It Happened 38 Years Ago

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Although it’s been nearly 40 years since the arrest of Christopher Boyce for espionage, some memories are never far from the surface.

Written by Vince Font

Time flies. Pretty much every one of us agrees that’s not a good thing. But some incidents in life are so traumatic that we find ourselves welcoming the passage of time, as if we just can’t seem to put enough years between ourselves and the moment that turned everything upside down. This is the case with an event that occurred 38 years ago this week.

On January 16, 1977, Christopher Boyce was arrested on suspicion of espionage. Three months later, he was convicted in federal court and sentenced to 40 years imprisonment. He was only 24 years old. With the exception of 19 months spent living on the run after a prison escape in 1980, he would spend the next quarter century of his life in prison. In 2002, following the intervention of parole advocate Cait Mills, Boyce was granted release. The two were married soon after.

This week marks nearly four decades since the day of Christopher Boyce’s arrest. His childhood friend and accomplice, Andrew Daulton Lee, was arrested 10 days earlier. This month is also the 30th anniversary of the release of The Falcon and the Snowman, the movie that told their story.

Over the course of the past few years, I’ve come to know Chris well. It happens when you write a book together. In that time, I’ve observed a few things about him. Like the fact he doesn’t mark anniversaries such as these. He only remembers when reminded, and even then his reaction makes you realize how trivial dates on a calendar really are. Especially when it comes to memories that aren’t far from the surface.

I’ve learned that some scars don’t fade with the passage of time. And that what seems like a lifetime ago for one person is just yesterday for another. Christopher Boyce is a guy who’d just as soon forget the past and spend the rest of his days flying his falcons, but can’t. Many would say it’s a justified punishment. Others would say different. I’ll leave it to you to guess on which side of the argument I fall.

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Vince Font is the co-author with Christopher Boyce and Cait Boyce of the book “American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman.” The book was released in 2013 and is available in paperback and e-book.

Christopher Boyce, American Sons and 2014 in Review

2014 was a big year for American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman. During the course of that year, the book received over 100 reviews at Amazon (115 as of today), scoring an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars. Australian journalist Mark Davis produced a moving portrait of Christopher Boyce that aired on Australian television. American reporter Bryan Denson wrote a series of articles that were featured in the Oregonian newspaper. The Falcon and the Snowman author Robert Lindsey showered the book with accolades. And Cait Boyce appeared on John Aberle’s Life Unedited radio show on numerous occasions.

This very blog didn’t do too shabby, either. Below, you’ll find some interesting facts and figures about the website’s performance that we thought you might be interested in checking out.

Here’s an appropriately fitting excerpt from the report:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 27,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 10 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

As always, we thank every one of you for your continued support. American Sons was a book that took more than a decade to come to fruition. It has touched many people and was the instrument that served to rekindle an old friendship between Christopher Boyce and one of his dearest childhood friends, David Lee (Andrew Daulton Lee’s brother). It has also brought to attention Cait Boyce’s valiant fight against cancer, and has acted as a platform to shed light on her continuing work for prison reform.

But wait! There’s more. 2015 will mark the 30th anniversary of the release of the movie The Falcon and the Snowman, and a Blu-ray edition has been announced. In many ways, the telling of the life stories of Christopher Boyce and Cait Boyce is far from over. We hope you’ll continue to ride the river with us.

The Official Book Trailer

Written by Christopher Boyce, Cait Boyce and Vince Font, American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman is the answer to every person who ever asked the question: “Whatever became of Christopher Boyce?”

In 1985, director John Schlesiger’s The Falcon and the Snowman introduced movie audiences to the true story of Christopher Boyce and Andrew Daulton Lee – childhood friends from good families who became two of the youngest and most unlikely spies in American history. It starred hotshot young actors Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn as the titular characters and garnered critical praise from far and wide, even winning the official “two thumbs up” seal of approval from the oft-tough to please Siskel and Ebert.

The movie itself is largely incomplete, leaving an enormous question mark over the fate of Boyce and Lee. The book American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman picks up where the movie left off, taking the reader through the incredible and sometimes impossible to believe experiences of Boyce and Lee as they struggled to survive the inhumane conditions of federal prison.

American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman is a true story of hope, survival and redemption. It is available now in e-book and paperback.

John Pilger on Gough Whitlam and the CIA’s “Forgotten Coup”


The following article is reprinted by permission from the author, London-based Australian journalist John Pilger. The original aticle was published to Pilger’s website following the passing of Gough Whitlam on October 21, 2014.

Written by John Pilger

Across the political and media elite in Australia, a silence has descended on the memory of the great, reforming prime minister Gough Whitlam, who has died. His achievements are recognised, if grudgingly, his mistakes noted in false sorrow. But a critical reason for his extraordinary political demise will, they hope, be buried with him.

Australia briefly became an independent state during the Whitlam years, 1972-75. An American commentator wrote that no country had “reversed its posture in international affairs so totally without going through a domestic revolution.” Whitlam ended his nation’s colonial servility. He abolished Royal patronage, moved Australia towards the Non-Aligned Movement, supported “zones of peace” and opposed nuclear weapons testing.

Although not regarded as on the left of the Labor Party, Whitlam was a maverick social democrat of principle, pride and propriety. He believed that a foreign power should not control his country’s resources and dictate its economic and foreign policies. He proposed to “buy back the farm.” In drafting the first Aboriginal lands rights legislation, his government raised the ghost of the greatest land grab in human history, Britain’s colonisation of Australia, and the question of who owned the island-continent’s vast natural wealth.

Latin Americans will recognise the audacity and danger of this “breaking free” in a country whose establishment was welded to great, external power. Australians had served every British imperial adventure since the Boxer rebellion was crushed in China. In the 1960s, Australia pleaded to join the US in its invasion of Vietnam, then provided “black teams” to be run by the CIA. US diplomatic cables published last year by WikiLeaks disclose the names of leading figures in both main parties, including a future prime minister and foreign minister, as Washington’s informants during the Whitlam years.

Whitlam knew the risk he was taking. The day after his election, he ordered that his staff should not be “vetted or harassed” by the Australian security organisation, ASIO – then, as now, tied to Anglo-American intelligence. When his ministers publicly condemned the US bombing of Vietnam as “corrupt and barbaric,” a CIA station officer in Saigon said: “We were told the Australians might as well be regarded as North Vietnamese collaborators.”

Whitlam demanded to know if and why the CIA was running a spy base at Pine Gap near Alice Springs, a giant vacuum cleaner which, as Edward Snowden revealed recently, allows the US to spy on everyone. “Try to screw us or bounce us,” the prime minister warned the US ambassador, “[and Pine Gap] will become a matter of contention.”

Victor Marchetti, the CIA officer who had helped set up Pine Gap, later told me, “This threat to close Pine Gap caused apoplexy in the White House… a kind of Chile [coup] was set in motion.”

Pine Gap’s top-secret messages were de-coded by a CIA contractor, TRW. One of the de-coders was Christopher Boyce, a young man troubled by the “deception and betrayal of an ally.” Boyce revealed that the CIA had infiltrated the Australian political and trade union elite and referred to the Governor-General of Australia, Sir John Kerr, as “our man Kerr.”

Kerr was not only the Queen’s man, he had long-standing ties to Anglo-American intelligence. He was an enthusiastic member of the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom, described by Jonathan Kwitny of the Wall Street Journal in his book, ‘The Crimes of Patriots’, as, “an elite, invitation-only group… exposed in Congress as being founded, funded and generally run by the CIA.” The CIA “paid for Kerr’s travel, built his prestige… Kerr continued to go to the CIA for money.”

When Whitlam was re-elected for a second term, in 1974, the White House sent Marshall Green to Canberra as ambassador. Green was an imperious, sinister figure who worked in the shadows of America’s “deep state.” Known as the “coupmaster,” he had played a central role in the 1965 coup against President Sukarno in Indonesia – which cost up to a million lives. One of his first speeches in Australia was to the Australian Institute of Directors – described by an alarmed member of the audience as “an incitement to the country’s business leaders to rise against the government.”

The Americans and British worked together. In 1975, Whitlam discovered that Britain’s MI6 was operating against his government. “The Brits were actually decoding secret messages coming into my foreign affairs office,” he said later. One of his ministers, Clyde Cameron, told me, “We knew MI6 was bugging Cabinet meetings for the Americans.” In the 1980s, senior CIA officers revealed that the “Whitlam problem” had been discussed “with urgency” by the CIA’s director, William Colby, and the head of MI6, Sir Maurice Oldfield. A deputy director of the CIA said: “Kerr did what he was told to do.”

On 10 November, 1975, Whitlam was shown a top secret telex message sourced to Theodore Shackley, the notorious head of the CIA’s East Asia Division, who had helped run the coup against Salvador Allende in Chile two years earlier.

Shackley’s message was read to Whitlam. It said that the prime minister of Australia was a security risk in his own country. The day before, Kerr had visited the headquarters of the Defence Signals Directorate, Australia’s NSA where he was briefed on the “security crisis.”

On 11 November – the day Whitlam was to inform Parliament about the secret CIA presence in Australia – he was summoned by Kerr. Invoking archaic vice-regal “reserve powers,” Kerr sacked the democratically elected prime minister. The “Whitlam problem” was solved, and Australian politics never recovered, nor the nation its true independence.

Follow John Pilger on Twitter @johnpilger and on Facebook at His 1989 book “A Secret Country” goes into detail on the coup against former Australian prime minister Gough Whitlam.

Songs of Falcons, Snowmen and Christopher Boyce

Written by Vince Font

It’s got to be the strangest thing in the world to have people you’ve never met write songs about you. In the case of Christopher Boyce, that happened in 1985 with the soundtrack to The Falcon and the Snowman. Written and recorded by Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays, the album featured a track called “Chris” which is basically an instrumental version of the David Bowie-fueled hit single “This Is Not America.” But in my research, I’ve discovered a handful of other songs I never even knew existed until recently.

In 1995, ten years after Metheny and Mays did their amazing thing (in my opinion delivering a soundtrack that was actually better than the movie it was written for), a dream pop band called Luna released the album Penthouse. It featured a song titled “Moon Palace” which included the somewhat random lyric: “You’ve got no choice, feel like Christopher Boyce.”

The song “Christopher Boyce” by L.A. punk musician Johanna Went appeared on her 1982 album Hyena and actually predates The Falcon and the Snowman movie and soundtrack by three years. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first song ever written about Chris Boyce and probably the least widely known. Went’s distinctly Yoko Onoesque vocals (there are no lyrics, at least none that I can discern) are certainly an acquired taste.

On his 2003 album Rip the Jacker, Jamaican-American rapper Canibus recorded a song called “Levitibus” in which he makes this interesting reference: “Got a message from the Falcon and the Snowman in an unopened Coca-Cola can. Showed the whole planet in coded program, encrypted by a pro-scan modem with a low-band.”

Do you know of any other songs written about Christopher Boyce or inspired by The Falcon and the Snowman? If so, we’d love to hear them. Let us know what you find by leaving a reply below. In the meantime, enjoy this incredible live version of “This Is Not America” from 1995 by the Pat Metheny Group.

Vince Font is the co-author of the book “American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman” with Christopher Boyce and Cait Boyce. The book was released in 2013 and is available now in e-book and paperback.

Lessons Unlearned: The Legacy of John Walker


Written by Cait Boyce

Convicted spy John Anthony Walker, Jr. died on August 28, 2014, while serving one of the longest sentences for espionage ever handed down under a plea agreement. He was the mastermind of what has been called the single-most damaging Soviet spy ring in history.

Prior to joining the U.S. Navy, Walker experienced an upbringing that can best be described as “no picnic.” His father, a violent alcoholic, drove the family into bankruptcy and then abandoned them. Walker became a troublemaker and a petty criminal, and at age 17 was caught by police for burglarizing a gas station and a men’s clothing store. His older brother, Arthur, had joined the U.S. Navy out of high school. To keep his brother from going to jail, Arthur intervened with the judge to suggest that he allow Walker to join the Navy.

Walker enlisted in the Navy in 1956 as a radioman and seemed to thrive. There were no discipline problems, and he made a very favorable impression on his superiors. He made rank quickly, achieving a rating of RM1 (E-6) in only six years, and his evaluation reports were almost perfect (4.0) ratings. He married, had his first child and then a second, and in June 1960 was accepted for submarine training. This was followed by an assignment to the USS Razorback (SS-394), a World War II-era diesel submarine based in San Diego, California.

My two questions post Boyce and Lee have always been “why?” and “how?” What prompts a young college student from a well-respected family such as Christopher Boyce’s to enter the world of espionage? What was the final push for Walker? Clayton Lonetree, Richard Miller, Jonathan Pollard, James Harper, Aldrich Ames. The list goes on and on and on. From 1975 to 2008, there have been in excess of 142 cases of espionage in this country and a security system that still can’t catch spies and appears to make it easy for the disenfranchised, the weak, and the greedy to commit a crime that is, by its very nature “one of the rarest crimes on the books.”

So what drives a man with a seemingly happy life to suddenly become a spy for the Soviet Union? Walker, a U.S. Navy Chief Warrant Officer at the time, spied for the Russians from 1968 to 1985 and most likely (based on the shoddy security of the U.S. Navy) would have continued spying had his wife not turned him in. Alcoholism, mounting debt, an acrimonious marital relationship, and ever-growing greed fueled Walker’s espionage.

Much has been said about John Walker prior to his death and will continue long after. I didn’t know the man. I stood on the outside watching, as did millions of other Americans. I was in high school in San Diego during the latter years of the Vietnam War when the USS Pueblo was seized. By the time of the Walker family’s arrest in 1985, I was deeply committed to freeing two other spies: Christopher Boyce and Andrew Daulton Lee.

John Walker didn’t spy alone. He dragged his alcoholic wife, Barbara, kicking and screaming into the game by forcing her to be with him during “drops.” In 1969, he befriended and recruited Jerry Whitworth, a young student stationed in San Diego. Whitworth, who would become a Navy senior chief petty officer/senior chief radioman, agreed to assist Walker in accessing highly classified communications data in 1973. In 1984, Walker recruited his older brother, Arthur, a retired lieutenant commander working as a military contractor. He even recruited his own son, Michael, an active duty Navy seaman.

The litany of overt acts and startling revelations that came to light after the arrest of Walker simply boggle the mind, to this day. When I compare the Walker espionage with that of Christopher Boyce and Andrew Daulton Lee, the egregious security issues that came to light in 1977 during the infamous Falcon and the Snowman trials had still not been corrected eight years later by the time of Walker’s arrest.

There was ample evidence available to authorities at the time to indicate that a serious breach of national and communications security had occurred:

1. In January of 1968, the Koreans captured the USS Pueblo, just one month after Walker had betrayed the information. While there remains much debate about the exact role Walker’s espionage played in the seizure of the Pueblo, former KGB head Oleg Kalugin claims that Walker’s case officer, Andrei Krasavin, was able to build a working replica of the KW-7 crypto machine based on information provided by Walker. Krasavin later received the Lenin Medal, the highest honor granted by the Soviet government.

2. After Walker’s arrest, Theodore Shackleton, the CIA station chief in Saigon, asserted that Walker’s espionage may have contributed to diminished B-52 bombing strikes, and that the forewarning gleaned from Walker’s espionage directly impacted U.S. effectiveness in Vietnam.

3. During his time as a Soviet spy, Walker helped the Soviets decipher more than one million encrypted naval messages for use against the United States.

4. Navy intelligence officers noticed a number of indicators, beginning in the early 1970s when Soviet Navy submarines suddenly got dramatically quieter and developed an ability to stay just outside the effective range of U.S. sonobuoys – exactly as if they knew the full details of how the U.S. was detecting them. They also started showing up outside U.S. submarine bases just before American submarines were scheduled to put to sea.

The Soviet Navy showed an uncanny ability to get intelligence collection ships at the right place and time to capture data from fleet exercises, “as if they had a copy of the OpPlans or something.” In fact, the Walker spy ring did have a copy of the OpPlans, and everything else of any importance to the U.S. Navy, for a period of almost 20 years.

Richard Haver, the deputy director of Naval Intelligence, said they had “wondered” if there was a communications security breach, but could find no proof. In retrospect, it is not clear how they could have gotten such proof because the setup of Fleet Broadcasting System (FBS) was such that, even if a Soviet spy had brought verbatim copies of FBS intercepts to the CIA, it would have been impossible to produce a comprehensive list of potential suspects – even a list that was tens of thousands of names long. This is an example of yet another failure on the part of the U.S. Navy to safeguard its operations.

5. In approximately November of 1984, fearing that Michael Walker would never be able to extricate himself from the web of deceit, John Walker’s daughter, Laura, convinced her mother to report him to the FBI. Barbara told the FBI field office in Boston that she had important information, and on November 29 a special agent from Hyannis interviewed her. The spy’s ex-wife told the agent of her husband’s dealings as far back as the 1960s, his admissions to her that he was spying, and the fact that she had been forced to accompany him to dead drops near Washington. She described in detail the deliveries of information from Walker to his Russian handlers that dovetailed with KGB techniques.

Instead of acting on the information, the FBI agent notated his report with the fact that Barbara appeared to have been drinking when he arrived to speak to her, and that she consumed a large glass of vodka during the interview. Later, he stated he felt she had been “evasive” when asked why she had waited so long to come forward. Without much more thought, the agent made the unilateral decision that Barbara Walker had a drinking problem and that the allegations against her husband were simply “sour grapes.” He graded the information she had provided as meriting no follow-up and sent the report to Boston, where it was filed away.

A month later, during a routine check on inactive files, an FBI supervisor read the Barbara Walker report. Noting that the espionage allegation was focused in Norfolk, the supervisor sent the file on to that office. Norfolk obtained headquarters’ approval to open an investigation, but it was not assigned to an agent until February of 1985.

Barbara Walker provided the FBI with explosive information that could have been used to rescue what was left of Naval Intelligence and put what has been described as the “single-most damaging Soviet spy ring in history” behind bars.

6. While Walker worked closely with hundreds or even thousands of sailors over a 20-year spying career, many of those sailors had firsthand knowledge of his unethical behavior and suspiciously large financial expenditures. So much so that Walker was actively probing a number of them to see if they were good candidates for recruitment into his spy ring. Yet not one of them ever considered that he might be spying.

Michael Walker was released in 2001 after serving 15 years in prison. John Walker died on August 28, 2014, in the Butner Federal Correctional Complex in Butner, North Carolina. Walker’s older brother, Arthur, died on July 5 in the same facility. The remaining Walker conspirator, Jerry Whitworth, is serving a 365-year prison sentence with the possibility of parole after 60 years.

Some years ago, I spoke with Judge John P. Vukasin, who presided over the Whitworth trial in San Francisco. While I looked for the complex issues at sentencing to help my clients, Vukasin’s reasoning in sentencing Whitworth was actually quite simple: “Mr. Whitworth did not believe in what he did. He didn’t believe in anything at all. Jerry Whitworth is a zero at the bone. He believes in nothing.

John A. Walker, Jr. leaves behind a legacy, for good or for bad, that has shaped the lives of his children – Laura Walker, Margaret Ann Walker, Cynthia Walker and Michael Walker – and will continue to shape military intelligence and national security in this country for many years to come.

Cait Boyce is a legal professional with over 35 years of experience representing non-violent criminal offenders. She is the co-author of the book American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman, which documents her efforts to free convicted spies Christopher Boyce and Andrew Daulton Lee.