Convicted US spy Christopher Boyce talks about the Snowden case

(CNN)  Sitting alone in a hotel room, unable to contact friends or family or even walk the teeming streets of Hong Kong without looking over his shoulder, there can be few who can claim to know the fear and isolation that NSA leaker Edward Snowden is living through.

One man, however, is better qualified than most.

Former spy, fugitive and convicted traitor, Christopher Boyce sold U.S. secrets to the former Soviet Union and dodged U.S. authorities for almost two years until his arrest in 1977 at the age of just 22.

Young, idealistic and driven by a mixture of political conviction and outlaw excitement, Boyce eventually received a 40-year sentence for espionage. In 1980, he escaped from the federal penitentiary in Lompoc, California and, while on the run, carried out a string of bank robberies in Idaho and Washington state — crimes for which he says he carries a greater weight of remorse than for those of espionage.

Released on parole in 2003 after serving 25 years, Boyce now lives on America’s West Coast and is working on his memoirs — “The Falcon and The Snowman: American Sons” — scheduled for release this year.

In it he outlines how, in 1974, a clean-cut college kid — the son of a respected former FBI agent — lands a job at aerospace and defense firm TRW in Southern California where he sees misrouted Central Intelligence Agency cables that allegedly discuss destabilizing the Australian government — then led by the center-left government of Gough Whitlam. . . .

. . . While 35 years separate his ill-starred foray into espionage and Snowden’s decision to reveal the secret surveillance plans of the National Security Agency (NSA), Boyce told CNN he has a good idea what Snowden might be going through.

“I feel for the guy, and for what his life is going to become. I pity him,” Boyce said.

“He’s in for a world of hurt, for the rest of his life. I feel sorry for him. He’s going to go through life not being able to trust anybody. And I think that in the end, it’ll end badly for him — one way or another, they’ll get their hands on him. He’s going to pay for it. He’s doomed.”

In one of only a handful of interviews Boyce has given since his arrest in 1977, he told CNN this week about his own motivations three decades ago and what Snowden is likely to face psychologically now he is pitted against the world’s most powerful secret service. . . .

. . . . Boyce: I think he’s scared to death. I think that every single person he sees, he’s wondering if that’s the person that’s coming for him. He’s probably worried that there is a large group of people in Washington, D.C., trying to come up with some way of getting back at him, to get control of him, to lock him up for the rest of his life.

I don’t know if he has an arrangement with the Chinese government. If he doesn’t, I would be worried that the Chinese may deport him to the United States to gain some concession in return. I’d be terrified of that, if I were him. Who would trust the Chinese government? He is utterly vulnerable and knows that there are a lot of people who really want to hurt him now. If I were him, I would at this point probably be having second thoughts. Asking myself “What did I do? What have I brought down upon my head? Did I really do this?”

The fact is, he can never come back home.

He’s totally separated from everything he has ever known, from his family. He is always going to be a fugitive, until they get him. And eventually, they will. He will never see his family again unless they go to him. And if they do go to him, he’ll no longer be in hiding. The only way that he can truly hide is to abandon his whole past, his entire life.

When he realizes that, he’s going to be racked with depression. I would imagine that his stress levels are at a point where they could actually make him physically sick. I’m sure everything is gnawing at him. And he’s isolated. If I were him, I’d latch onto a couple of reporters that I trusted. He has a lot of enemies now. He has the whole intelligence community of the United States after him, including all of its allies. I sure as hell wouldn’t trust the Chinese government, if I were him. . . . (read the rest)

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