Boyce is the son of Noreen Boyce (née Hollenbeck) and former McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Corporation, Director of Security, Charles Eugene Boyce. He, along with three brothers and five sisters, were raised in the affluent community of Rancho Palos Verdes located in Southern California. In 1974 Boyce was hired at TRW, a Southern California aerospace firm in Redondo Beach, California. Due to his father’s prestigious position at McDonnell Douglas, Boyce was able to obtain employment. Within months, Boyce was promoted to a highly sensitive position in TRW’s “Black Vault” (classified communications center) with a top secret security clearance, where he worked with National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) transmissions.
Boyce claims that he began getting misrouted cables from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) discussing the agency’s desire to depose the government of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in Australia. Boyce claimed the CIA wanted Whitlam removed from office because he wanted to close U.S. military bases in Australia, including the vital Pine Gap secure communications facility, and withdraw Australian troops from Vietnam. For these reasons some claim that U.S. government pressure was a major factor in the dismissal of Whitlam as Prime Minister by the Governor General, Sir John Kerr, who according to Boyce, was referred to as “our man Kerr” by CIA officers.Through the cable traffic Boyce saw that the CIA was involving itself in such a manner, not just with Australia but with other democratic, industrialized allies. Boyce considered going to the press, but believed the media’s earlier disclosure of CIA involvement in the 1973 Chilean coup d’état had not changed anything for the better.
Instead, he gathered a quantity of classified documents concerning secure U.S. communications ciphers and spy satellite development and had his friend Andrew Daulton Lee, a cocaine and heroin dealer since his high school days (hence his nickname, “The Snowman”) deliver them to Soviet embassy officials in Mexico City, returning with large sums of cash for Boyce (nicknamed “The Falcon” because of his longtime interest in falconry) and himself. According to a book that Boyce and his wife co-authored, the information was not valuable to the Soviet Union.
Boyce, then 23, was finally exposed after Lee was arrested by Mexican police in front of the Soviet embassy on January 6, 1977, on suspicion of having killed a police officer. During his harsh interrogation Lee, who had top secretmicrofilm in his possession when arrested, confessed to being a Soviet spy and implicated Boyce. Boyce was arrested on January 16, 1977, when the FBI found him hiding out at the shack he was renting near Riverside, California. He was convicted May 14, 1977, of espionage and sentenced to 40 years in prison, initially at Terminal Island and then the Metropolitan Correctional Center in San Diego. On July 10, 1979, he was transferred to the federal penitentiary in Lompoc, California
On January 21, 1980, Boyce escaped from Lompoc. While a fugitive, Boyce carried out 17 bank robberies in Idaho and Washington state. Boyce adopted the alias of “Anthony Edward Lester”.
According to Boyce, he studied aviation, not to flee to the Soviet Union as some suspected, but to rescue Daulton Lee from Lompoc.
On August 21, 1981, Boyce was arrested while eating in his car outside “The Pit Stop,” a drive-in restaurant in Port Angeles, Washington. Authorities had received a tip about Boyce’s whereabouts from his former bank robbery confederates.
Boyce was sentenced to three years for his escape and to 25 years for bank robbery, conspiracy, and breaking federal gun laws. He was transferred to United States Penitentiary, Leavenworth.
In 1982 Boyce gave a television interview to Ray Martin for Australia’s 60 Minutes about the dismissal of Whitlam. After this he received a bashing from fellow inmates which he believed was orchestrated by prison guards. After the attack, he was transferred to USP Marion, where he was held in isolation.
In April 1985 Boyce gave testimony on how to prevent insider spy threats to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations as part of its Government Personnel Security Program.
In 1988, with support from senators, he was transferred, out of solitary confinement, to Minnesota Correctional Facility – Oak Park Heights. In 1998 he was transferred to ADX Florence in Colorado; in his opinion, this was punishment for a newspaper article that he had written. In 2000 he was transferred to FCI Sheridan in Oregon
Boyce was released from prison on parole on 16 September 2002 after serving a little over 25 years, accounting for his time spent outside from the escape. Shortly thereafter he married Kathleen “Cait” Mills, whom he’d met when she was working as a paralegal spearheading efforts to obtain parole for Lee. After her success with Lee, she turned her attention to securing parole for Boyce as well, and the two developed a personal relationship.The couple moved to Oregon, and Boyce’s own parole ended in 2007.
In 2013 Boyce published a book titled American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman, which mainly discusses his time in prison and relationship with Cait. At that time, he was living a relatively quiet life with Cait in central Oregon, where he had resumed his participation in falconry as a frequent pastime. When interviewed at the time his book was released, Boyce expressed support for the actions of Edward Snowden in exposing information about the United States government’s surveillance programs.
The story of their case was told in Robert Lindsey‘s best-selling 1979 book The Falcon and the Snowman. This book was turned into a film of the same title in 1985 by director John Schlesinger starring Timothy Hutton as Boyce and Sean Penn as Lee.
Lindsey’s initial book was followed by The Flight of the Falcon: The True Story of the Escape and Manhunt for America’s Most Wanted Spy (1983), an account of Christopher Boyce’s escape from Federal prison and subsequent bank robbing spree.
American performance artist Johanna Went‘s 1982 album Hyena features a song called “Christopher Boyce.”
American band Luna‘s song “Moon Palace” from the 1995 album Penthouse features the line “You’ve got no choice, Feel like Christopher Boyce.”