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
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1516 GMT (2316 HKT)
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1340 GMT (2140 HKT)
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1126 GMT (1926 HKT)
Jeff Yang says the tech sector's diversity numbers are embarrassing and the big players need to do more.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
Ed Bark says in this Emmy year, broadcasters CBS, ABC and PBS can all say they matched or exceeded HBO. These days that's no small feat
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1629 GMT (0029 HKT)
Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider say a YouTube video apparently posted by ISIS seems to show that the group has a surveillance drone, highlighting a new reality: Terrorist groups have technology once only used by states
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
John Bare says the Ice Bucket Challenge signals a new kind of activism and peer-to-peer fund-raising.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1231 GMT (2031 HKT)
James Dawes says calling ISIS evil over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
August 24, 2014 -- Updated 0105 GMT (0905 HKT)
As the inquiry into the shooting of Michael Brown continues, critics question the prosecutor's impartiality.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2247 GMT (0647 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says it's troubling that a vicious group like ISIS can recruit so many young men from Britain.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1450 GMT (2250 HKT)
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1103 GMT (1903 HKT)
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1223 GMT (2023 HKT)
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1538 GMT (2338 HKT)
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2203 GMT (0603 HKT)
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
ADVERTISEMENT