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Christopher John Boyce

Spy of the Month
February 2009

Christopher John Boyce

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Christopher John Boyce is the son of a retired FBI Special Agent and a strict catholic woman. By most accounts, Boyce was extremely intelligent with an IQ of 142 (various tests have had him as low as 129). He was raised Roman Catholic and attended a Roman Catholic school, where he was an altar boy. He met his "best" friend, Andrew Daulton Lee, at school and they became inseparable friends. Boyce attended Harbor Junior College, then Loyola University, where he dropped out in 1973.

Early adulthood for Boyce brought drugs into his life, constantly smoking marijuana with his best friend Lee. He also developed disenchantment with the U.S. and our participation in the Vietnam War. He felt family values had eroded and he came to worship only one thing, money. Boyce was 21 years old and directionless when his father arranged a job for him as a clerk (at $140 a week) working for TRW, an aerospace firm in Redondo Beach, California (both Boyce's father and the head of TRW were retired FBI Special Agents). Boyce was given a Top Secret clearance fairly quickly, probably also a result of his father's connections.

Shortly after starting with TRW, Boyce was working in the "Black Vault," where he was required to change cipher keys. The keys involved CIA satellites, the "Spy in the Sky" projects. Two satellites made by TRW were operated by Signals Intelligence and were code named "Rhyolite" and "Argus." Rhyolite was designed to hover 18,000 miles over Russia and China to pick up the sounds of missile engines, but the electronics were so sensitive they were able to pick up whispered phone conversations, which were monitored and recorded.

During the course of a drug-induced conversation with Lee, Boyce told Lee about his access to satellite information and stated some foreign entities would pay a lot of money for what he had access too. Within a week, the two devised a plan for Lee to go to Mexico City and approach the Russians with classified material.

Lee approached the Russian Embassy in Mexico City and eventually met with a KGB Intelligence Officer, wherein he provided the KGB with a 12-inch paper tape used in cryptographic machines at TRW. On the tape were messages from Rhyolite. This started their two-year odessey into providing the KGB with information. Lee would take the information to Mexico City and he would receive $10,000 per exchange. No honor among thieves is very relevant here. Lee received $10,000 but only gave Boyce $3,000!!!! He lied to his "best" friend to keep a larger share of the money for himself and to further his own addiction to drugs.

Boyce became suspicious of his friend and decided to meet with the Russians himself, so he traveled to Mexico City for his first meeting. The KGB asked Boyce to return to the U.S. and finish his education. They wanted Boyce to receive a college degree in a field conducive to getting a job with the CIA. The Russians are known to have planted people in the U.S. as early as the 1930's, who were to get jobs with access to classified information and who can be called upon to provide that information to them at the right time. These people are called "sleepers." Boyce avoided answering the question of college and said he would make one more run for $75,000, but was caught before he could deliver.

In 1977 Lee made an unexpected trip to Mexico City for a surprise exchange with the Russians. He was not let into the Embassy right away and caused such a scene that the Mexican authorities arrested him, thinking he was a terrorist. During a search of Lee, filmstrips of classified documents were found on him and the U.S. State Department was called. Lee quickly told of his association with Boyce and the Russian government. On January 16, 1977 Boyce was arrested in California, and was given a 40-year sentence on June 20, 1977. In contrast, even though he isn't the one who actually stole the information (Boyce was in a position of trust, not Lee) Lee received a life sentence.

In January 1980, Boyce escaped from federal prison and was on the run for 19 months. At the time of his re-arrest, Boyce had been taking pilot lessons in Washington, because he had friends he wanted to visit in Idaho and go hunting with them. He admitted during a 1982 interview that he is no expert, but an amateur; perhaps in that instance, at least, he is right. With 28 years added to his previous 40, it is expected Boyce will be 94 years old when he leaves federal prison (currently Fort Leavenworth, Kansas).

Boyce has stated various reasons for his exploits into espionage. He says the U.S. was not living up to agreements and attempted to control world politics. Regardless of whether his statements are true, the fact remains he received a lot of money for his endeavors and was trying for "one" last $75,000 trip.

In 1979, Robert Lindsey wrote a book about Boyce and Lee, titled "The Falcon and the Snowman." Their exploits were further memorialized in the acclaimed movie of the same title starring Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn.


Falcon and the Snowman, by Robert Lindsey, Simon and Schuster, 1979

Falcon and the Snowman, movie starring Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn, Directed by: John Schlesinger, 1984

60 Minutes Transcript of interview with Boyce

Recent Espionage Cases, 1977 - Christopher John Boyce