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