Australian TV journalist Mark Davis reflects on his interview with Christopher Boyce, following the 28-minute feature that aired February 18 on SBS Dateline. Click the image above to launch the website, then press the Play icon to listen. Or, just click here. Take your pick! We’re easy.
On February 18, SBS Dateline aired a 28-minute feature interview with Christopher Boyce that examined his motives for selling U.S. intelligence information to the Soviet Union in the seventies. The interview was conducted by esteemed Australian TV journalist Mark Davis. Click the video above to watch the full interview, which also mentions the new book American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman and features some fabulous footage of Chris and his gyrfalcon, Higher Power. The full transcript of the broadcast is available here.
Written by Christopher Boyce
The following is an excerpt from the new book American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman written by Christopher Boyce, Cait Boyce and Vince Font. The book is available now in print and e-book format at Amazon.com.
I am an old man now, far older than my sixty years. A quarter century in federal prison will have that effect on you. I was introduced the other day to another fly fisherman and I heard his wife whisper in the background, “That old man can’t be The Falcon.” In truth, I can hardly believe it myself.
When I look in the mirror these days, a young voice in my head asks, What happened? This book is an attempt to answer that question. It is for me also a catharsis. I have carried the weight of this thing upon my shoulders since I was a young man. It has, at times, ground me down into the dust, and I cannot do it anymore. I must be done with it.
An introduction is a beginning. Let me try to begin there. When I was a young boy, my father and I would read his history books. He was an important part of the intelligence state in its crude infancy and a lover of history. My father admired the audacious and I admired my father. I read from his books that the ancient Gaels judged a man by the power of his enemies.
When I was off doing boy things, running in the fields with my hawks or fishing in the tide pools, I would dream of these judgments of the ancient Gaels. One day, I told myself, I too would have powerful enemies. I believed that a man’s life must be a quest worth living, but these sentiments would one day turn my life into a living hell. Still, it is my life, the only life I have ever known, and though I would now change some of it, I would not change all of it.
When I was fifteen, my father took me to the Custer Battlefield National Monument on the Little Bighorn. I imagined George Armstrong Custer pitching his three hundred cavalrymen into four thousand Sioux warriors and being annihilated. I stood on the ground where he fell. I breathed it all in, the dust, the despair and death, the whole gruesome fight.
I must confess that I walked off that battlefield not thinking thoughts generally associated with baby boomers. I was an incurable quester. I was Don Quixote looking for a windmill. And not exactly a prime candidate to work for a National Security Agency subcontractor. In fact, I was their worst nightmare, a long-hair with top secret clearance based on a joke of a background security investigation. This blew my mind. And one day, I meant it to blow theirs.
My enemy, I decided, was the United States intelligence complex. I asked myself a dozen times a day, What would Thomas Jefferson think of our current government that had somehow morphed out of the limited, balanced, political institutions he had designed? I decided that if Jefferson still possessed any consciousness at all, the poor old patriot must be spinning in his grave.
In late 1974, I was hired to work in TRW’s Black Vault, which was actually an NSA encryption operation supporting satellite surveillance of Russia. The satellites used Pine Gap, in the Australian outback, as a communications “foot.” At my first security briefing, the project security director informed me that the NSA was not willing to live up to our agreement to share all information gathered at Pine Gap with our Australian allies. I was told that we were also hiding the new, more sophisticated, successor Argus Project of surveillance at Pine Gap from the Aussies in violation of the Executive Agreement between our two countries.
I was told that the elected Labor Government of Australia was a threat to American interests; that the Whitlam Government was socialistic and that their inquiries about Pine Gap were compromising the security of the project. I later read encrypted dispatches discussing the infiltration of Australian trade unions by the CIA, and listened to our project CIA resident refer to the Governor-General of Australia, Sir John Kerr (the man who unconstitutionally sacked Gough Whitlam as Prime Minister) as “our man Kerr.”
I watched my government deceive an ally, an English speaking parliamentary democracy who had fought next to us in two world wars. I concede I was naive, that allies deceive each other every day, but still I was disgusted. Without giving it the deliberation it deserved, I decided to do as much damage to the American intelligence community as I could possibly do. And nothing I could think of would bring greater horror to America’s spooks than to pass NSA codes to the Russians.
So began my self-destructive descent into hell. I was an army of one, out to damage what I saw as the Great Rotten Republic – at which point, I went to see my old falconry buddy and ne’er do well friend, a smalltime drug dealer named Andrew Daulton Lee. I explained to him what I had in mind. He looked at me in disbelief, but after a few moments I could see dollar signs dancing in his eyes.
I cannot say that at that point we did not often enter the realm of the absurd. We certainly did. We listened to Janis Joplin, ate marijuana brownies, and had clandestine meetings with the KGB. We laughed at Cheech and Chong while photographing crypto codes with a miniature Minox camera. If ever such a thing as longhair, amateur spies could exist, we were it.
One night, half the Palos Verdes police department chased Daulton in their squad cars for twenty minutes all throughout our wealthy neighborhood in what was undoubtedly the greatest road rally of their lives. Meanwhile, my ear cocked to the approaching sirens, I frantically buried secret documents under my mother’s daffodils. The hijinks and shenanigans never ceased. Until, of course, they did. As they had to.
In January of 1977, the past caught up. The intelligence complex nailed us. They meant to destroy us. For Daulton, it meant first being tortured within an inch of his life by Mexico’s Seguridad Federal before being turned over to the American authorities. For me, it was several dozen FBI agents coming at me from every direction after a day of flying my falcons. It was time to pay the piper. Chains. Humiliation. Incarceration with no end. Waiting to be murdered. They must pay for this, the U.S. Attorneys told my father’s lawyers. And we did.
On April 28, 1977, a jury found me guilty of espionage and I was sentenced to forty years imprisonment. Weeks later, my old chum and partner in crime Daulton Lee was sentenced to life for the same.
By the time I made my decision to break out of federal prison or die trying, there was already one book out. In 1985, Hollywood told our story in the motion picture The Falcon and the Snowman. I got to watch the movie on a small television set at Marion Federal Penitentiary, seated right next to the guy who portrayed me, Timothy Hutton. When it was over and the credits rolled, a part of me wanted to cry out, “But that’s not the end!” The truth was, I was still living the nightmare, long after the lights had gone up in movie theaters around the country.
I would continue to live that nightmare for another seventeen years, until a woman I met by the name of Cait Mills saved my life. She also saved Daulton’s. Today, Daulton Lee and I are free men, thanks to the dedication and hard work of a woman I now call my wife. This book is the answer to every person who ever asked, “What happened next?”
This is what happened next.
American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman is available in paperback and e-book at Amazon.com.
Several months ago, we came across an interesting video on YouTube. It was a film school exercise shot by a talented young director named Alexander Poe. An an incredibly well-crafted, contemporary reimagining of a scene from John Schlesinger’s The Falcon and the Snowman, the short film stars Teddy Bergman as Christopher Boyce and Ian Unterman as Andrew Daulton Lee. Tell us what you think! Also, be sure to check out Alexander Poe’s YouTube channel for clips of his other work, including his first feature Ex-Girlfriends starring Jennifer Carpenter of Dexter.
The following is an excerpt from the new book American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman by Christopher Boyce, Cait Boyce and Vince Font. The book is available now in print and e-book format at Amazon.com.
It was a bottle of the finest, most expensive champagne he could find. On the label was a name he couldn’t quite see. Not even when he closed his eyes and concentrated. Normally that wouldn’t matter much, but tonight was special. It was New Year’s Eve. The last day of the century. Last century of the millennium.
Chris tried to see the label again. Now he could almost make out the letters. It looked like Don Drysdale, but he was pretty sure it was supposed to read Dom Perignon. He shrugged. It was the solitary brain again, putting holes where there once were none. He left it at that and began dreaming up a pair of finely-crafted champagne flutes. Maybe he’d even throw in a picturesque setting for two. Who cared? It was New Year’s ’99 and the sky was the limit.
It was a month ago when he’d seen Cait last, sitting across from him in the penitentiary visiting room with that atrocious Plexiglas partition between them. She had wanted to visit sooner, but he asked her not to. Her persistence finally wore him down. With the exception of a call every other month and the occasional message in a bottle – sometimes to Cait, sometimes to his folks – he had not seen or spoken to anyone in close to two years.
Cait’s arrival had been like a bolt of lightning to his senses. Anyone else would have despised having to speak through telephone receivers to communicate, but Chris was glad the barrier was there. Any closer and it would have been too much, like touching a raw nerve with the tip of a razor.
She looked great. Her hair had grown out longer and her summer surf tan was still there, even in late November. He asked about her health and she shrugged it off as she always did – only unlike times before, she looked confident in the way that she did.
“Minus my left side, I’m back on the road to being myself again.”
“You’re still beautiful,” he told her. His voice was sincere.
“Considering you’ve only had yourself to look at for the last couple of years, I’ll take that as a minor compliment.”
She told him all about what she had done, about all that was still left to be done, to save him from this place. Chris listened to every word, content in the knowledge that she knew what she was doing and miserable with himself for putting her through it all.
“When I get out of here,” he told her, then stopped to correct himself. “When you get me out of here, I’m going to take care of you for the rest of your life.”
He meant every word, even though he had no idea how he’d ever be able to live up to that promise. Cait was the one who had spent her life building a successful career while he lay wasting behind locked steel doors and unscalable concrete walls. The bachelor’s degree in history he’d earned through correspondence at Oak Park Heights would probably be meaningless in the real world. Especially considering the gravity of his crimes. What was more likely was that she would wind up having to take care of him.
A darkness fell over him, visible as a shadow.
“Hey,” Cait said. “What’s wrong?”
He thought about it. “What’s wrong is that you’re here with me when you ought to be out there enjoying your life. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. I hope it’s not coming off that way. I just… I wish we could have met under better circumstances. You know?”
“I know. But that didn’t happen, did it? Look, I’m forty-five years old. I’ve been living my life. I’ve had the opportunity to do everything I wanted. You’re next, Boyce.”
“Don’t call me that.” His voice was deadpan but the ghost of a smile lifted the edges of his lips. It was amazing how she could do that. Even amid the awfulness of their surroundings.
“You love it,” she said and smiled.
There was a vaguely dizzying sensation as Chris slid back into the here and now. “I love you,” he said. His voice was rough from lack of use. He realized he was alone again and felt ashamed for having spoken out loud. The bird at the window was one thing. Talking to an empty room, that was another.
He realized he’d lost track of himself between dreaming up the champagne flutes and trying to remember if mistletoe was a Christmas thing or a New Year’s Eve thing. Unstuck again, only his fate was far worse than any character ever dreamed up by a writer. No matter where or when he traveled to, he would always return here in the end.
He checked the wind-up clock seated on the edge of his cement desk. Two minutes to midnight. Almost time. The second hand counted away the remainders of the century, ticking him closer to the verge of a moment he never dreamed he’d spend in an isolation chamber.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, a ten-year-old boy named Chris – after St. Christopher, his mother’s idea, what a laugh that was – stood watching.
There will be people living on the moon in the year 2000, the boy said. An awestruck expression formed on his pure, unblemished face. We’ll all be riding rockets to the stars. And me, too.
The countdown began. 10… 9… 8… 7…
He held his breath as he watched the tip of the second hand. He held the imaginary bottle of champagne in one hand. With the other, Cait’s hand. He snatched a quick glance sideways and saw that she was smiling.
6… 5… 4…
No cities on the moon, he told the boy, but when you grow up you will know that there are things in this world more beautiful than that. More beautiful than you could ever imagine.
3… 2… 1…
The silence all around was deathlike. The bottle of champagne vanished with the flutes. Cait was gone. He laid back on his thin foam mattress and stared up at the concrete ceiling.
“Happy New Year,” he whispered.
The prisoner’s scream echoed through the cavernous hulk of cold, grey cement. Its shrill pitch traveled the full length of the cell block, then ended abruptly.
Christopher Boyce dropped the book he was reading and jumped to his feet. He crept forward and positioned himself inches from the threshold of his open cell door, hands balled into fists, his body like a tension wire with extremities.
At first he could hear nothing above the crashing of his own heart in his ears. Then slowly the rhythmic pounding receded and was replaced by an urgent thrashing sound on the tier outside his cell. Just beyond his field of vision something was moving rapidly, throwing violent shadows against the concrete floor in the pale afternoon light.
He considered sticking his head through the open doorway to see what was happening. All it would take was another step forward, but he found himself incapable of motion. All he wanted now was to retreat to his bunk, bury his head in his pillow, pretend nothing was happening – none of it, this hellish place, the killings and the savagery, the monsters that roamed the alleys by day and slept in dark corners by night, the pointed rifle scopes, the steel-barred windows, the razor wire barriers, all of it a horrifying nightmare
He thought if he tried hard enough, he could somehow will himself away, force the calendar backwards, and wake to find himself back in his tiny Redondo Beach apartment before any of this. He would rise and dance, and scream and sing. He would burst out the door into the warm night among the free, racing down sidewalks, darting across traffic-crowded streets. He would build a life for himself – a real life – where such wretched places existed only as rumor and where regret was just a concept formed from unspoken words and unrealized dreams. He closed his eyes and prayed for this with all his might. But the muted gurgling sounds coming from outside his cell called him back to reality.
Chris retrieved the blunt lead pipe from underneath his pillow. It had been bequeathed to him by a fellow inmate and had become a vital component of his contingency plan for survival. With the pipe in hand, he shuffled one step closer to the open door. He braced himself against the wall and leaned forward, poking the tip of his head through the threshold just far enough for one eye to clear the thick jamb where the cell door’s locking mechanism lived.
Out on the elevated tier that ran the length of the prison cell block, there was a man lying on his back in the center of a rapidly growing pool of blood. His arms and legs were flailing wildly and he looked absurdly like a turtle struggling to right itself. There was a second man seated on top of him, one hand planted firmly over the bleeding man’s mouth, the other hand twisting a shank into his neck.
Chris’s stomach somersaulted. He swallowed the urge to cry out. In this place, any outward expression of fear would mark him for the others. Instead, he gritted his teeth and wrapped both hands around the pipe. On the floor, the dying man must have felt the end draw near because he began to buck and strain even harder.
The killer, cradling his victim’s head like a lethal vise, leaned forward and placed his lips against the dying man’s ear. He whispered a single word in Spanish.
The gentle, cooing manner with which he spoke betrayed the vicious twisting motion of his hand as he plunged the weapon deeper.
“Aceptalo,” he said again, and it was not the way the dying man’s chest heaved as he fought for life or how his limbs began to slow that would haunt Chris for the rest of his life, but the soothing voice of his murderer urging him to “accept it” in a tone that sounded almost compassionate.
There was another fierce moment of struggle, then something disappeared behind the victim’s eyes and he was still. A dark stain spread out across the murdered man’s crotch as his bowels let go. In an instant, the stench of excrement filled the air.
Chris felt a sudden sensation of falling backward, but at the moment his head would have gone crashing through the edge of his bunk, he continued moving, his body now tumbling end over end into a black void. He started awake suddenly, unaware of where he was. The surface below his body was yielding, soft. He knew only that there was comfort here.
He stared into the darkness, eyes slowly focusing on two pinpricks of growing light in the distance. He didn’t know where he was, but he knew where he wasn’t. Gone was the heavy, claustrophobic presence of the prison walls. In its place, a cool and quiet place.
His mind flashed back to the man with the shank in his neck. Was the body still there? He reached back groggily for a memory and then remembered. They had taken the body but left the blood. It had stayed there for hours, days, coagulating into a grisly black mass that could have been mistaken for crude oil if not for the coppery scent that lingered. Eventually it had simply eroded, trampled under a thousand feet until all that was left was a sticky residue – and finally, a stain.
The stain had still been there on the night of his escape. He wondered now if enough time had passed to erode the evidence of its existence. How long had it been since he had last been back there? Months? Years? Maybe both, he thought, then realized none of that mattered anymore. He was free. He closed his eyes again and drifted.
Now he heard someone saying his name. Calling out to him. Over and over, as if to rouse him gently from his sleep.
“Chris. We’re here.”
A man’s voice. Dad? No, too young. But familiar. Plus, it was usually Mom who did the waking at the end of long road trips, while Dad piloted the Cadillac to a rolling stop.
He opened his eyes and stared out the window of the car. He let his eyes focus on the great, sprawling stone structure that ran in a straight line from east to west, as far as the eye could see. At its center, a lighted dome top rimmed with circular windows extended above the rest of the edifice like an enormous battle helmet. There were pillars two stories high flanking the building’s front entrance, which lay at the end of a steep run of cement steps.
His wrists were bound; he felt this and remembered everything now, even before he saw the razor wire or the words UNITED STATES PENITENTIARY carved onto the face of the building above the pillars.
The voice spoke again. This time he recognized it. “End of the line,” the marshal said. “Welcome to Leavenworth, Chris.”
American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman is available now in print and e-book format at Amazon.com.
On November 30, radio host John Aberle dedicated an entire hour-long episode of his show Life Unedited to his interview with Cait Boyce – co-author of the new book American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman and the paralegal who worked for more than twenty years as an advocate for the parole of convicted spies Andrew Daulton Lee and Christopher Boyce.
The interview, which touches on a variety of topics ranging from life inside prison to the inequalities of the justice system, offers fascinating and illuminating insight from someone who has worked as a prisoner rights advocate for more than three decades. Originally broadcast live on WCHE 1520 AM in Philadelphia, the full interview is now available to hear online. Simply click the image above or follow this link to listen to the broadcast.
One week earlier, Aberle interviewed another major player in the whole Falcon and the Snowman saga, Denny Behrend. Those of you who have read American Sons will recall Behrend as the U.S. Marshal who led the manhunt for Christopher Boyce following his escape from Lompoc Federal Penitentiary in 1980. In the interview, Behrend talks about his role in Boyce’s recapture and also discusses other aspects of his career as a lawman. Click here to listen to the full interview.