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
July 13, 2014 -- Updated 1245 GMT (2045 HKT)
To prevent war with North Korea over a comedy, what would Dennis Rodman say to Kim Jong Un? Movie critic Gene Seymour weighs in.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
Michael Werz says in light of the spying cases, U.S. is seen as a paranoid society that can't tell friends from foes.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Eric Liu explains why in his new book, he calls himself "Chinese American" -- without a hyphen.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1512 GMT (2312 HKT)
John Bare says hands-on learning can make a difference in motivating students to acquire STEM skills.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1320 GMT (2120 HKT)
Karl Alexander and Linda Olson find blacks and whites live in urban poverty with similar backgrounds, but white privilege wins out as they grow older.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 1620 GMT (0020 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says a poll of 14 Muslim-majority nations show people are increasingly opposed to extremism.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 1828 GMT (0228 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says spending more on immigation enforcement isn't going to stop the flow of people seeking refuge in the U.S.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 2048 GMT (0448 HKT)
Faisal Gill had top security clearance and worked for the Department of Homeland Security. That's why it was a complete shock to learn the NSA had him under surveillance.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 1841 GMT (0241 HKT)
Kevin Sabet says the scientific verdict is that marijuana can be dangerous, and Colorado should be a warning to states contemplating legalizing pot.
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 2047 GMT (0447 HKT)
World War I ushered in an era of chemical weapons use that inflicted agonizing injury and death. Its lethal legacy lingers into conflicts today, Paul Schulte says
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 1137 GMT (1937 HKT)
Tom Foley and Ben Zimmer say Detroit's recent bankruptcy draws attention to a festering problem in America -- cities big and small are failing to keep up with change.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 1201 GMT (2001 HKT)
Mel Robbins says many people think there's "something suspicious" about Leanna Harris. But there are other interpretations of her behavior
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 1753 GMT (0153 HKT)
Amy Bass says Germany's rout of Brazil on its home turf was brutal, but in defeat the Brazilian fans' respect for the victors showed why soccer is called 'the beautiful game'
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 2107 GMT (0507 HKT)
Aaron Carroll explains how vaccines can prevent illnesses like measles, which are on the rise
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 0008 GMT (0808 HKT)
Aaron Miller says if you think the ongoing escalation between Israel and Hamas over Gaza will force a moment of truth, better think again
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 1903 GMT (0303 HKT)
Norman Matloff says a secret wage theft pact between Google, Apple and others highlights ethics problems in Silicon Valley.
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 2237 GMT (0637 HKT)
The mother of murdered Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khder cries as she meets Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, West Bank on July 7, 2014.
Naseem Tuffaha says the killing of Israeli teenagers has rightly brought the world's condemnation, but Palestinian victims like his cousin's slain son have been largely reduced to faceless, nameless statistics.
ADVERTISEMENT