Monday, 9 May 2011

The Falcon and the Snowman

In The Falcon and the Snowman, a young man working for a Defence Corporation passed classified information over a period of time to the Soviet Union for money with eh held of a childhood friend who dealt in drugs and was a drug addict. He was initially sentenced to 40 years and his friend to Life. I have no quarrel with the sentences and both men behaved with criminal irresponsibility endangering their country. Christopher Boyce was to become a bank robber after escaping from prison at one point adding a further 25 years teh original sentence. The problem is that the precipitating cause of the treason was the accidental discovery that the USA was interfering in the affairs of an ally, funding opposition parties and engaging in dirty tricks to end the democratically elected Government of Australia because of its socialist policies and elsewhere.

Christopher Boyce was born in 1953 shortly after his father had resigned from the FBI to take up a position in private security. The family were politically conservative and friends were in the law enforcement work. Christopher was raised a Catholic through his mother and was an altar boy along with Andrew Dalton Lee, born a year before and the son of a wealthy Californian physician. Christopher attended a Catholic school called St John Fisher (as I did in the UK).

Boyce became a Falconer hence his nickname and then entered a seminary to become a Catholic priest but left after deciding the life was not for him. His father arranged a position for him in a private defence and security organisation TRW whose interests included the manufacture of weapons, space exploration and satellites, computers and digital processing and which handled the bulk of confidential communications for the government with the exception of CIA messages to its headquarters in Virginia.

Boyce was selected to work with two others, handling the most secret and coded communications. He discovered that from time to time messages intended for the CIA HQ came their way and from this he learnt that his government was secretly interfering in the democratic process in Australia. He was aware that his Government through the CIA had been found to have been instrumental in the 1973 Chilean coup d’etat and the killing of the legitimate President Salvador Allende. He is reported to have been shocked that nothing had changed.

He had distanced himself from his friend who had become involved in illegal drug distribution and who is captured and threatened with the force of the law unless he cooperates and reveals the more senior people in the network. The friend turned to Christopher for help who agrees to do so on the basis that he acts as courier with initial formation to be passed to the Russians via their embassy in Mexico. In the 1985 film, the contact in the embassy is played by David Suchet and Lee is played by a young Sean Penn. The Russian are impressed with the info and offer payment, and a new identity for Lee to enable him to travel over the border back and forth. They want to know the identity of the Falcon and information about the Satellite listening and watching devices. Lee also suggests that the Russian should use diplomatic immunity to enable him to get drugs into Mexico and the USA, offering to split the profits. It is not clear if they agreed to this but he becomes addicted, unstable and unreliable.

Boyce meanwhile moves out of the family home into a beachside apartment and establishes an ongoing loving relationship.
While the relationship prospers for a while, the Russian are unhappy with the courier who in the film appears governed by a desire to seek the approval of his parents who are aware there is a warrant for his arrest and his involvement with drugs. Boyce also becomes disillusioned with the Russians and wants to opt out and go to college. However he also senses time is running out after making direct contact with the Russians, dumps the girl friend so she will not be implicated and releases his falcon into the wild before he is taken into custody in January 1977 after Lee had been arrested in Mexico following an incident at the Russian Embassy and he is then accused of being involved in the death of policeman and tortured in an attempt to secure a confession.

Lee admits his involvement in the espionage and when told he will be deported he is given the choice of being handed to the Russians or the USA. He elected to return across the border where he is arrested. In the film the suggestion is made that the government is willing to hush up their infamy up but Christopher‘s father wants the law to take its course and both men are found guilty with Lee given the harsher sentence of Life and Boyce 40 years.

The book was published in 1979 when the two were regarded as the worst traitors in USA history. The John Schlesinger film was released in 1985 during the time of their imprisonment.

There were several twists to the real story in that Boyce escaped from a Federal prison and while fugitive committed 17 bank robberies and west arrested again 18 months later after a former colleague bank robbery tipped off the authorities He returned to prison with another 25 years added to the originals sentence

There was some publicity in Australia in 1982 about the conviction which revealed that the US senate Committee on Intelligence had carried out its investigation without interviewing Boyce and did not publish its findings. The article also mentioned that Australian officials had interviewed Boyce on the allegations made at the trial. The Australian Government stated in 1977 that they had received assurance from President Carter that the US Government or its agencies had been or were improperly involved in activities in Australia. The statement was rejected by the former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.

In the same year although in Prison authority was given for him to interviewed in the television programme 60 minutes who then published a transcript of the interview. One repeated allegation is that the then Governor General of Australia, that is the representative of the Queen of Britain, was referred to within the CIA as out man Kerr. Boyce discloses being paid a total of $20000 by the Russians for supplied information.

In 1986 the “Matter of American Intervention in Australia” was raised in the Australian House of Representatives by Peter Staples of a Queensland constituency. He expressed concern at the lack of inquiry about what had happened and he stated that Boyce was serving then a 68 year sentence in solitary confinement following his recapture.

There was also a six part radio documentary in 1986 which covered the CIA activities in Australia leading to the elected Prime Minister being dismissed by the Governor General accused by the CIA for being their man. The transcript of the programme goes to 40 page and covers events in extraordinary detail. With the help of a former CIA officer. The programme begins with a review of CIA involvement in other countries

This all started after World War II mentioning the overthrow in Iran to establish the Shah; the government of Guatemala in 1954; two Uruguayan governments, the failed Bay of Pigs attempt in Cuba in 1961, the government of Brazil in 1964 and in Chile in 1973; Invasions into China were mentioned together with supporting guerilla warfare operations in the Soviet Union, Nepal and Albania. The CIA was involved in General Elections in Italy between 1948 and 1970’s and elections in Germany. There were seven attempts to overthrow the Government in Syria. In Africa there was the Government of Angola and in Ethiopia. The former went to sat there was not a a country in South America where the CIA had not interfered. As well as governments in the Middle East.

Questioned about Australia he expressed amazement at the denials of CIA involvement given admission by the CIA through Ray Cline former Deputy Director. He disclosed that the governor general had founded a CIA front organisation. He refers to Task Force 157 established by Henry Kissinger as a mini CIA to get rid of the Whitlam government and to continue to use the country as a base for clandestine US operations in the region including arms dealing and smuggling contraband goods.

He explained that the CIA used three kinds of organisation with the first one owned, operated and controlled directly by the CIA, and Air America and Air China were mentioned as examples. Then there are front organisations less controlled and set up often for a specific purpose such as a consulting firm similar the one set up for the Watergate break in. The third kind of unit is more independent but usually has former CIA directly involved. The programme then looked at a number of organisations in Australia and the links with the CIA, followed by a detailed account of the events leading to the dismissal of Gough Whitlam.

Lee was released in 1998 and the woman who campaigned for this turned her attention to Boyce who was released on parole in 2002 and from parole in 2008, having married the campaigner shortly after his parole. There is a reference that Lee was employed by Sean Penn as his personal assistant after his release. Boyce expressed regret for his actions, particularly the sorrow he cause his family and for any unintended harm to his country. He had served 25 years in prison.

And then there is Wikileakes.

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