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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