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'Neill. 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, O'Neill was handpicked to serve as the focal point of an elaborate sting operation and assigned to FBI Headquarters to serve as Hanssen's subordinate. Preceding Hanssen's arrest, O'Neill worked with the spy within the information assurance division that protected all classified FBI intelligence. O'Neill 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, O'Neill found himself fighting to bring down Hanssen before the treacherous double agent could destroy him, his family, and the nation they were 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 the former Soviet Union during the Cold War. His betrayal included identification of KGB agents who were spying on behalf of America and of the template for relocation of the president in the event of a catastrophic attack.
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 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."
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 looks like success is impossible. He has told his story in national media, in print, on radio, and on television including 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.
A talented motivational speaker and accomplished lawyer who weaves real life experiences into a presentation that is both entertaining and rewarding, Eric O’Neill provides practical insights into real work situations relevant to many industries. He speaks not only about Breach, but about the broader world of espionage and national security, economic and industrial espionage, fraud, internal investigations, corporate diligence, corporate defense, hacking and intellectual property theft, and other relevant topics.
Currently, O’Neill runs The Georgetown Group, a security firm out of Washington, DC, and continues to speak about his experience in the Hanssen case.
"Eric O’Neill’s presentation on “An Insider's Look into the Robert Hanssen Investigation: How the FBI Caught the Worst Spy in American History” is a breathtaking insight into one of the worst spies in United States history. Eric presented on never before heard facts that wowed the audience and left everyone wanting more. His professional approach and mild mannered attitude were spot on for an engaging delivery. Everyone was so focused on Eric for the full hour that you could have heard a pin drop in a room of 1,000+ attendees. Eric is truly a once in a lifetime speaker that everyone should see and hear in person!"
"Eric O’Neill totally captured our conference audience with his insights on cybersecurity and its similarity to locating spies within. Approximately 250 people were fully engaged and asking for more at the end of the hour. Eric is definitely a powerful speaker and not-to-be missed."
"Eric was the perfect guest speaker for our event. With an audience of IT Security folks, he not only captivated the room with his thrilling espionage story, but also incorporated our latest cybersecurity report and other cybersecurity themes into his talk. Eric has a long list of interesting topics he can speak on, and we hope that we can bring him back to speak again in the future."