Dr August Hanning was born on 16 February 1946 in Nordwalde, Westphalia.

In 1966, he graduated in law from the universities in Münster and Freiburg and subsequently started working as a judicial clerk and research assistant. In 1981, Dr August Hanning assumed his first job at the Federal Chancellery and in 1986 he became a Head of Division at the Permanent Mission of the Federal Republic of Germany to the then German Democratic Republic in East Berlin. He then continued to work at several different positions at the Federal Chancellery and in 1998 he became the President of the Federal Intelligence Service (BND), a position he held for the next seven years.

In 2005 he became the State Secretary at the Federal Interior Ministry. Since 2010, he has returned to the private sector and has worked as an attorney and legal consultant.