You learn something new every day. And every other day, you take something for granted. In co-writing the book American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman with Christopher Boyce and his wife Cait, I seem to have done a little bit of both.
The first thing I did was take for granted the educational influence of Hollywood movies. I assumed that since there had been a popular movie made about the subject, most people would be familiar with the story of Christopher Boyce and Andrew Daulton Lee. But in the course of spreading the word about the new book, I’ve learned that not everyone is.
Although the natural thing would be to tell someone to “Google it!” I have a hard time doing that in this case. Mainly because there are so many inaccuracies, false assumptions, and outright mistruths already written about the subject. So instead, I’ve written my own short, sweet, accurate history of The Falcon and the Snowman. Hopefully, reading it will jostle the memories of those who may have forgotten… or spark the interest of those to whom the story is brand new.
In 1974, 21-year-old Christopher Boyce took a job with TRW, an aerospace company located in Redondo Beach, California. In a short matter of time, Boyce was promoted to a secure area nicknamed the Black Vault, where he was given unprecedented access to highly sensitive defense information, including top secret codes for CIA spy satellites.
It was during his time in the Black Vault that Boyce discovered, through mistakenly directed telex messages, that the CIA was involved in a covert campaign to overthrow Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. These misrouted messages also revealed CIA infiltration in Australian labor unions, deepening Boyce’s growing distrust of the United States government – a distrust fueled by the war in Vietnam, the Watergate scandal, and the subsequent resignation of President Richard Nixon. Disillusioned by what he saw as evidence that the United States was deceiving an ally nation, Boyce made a decision that would change the course of his life forever.
Recruiting the help of childhood friend Andrew Daulton Lee, Boyce embarked upon a personal crusade to “strike back” at the powers that be by selling top secret documents to the Soviet Union. Lee, a drug dealer with a checkered past and numerous brushes with the law, acted as courier. Traveling to Mexico City, Lee made contact with representatives of the KGB through the Soviet Embassy there. For the next two years, between 1975 and 1977, Boyce and Lee would pass thousands of top secret documents to the Soviet Union.
Arrest and Conviction
In 1977, Lee was arrested by Mexican police outside the Soviet Embassy. Under torture, he confessed to being a spy for the Soviet Union and was deported to the United States. Upon his arrival, Lee was immediately taken into custody by the FBI. Boyce was arrested soon after Lee implicated him, and both were tried and convicted of espionage. Boyce was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Lee received a life sentence. Their story was told in the 1979 Robert Lindsey book The Falcon and the Snowman and later turned into a critically acclaimed motion picture scripted by Steve Zaillian and directed by John Schlesinger. The movie starred Timothy Hutton as Christopher Boyce and Sean Penn as Andrew Daulton Lee.
Prison, Escape and Recapture
Boyce and Lee were both incarcerated at Lompoc Federal Penitentiary. In January of 1980, Boyce staged a daring escape. Evading authorities for 19 months and leading the U.S. Marshals, the FBI and Interpol on a worldwide manhunt, Boyce was recaptured in August of 1981 in Port Angeles, Washington. After his recapture, it was revealed that Boyce had robbed a number of banks throughout the Pacific Northwest. He pled guilty to bank robbery and was given an additional sentence of 28 years on top of his original 40-year sentence for espionage.
Life in Prison and Release
In 1980, the case of Andrew Daulton Lee came to the attention of a young paralegal named Cait Mills. An advocate for the parole of nonviolent offenders, Mills began legal efforts on Lee’s behalf, starting a friendship that would last over 20 years. As a result of Mills’ continuous work petitioning the U.S. Parole Commission, Lee was released from prison in 1998.
Mills then turned her efforts to helping Christopher Boyce. Despite being diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer and enduring radiation and chemotherapy, Mills was successful in her efforts and Boyce was granted parole in 2002, after having served 25 years in prison. Mills and Boyce were married soon after his release. After numerous recurrences of cancer and a 15-year ordeal, Cait Boyce announced in 2012 that her cancer was in full remission.
Cait and Christopher Boyce Today: The New Book
American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman tells the true story of how Christopher Boyce and Andrew Daulton Lee survived decades in prison. The book also documents the efforts of Cait Boyce to free both men through the course of two decades, and tells of her own 15-year battle against cancer. The 40th anniversary expanded edition of the book is available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, and other online booksellers.