Skip to main content

Ex-spy 'Falcon': U.S. likes Snowden in Russia

By Chris Boyce, Special to CNN
updated 12:18 PM EDT, Mon August 5, 2013
Former spy Chris Boyce, the subject of the film
Former spy Chris Boyce, the subject of the film "The Falcon and the Snowman," is an expert on falconry.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Convicted spy Chris Boyce: Snowden is right where U.S. intelligence wants him to be
  • Boyce: Russia, with such a poor human rights record, discredits Snowden's warnings
  • Boyce: Snowden will hate it, but it's better than his possible treatment in a U.S. prison
  • Meanwhile, the U.S. government will continue to spy on its citizens unabated, he says

Editor's note: Christopher Boyce, the subject of the 1985 movie "The Falcon and the Snowman," spent 25 years in federal prison for providing U.S. intelligence secrets to the Soviet Union. His book, "The Falcon and The Snowman: American Sons," which was co-authored by Cait Boyce and Vince Font, is scheduled for release on August 20. Follow Chris Boyce on Twitter: @CodenameFalcon

(CNN) -- It was with a heavy heart that I heard Edward Snowden has been granted, and apparently accepted, temporary asylum in Russia for one year. Short of locking him naked in solitary confinement as an example to other leakers, as was done to Bradley Manning, Russia is exactly where the American intelligence community wants Snowden.

How better to discredit Snowden's warnings of the threat posed to civil liberties by our ever-growing surveillance state than to ceaselessly point out that he has found sanctuary in the arms of the FSB, the successor to the KGB? I suspect this latest development will nix any possibility of reform of domestic surveillance operations coming out of the House Judiciary Committee.

Of course, at this point, where else could Snowden go? He had spent five weeks in Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport. That had to be a purgatory on earth. By leaning on our allies, America had effectively trapped him there. One should not take too seriously, though, the outrage expressed by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Congress over this latest Russian perfidy. By fleeing to America's traditional bogeyman, Snowden has seriously blunted his own effectiveness. He has become an easy target for the U.S. government to demonize.

Into whose hands has Edward Snowden actually put himself? With nowhere else to go, he is now physically under the control of a government whose leadership under Vladimir Putin has raised human rights alarms worldwide for the alleged killing of dissenting reporters, the jailing of performance artists like Pussy Riot and -- most recently -- the criminalization of homosexuality.

Putin's thumbing of the nose to the Obama administration may be seen as a great thing for Snowden and his fate, but it's important to bear in mind that today's Russia is no more a bastion of free speech than China.

Opinion: How Putin's move could help Snowden and U.S.

Where is Edward Snowden now?
Washington upset over Snowden asylum
Edward Snowden's father talks amnesty
Schumer: Russia stabbed us in the back

Years ago, I was convicted of espionage, sentenced to 40 years imprisonment, and packed off in chains to a federal penitentiary. It was more than I could endure, so one cold winter night I escaped through the razor wire.

I at once became America's most wanted fugitive. I was hunted high and low by the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service. I was shot at and chased and forever looking over my shoulder. I too contemplated seeking sanctuary in Russia. I thought long and hard about it because there was an easy route through Havana to Moscow. But I could not stomach the thought of it. I decided I would rather live the life of a hunted fugitive in my own country than spend my years controlled as a puppet of the KGB. After my arrest in 1977, I spent 25 years in prison.

Contrary to what many believe, my partner and I did not give information to the Soviet Embassy to aid the Soviet Union. I did what I did because I wanted to publicize and strike back at the U.S. intelligence community for the things I saw that outraged me. It was a mistake that cost me dearly, and one that I lived to regret. I suspect Snowden will come to regret his actions just as deeply. This, more than anything else, would be the greatest tragedy of all.

Opinion: What's in it for Russia?

There is no doubt in my mind that Edward Snowden will rather be anywhere else on earth than in the arms of Putin's Russia. Of course, there are two exceptions to that statement: He does not want to be dead and he does not want to be sitting naked in an American solitary confinement cell. I do not see that his choices were all that great.

Meanwhile, the U.S. surveillance state will go on stockpiling the sensitive personal data of the American people.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court will continue to function as a secret rubber stamp to spy on our own citizenry.

The bulk collection of our telephone data will mushroom.

The addresses of all letters and packages mailed and received will continue to be photographed by the U.S. Post Office.

Internet companies will continue to be bent to the secret purposes of the surveillance state.

The NSA will go on recording all our e-mail.

Opinion: Snowden is an unwanted guest in Putin's Russia

Transparency, public disclosure, and open debate will be stifled as America becomes the world's first cyber-superpower. And politicians of both parties will go on fearing to resist lest they be blamed should a cyber-attack happen.

Our surveillance state is only just beginning to flex its technological muscles. We have nothing to lose but our civil liberties.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Chris Boyce.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 5:01 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Paul Callan says the grand jury is the right process to use to decide if charges should be brought against the police officer
updated 12:19 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Theresa Brown says the Ebola crisis brought nurses into the national conversation on health care. They need to stay there.
updated 6:35 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Patrick Hornbeck says don't buy the hype: The arguments the Vatican used in its interim report would have virtually guaranteed that same-sex couples remained second class citizens
updated 9:36 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Paul Begala says Iowa's U.S. Senate candidate, Joni Ernst, told NRA she has right to use gun to defend herself--even from the government. But shooting at officials is not what the Founders had in mind
updated 6:08 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
John Sutter: Why are we so surprised the head of a major international corporation learned another language?
updated 5:54 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Jason Johnson says Ferguson isn't a downtrodden community rising up against the white oppressor, but it is looking for justice
updated 12:21 PM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Sally Kohn says a video of little girls dressed as princesses using the F-word very loudly to condemn sexism is provocative. But is it exploitative?
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
updated 10:14 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
updated 12:00 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
updated 2:51 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
updated 6:07 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
updated 11:36 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
updated 8:05 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
updated 12:42 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
updated 12:07 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
updated 10:08 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
updated 6:50 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Sat October 11, 2014
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT