Spy Suspect Ordered Held in Jail

ByABC News

W A S H I N G T O N, March, 5 -- A U.S. District Court today ordered that accused spy Robert Hanssen remain confined in jail.

The decision came after federal prosecutors argued Hanssen should be kept in jail while the case continued due to a serious risk that he might try to escape to Moscow.

Issuing the order for continued confinement in Alexandria, Va., today, U.S. District Judge Theresa Buchanan said she believed the government has an "extraordinarily strong case" against Hanssen, who could pose a serious threat to society.

She also said Hanssen posed a serious risk of flight if he was released.

Hanssen's lawyers however did not contest the confinement.

In his first public appearance since his arrest Feb. 18 in a Virginia park, Hanssen spoke only once, when Judge Buchanan asked him if he understood that he was not contesting the detention. He replied with a brief, "Yes, Ido."

The latest allegation is that Hanssen, a 25-year veteran of the FBI, may have alerted Moscow to a secret tunnel underneath the U.S. embassy in Washington D.C., which the FBI reportedly used for eavesdropping.

Russia Incensed

Reacting strongly to the reports today, Russia expressed outrage over the tunnel, which is believed to have been built in the 1970s and '80s, declaring it was unaware of the existence of the tunnel.

The denial came even as it became apparent Hanssen may have exposed the existence of the tunnel to the KGB.

In a statement released today, the Russian Foreign Ministry said if the reports were true, it would be "a flagrant violation of the recognized norms of international law that throughout the world govern relations with foreign diplomatic missions."

Officially at least, the statement suggested Moscow was unaware of the existence of the tunnel.

But ABCNEWS has learned that the U.S government knew years ago the tunnel operation had been compromised but didn't know how.

They now think that Hanssen was likely responsible. Knowledge of the tunnel could have given Russian agents a crucial advantage.

"Once the Soviets and later the Russians were aware of the tunnel, they could have used it deliberately to feed us false information ," said Vince Cannistraro, the CIA's former counter-terrorism chief.

Hanssen Lawyers Deny Tunnel Links

But lawyers for Hanssen today questioned reports that Hanssen had alerted Moscow to the existence of the tunnel.

"This defunct tunnel under the Russian embassy that some unnamed officials are now disclosing, I think is abominable and you should be skeptical about that," Plato Cacheris, a lawyer for Hanssen, told reporters before the hearing began today.

Latest Chapter in Spying Tit-for-Tat

The revelation of the existence of the tunnel at the Russian Embassy is the latest example of a longstanding surveillance tit-for-tat which has cost both countries hundreds of millions of dollars.

In 1985, the United States decided to tear down its embassy in Moscow after finding listening devices.

Two years later, Soviet officials complained bitterly that their new embassy was crawling with bugs. They also discovered a tunnel beneath the Soviet Consulate in San Francisco.

At the time, FBI officials worried about how the Soviets seemed to know so much about where the American bugs were planted.

Hanssen, they say, may hold the answer.

Investigators already believe Hanssen may have compromised information about the U.S. satellite surveillance program, ongoing spy operations, and encryption coding programs.

ABCNEWS' Pierre Thomas contributed to this report.