mathews, Fox News Power Player of the Week with Chris Wallace, CNN, CSPAN’s Washington Journal, NPR’s “Fresh Air with Terry Gross,” World News Now, MTV and Access Hollywood.
Currently, Eric O’Neill is a Security Consultant and Federal Affairs attorney in Washington, DC, and continues to speak about his experience in the Hanssen case. He also addresses the issues of confidence and patriotism, the threat to United States security posed by terrorism and foreign intelligence services, and the national conscience in a monitored society. He is adept at speaking in front of younger forums where his intriguing story inspires confidence in goal-setting and achievement.For more information on this speaker, please contact Keynote Speakers at 650-325-8711.