Christopher Boyce discusses Edward Snowden on CNN (video)

In his first TV interview in 30 years, Christopher Boyce joined anchors Alison Kosik and Victor Blackwell by phone on CNN Saturday Morning to discuss the plight of fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden. Days earlier, he answered questions from CNN journalist Peter Shadbolt. For the full interview, click here.

You can read Christopher Boyce’s book, American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman, available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, and elsewhere.

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The Boyces proudly announce…

Memory is a double-edged sword. Some people are haunted by it. Others, comforted. But in my life, I have learned one very important thing: without it, we have nothing.

As years go by, I find myself looking back more and more. What I see unfolds before me like a great untold story. And so I set about the task of putting those memories down for the record. What I envisioned was not a story of spies and espionage, of prison escape and bank robbery, or even of the long hard road to parole. And certainly not a Lifetime Network cancer triumph book. In the end, what I envisioned was a love story. Because the truth is simple. I have always loved Christopher Boyce.

Together, Chris and I traveled a road so long and treacherous that when we finally reached its end, it was only natural that we should marry. It hasn’t always been easy, and intrusion into that private sanctuary that so many people take for granted has come in many forms, both good and bad.

We have been blessed with well-intentioned people, with family and friends who stepped forward to offer Chris support in this new life, and with the rescuers who were there during my cancer treatment and who gave Chris the comfort that he needed when we did not know if there would be a future at all.

But life is never one-sided. For every step forward, there has always been someone or something willing to push us two steps back. The judgment of total strangers. Angry people who feel Chris should never have been released from prison – or worse, that he should have been executed for his crime. Those who wish to attach themselves to us for one reason or another. Women who once communicated with Chris and perhaps see the possibility of reconnecting; old boyfriends of mine resurfacing like so much long-ago released baggage; parole officers who found it hard to let go, even after Chris was no longer a ward of the state.

With the recent interviews on CNN has come a new flood of support and friendship, along with the familiar detractors and their cries of “shame on you” – disappointed family members or friends of family members, old school chums, and people from the past.

“Glad you’re out of prison, please stay silent.”

“Never speak of it – at least publicly – again.”

Gain, loss, gain…

The bad. “What provoked me to write to you was the phone conversation you had with a reporter about Edward Snowden. I get that you were a kid when this happened. But you’re not a kid anymore. And it seemed like all you talked about was what you went through and not what you put your family through.”

The good. “I enjoyed your CNN interview and giving the expert analysis on Edward Snowden that no one else can give. Though I oppose your selling secrets, I have been your biggest supporter.”

Over the past 11 years, Chris and I have received marriage announcements, birth and graduation announcements, and the standard Christmas form letters boasting the acquisition of material possessions nobody else really cares about (a new boat, a new sports car, a dream home). We have been happy for each and every person that has included us in their lives and have always wished everyone well.

Now it’s our turn for an announcement, to our family members, close friends, neighbors, and work associates. We have written a book with our co-author, Vince Font. Those of you who follow this blog will already know the book is called American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman. The book is our baby, our graduation, our boat. It is our turn for the happiness and joy, and we hope that each of you can share in our incredible sense of accomplishment at reaching the end of a very difficult task.

Memories can be painful as well as pleasant, and we have experienced both. But for us, setting the record straight after having lived with lies, innuendo and outright garbage since 1977 has been a cathartic experience.

While this book may not be everyone’s cup of tea and may anger some simply for the fact we chose to write it, your life is a life that you control. Leave your baggage at the curb and board the flight. On that flight, if you should you encounter something that you don’t like, change the channel. If country music happens to blare out through my car speakers as I’m scanning stations, I don’t write a letter to demand that they stop playing it. Instead, I change the channel.

With that one small action, I control my own destiny.

Thank you to those who have shown your support for our efforts. And thank you, just as well, to our many detractors. Maybe the truth will change your minds and maybe it won’t. But it sure feels good to be able to tell it.

Cait Boyce is the co-author of the book American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman. The book was also written by her husband, Christopher Boyce, and author Vince Font.

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The Falcon, the Snowden and the WikiLeaker

There’s an odd convergence happening as we speak. WikiLeaker Bradley Manning is on trial. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has gone into hiding. Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg is doing fist-pumps from the sidelines. And Christopher Boyce is about to release a book about his experiences called American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman.

That name – “The Falcon” – has been showing up with increasing frequency on social media and in writings throughout the blogosphere. People want to know what Christopher Boyce thinks about Manning and Snowden, and if he thinks they should each be given a medal or the chair. Is it therefore any surprise that Boyce has so far refrained from comment? Not really.

First of all, you have to put yourself into his shoes. Having been the central focus of a highly publicized trial (more than one, actually, when you throw in the trials for escape and bank robbery following his abscondment from Lompoc federal penitentiary in 1980), Boyce knows exactly what it’s like to be in the proverbial hot seat with people pronouncing public judgment before the jury’s even recessed. He is keenly aware of the power of public opinion – he’s had it against him for most of his life since 1977 – and sees a uniquely “damned if you do” scenario unfolding before him.

Let’s face it. If Christopher Boyce were to speak out in favor of Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden, there would no doubt be a sizable percentage of the populace who would reflexively withdraw their support of both. It would be sort of like what happened in 2004 when Osama bin Laden endorsed John Kerry and cinched the reelection of George W. Bush.

On the other hand, if Boyce were to condemn the actions of Manning and Snowden, it would likely create a unique storm of controversy. Not only would such a sentiment get the “pot calling the kettle black” detractors all fired up, but it might also cause legions of undecideds to stake footing on either side of the fence before they’d even had a chance to make up their minds. I can hear it now: “If Christopher Boyce thinks what these guys did was wrong, then they must be truly despicable individuals!”

Having spent 25 years of his life in prison for the crime of espionage, Christopher Boyce is well aware of the futile nature of going head-to-head with the “powers that be” – regardless of whether that cause is just or corrupt.

He has always maintained that his motives were never financial, and that his actions were driven by political disillusionment and anger at the U.S. government for what he perceived to be colossal abuses of power and influence. For Boyce, the final straw was his discovery of evidence suggesting a covert CIA campaign to overthrow Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.

In a recent blog post, I posed this question: How differently would things have turned out if Christopher Boyce had had access to WikiLeaks and decided to go that route? Watching the Snowden story evolve, it also causes me to wonder what would have happened if Boyce had gone to the press instead of sending Andrew Daulton Lee to the Soviet Embassy in Mexico.

All of it is pure conjecture, of course – Monday morning quarterbacking at its most ludicrous. But I can venture to say that from the looks of what’s going on today, things probably wouldn’t have turned out differently at all.

So far, the only comment Christopher Boyce has made on either Manning or Snowden was published to his @CodenameFalcon Twitter feed on June 2: “My thoughts on #BradleyManning: I identify with his plight and my heart goes out to him – he has a long road ahead.” If there’s anyone in the world who knows that road better, it’s Christopher Boyce.

Vince Font is the co-author and publisher of the book American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman. The book is available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, and elsewhere.

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Finding your anchor

I figured something out recently. Something really important. And so I’m writing it all down as fast as I possibly can before it leaves me. It has to do with finding inner strength. And with overcoming obstacles and keeping hope alive. It also has to do with a friend of mine by the name of Christopher Boyce.

If the name sounds familiar, it’s because it should be. There was a movie made about him back in 1985 called The Falcon and the Snowman. Before that, there was a book. And before that, the true events that led to him being sentenced to 40 years in prison for selling secrets to the Russians.

When some people look at Christopher Boyce, they see a traitor. Some see a hero. Others see a guy whose blind idealism led him to the biggest mistake of his life. I look at him and see someone who has managed to buck the odds in a remarkable way.

For one thing, he’s not as dark a person as you’d expect him to be. Especially for someone who’s experienced the things he has. He spent the majority of his 20s, and all of his 30s and 40s, locked up in places most of us get uncomfortable just thinking about. While in prison, he witnessed numerous brutal killings. He survived a savage gang beating, a murder attempt, and years of confinement in isolation.

So what is he like today, now that he’s a free man? You’d be surprised. I certainly was.

Maybe that surprise is the result of having seen too many prison movies as a kid, but I assumed that someone who’s been through hell and back like that couldn’t possibly relate like a normal person. I was wrong. The guy I got to know was likeable straight off the bat. He was funny, well-mannered, and “normal” in all respects. Not that I expected him to shank me for my leftover fries or anything, but you know. Prison can do bad things to people. Apparently, Christopher Boyce is an exception.

For one thing, he doesn’t look the part. You can’t tell he spent a quarter-century of his life in some of the worst snake-pits in the federal prison system. He doesn’t have a single tattoo. He doesn’t walk around with a do-rag on his head. He doesn’t look at you like he’s sizing you up for the kill.

When you talk to him, there’s nothing to indicate that he spent a huge chunk of his life rubbing elbows with ultraviolent offenders and people whose way of life is blowing things up and killing people. He’s incredibly well-spoken, and still retains the sensitivity and intelligence that moved so many people to sympathize with his plight, despite the seriousness of his crime.

In prison, Chris managed to accomplish some impressive things despite his circumstances. He earned his bachelor’s degree by taking correspondence courses. He wrote articles that were published regularly in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He testified for the Senate and helped the government develop numerous programs to prevent espionage and convince others not to make the same mistake he did. He never used drugs. He even quit smoking. All of this, despite his belief that he would never be released from prison.

The first question that sprang to mind when I learned all of this was “Why?” I mean, think about it. If you were thrown into prison and you knew that you were never getting out, wouldn’t it cause you to shed all concepts of right and wrong and just do what you had to do to survive? That’s what I’d do. At least that’s what I think I’d do. But Christopher Boyce didn’t. In the 25 years he spent behind bars, he never allowed his surroundings to become “his” world. Somehow, he managed to survive it without allowing it to consume him.

Logically, the next question that came to my mind was “How?” How does someone without a criminal record and no street smarts avoid getting eaten alive in prison? What was his secret? How does anyone survive all those years in such a hostile environment and emerge half a lifetime later without being a total basket case?

I knew these weren’t easy questions. Not exactly the kinds of things you ask someone casually. So I decided to wait for the right opportunity.

As it turns out, I didn’t even have to ask. I only had to observe. The answer to all of my questions became evident the very moment I saw Chris with his falcon. The transformation remarkable. When he spoke about her, his eyes lit up. His face became noticeably more animated. When he took me into his backyard to show me her mew, a spring appeared in his step that hadn’t been there before. Even his voice took on a more rapid tempo, and there was an energy about him that was unmistakable. It was as if he had grown 10 years younger before my eyes.

And that’s when I figured it out. Falconry was the great passion of Chris’s life. It had been his passion long before he went to prison and it’s still his passion all these decades later. Dreaming of flying his falcon was what kept him alive during the darkest times of his imprisonment. Not skill, or dumb luck, or belief in God, or even the tireless devotion of the woman who would help to set him free. It was falconry. Plain and simple.

The realization rang so true that it made me laugh out loud. And then it made me think. If I had to go through the same thing he did, what is the one thing that would keep me going? Would it be my love of family? Would it be my desire to write? Or would I latch onto something completely new that I had never even considered before?

It’s a question I think everyone should ask themselves. Take the time. Do the digging. Because once you find out what the answer is, you’ll know what you need to pursue in order to find real happiness. You will have found your anchor. Whether it’s something that you already do or something that you’ve always wanted to do but never had the courage to try, figuring out what that one thing is can help you survive the impossible. It worked for Christopher Boyce, and it can probably work for you.

Vince Font is the co-author of the book by Christopher Boyce and Cait Boyce, American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman. The book is available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, and elsewhere.

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