Skip to main content

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

By Chris Boyce, Special to CNN
August 5, 2013 -- Updated 1618 GMT (0018 HKT)
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
September 13, 2014 -- Updated 1620 GMT (0020 HKT)
Joe Torre and Esta Soler say much has been achieved since a landmark anti-violence law was passed.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2055 GMT (0455 HKT)
David Wheeler wonders: If Scotland votes to secede, can America take its place and rejoin England?
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2207 GMT (0607 HKT)
Jane Stoever: Society must grapple with a culture in which 1 in 3 teen girls and women suffer partner violence.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2036 GMT (0436 HKT)
World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking recently said the world as we know it could be obliterated instantaneously. Meg Urry says fear not.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2211 GMT (0611 HKT)
Bill Clinton's speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president in 1992 went through 22 drafts. But he always insisted on including a call to service.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2218 GMT (0618 HKT)
Joe Amon asks: What turns a few cases of disease into thousands?
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 1922 GMT (0322 HKT)
A Scottish vote for independence next week could trigger wave of separatist tension in Europe, says Frida Ghitis.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2212 GMT (0612 HKT)
You couldn't call him a "Bond villain" in the grand context of Dr. No or Auric Goldfinger. They were twisted visionaries of apocalypse whose ideas were to be played out at humanity's expense.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 1705 GMT (0105 HKT)
As a Latina activist I was hurt to hear the President would delay executive action to keep undocumented immigrants with no criminal record from getting deported.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1721 GMT (0121 HKT)
Sally Kohn says bombing ISIS will worsen instability in Iraq and strengthen radical ideology in terrorist groups.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 2224 GMT (0624 HKT)
Stevan Weine says the key is to stop young people from acquiring radicalized beliefs in the first place.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1730 GMT (0130 HKT)
Analysts weigh in on the president's plans for addressing the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1227 GMT (2027 HKT)
US Currency is seen in this January 30, 2001 image. AFP PHOTO/Karen BLEIER (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
Lisa Gilbert says a million people have asked the SEC to make corporations disclose political contributions.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 0455 GMT (1255 HKT)
Christi Paul says unless you've walked in an abused woman's shoes, don't judge her, help her get answers to the right questions: Why does he get to hit her? And why does nobody do anything to stop him?
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1932 GMT (0332 HKT)
Mel Robbins says several other NFL players arrested recently in domestic violence are back on the field. Roger Goodell has shown he is clueless on abuse. He must go.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1759 GMT (0159 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says President Obama has a remarkable opportunity Wednesday night to mobilize support for a coalition against ISIS.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 0041 GMT (0841 HKT)
The Texas senator says Obama should seek congressional authorization for a major bombing campaign vs. ISIS.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1327 GMT (2127 HKT)
Artist Prune Nourry's project reinterprets the terracotta warriors in an exhibition about gender preference in China.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
The Apple Watch is on its way. Jeff Yang asks: Are we ready to embrace wearables technology at last?
ADVERTISEMENT