Nathan Hale was considered the first American spy in history. Fighting for the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary war, he voluntarily undertook a dangerous mission behind enemy lines. Dressed in disguise, he was sent on an intelligence gathering mission in New York City. However, he was subsequently caught by the British and executed for espionage. His last words ring in American history, "I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country." There now stands a statue of this American hero In Langley, Virginia, at the Central Intelligence Agency's headquarters.
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg
Do you ever wonder how the Soviet Union got the atomic bomb so quickly after World War II? America was shocked when the Soviets staged their first nuclear test in 1949. During this time there was a fierce controversy in the scientific community as to whether the United States should be the only country with nuclear capabilities. However, with the help of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, among st a few well placed scientist spies in America's nuclear program, Russia was able to build a bomb of their own. The Rosenbergs ended up being the first civilians in U.S. history to be executed for spying. They had served as couriers, bringing atomic information to the Soviets from the scientists.
Oleg Penkovsky was a Colonel in the soviet military intelligence (GRU) during the Cold War. It was Penkovsky who told the Americans and the British about the placement of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba. His actions, of course, led to the Cuban missile crisis. Penkovsky was arrested by the Soviets before the conclusion of the 13 day crisis. He had been known to be a spy already by the Russian authorities, but they did not arrest him immediately to protect their source in the MI6. According to former GRU Colonel and defector Victor Suvorov, "historians will remember with gratitude the name of the GRU Colonel Oleg Penkovsky. Thanks to his priceless information the Cuban crisis was not transformed into a last World War."
Robert Hanssen is one of the most infamous spies against America in history. For 22 years, he sold American secrets to the Soviets and Russians while working for the FBI. Unlike many other spies, Hanssen was only in it for the money. He made over $1.4 million during his spying years by selling secrets. He is currently serving out 15 life sentences without parole and spends 23 out of every 24 hours in solitary confinement. The US Department of Justice's Commission for the Review of FBI Security Programs called Robert Hanssen "possibly the worst intelligence disaster in U.S. history." He compromised more American agents than anyone else in U.S. history.