The story of Christopher Boyce


On 23 May 1982, in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary, Kansas, Ray Martin interviewed a young man called Christopher Boyce for the Channel Nine TV program, 60 Minutes. (Martin was working in Nine’s New York office at the time. It is somewhat difficult to square up the Boyce interview with the Martin we see today.) Boyce was serving a prison sentence of forty years for having sold military secrets to the Russians. Like the atom spy, Klaus Fuchs, before him, Boyce was a ‘traitor’. It was seven years after the dismissal of the Whitlam Labor government in 1975. Boyce was apprehended and convicted of espionage in 1977. (link here)

Boyce’s background is interesting. His father was an FBI agent and the family was affluent, ultra-conservative Catholic. Young Christopher was an altar boy. The Boyces lived in Palos Verdes, Southern California and were typical of artist Norman Rockwell’s America.

In 1972, Christopher Boyce – having dropped out of college – was a telex operator and cipher clerk for TRW, (link here) an aerospace and weapons contractor with close links to the CIA. (Today, TRW is a principal player in America’s ‘Star Wars’, missile defense program.) Boyce’s job was to send and receive telexes between agents in Australia and the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. (link here) The messages generally concerned information about Chinese and Russian military activity gained from the installation at Pine Gap, near Alice Springs – information the US was supposed to share with Australia, under a secret agreement reached in 1966.

The mid 1970s was the time of the Watergate scandal, the fall of the Allende government in Chile and the trials and tribulations of the Whitlam administration.

The election of the ‘socialist’ Whitlam government in 1972 was a nasty blow to the Americans and the CIA – especially when it was bruited in 1974 that the Labor government might not renew the Pine Gap Agreement.

 © Copyright Fiona Katauskas

© Copyright Fiona Katauskas

Ray Martin’s 1982 interview with Christopher Boyce was – to use that over-worked word – ‘explosive’. Boyce alleged that the CIA had engineered Whitlam’s downfall and had not honoured the 1966 agreement to share the military information gained at Pine Gap. In short, Boyce was disillusioned at the way America was treating its allies. He was angry at the CIA’s ‘dirty tricks’.

In the interview with Ray Martin, Christopher Boyce further alleged that the Labor-appointed Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, was referred to as ‘our man Kerr’ by some senior CIA operatives, that the aim of the CIA was to destabilize the Labor Government and get rid of Whitlam, that the CIA had infiltrated the Australian trade unions and that the CIA had ‘friends in high places’ in Australia. Boyce also said that security at TRW was of the ‘Keystone Cop’ variety and he had no trouble in getting secret documents out of the building, or photographing them. (The employees of TRW used to make daiquiris in the document destruction blender; and marijuana was grown in the Communications Room.) Boyce was paid a total of $76 000 by the Russians; but he said his primary aim was to confound the activities of the American government, who, he said, by stockpiling nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, ‘would cause World War III’.

Astoundingly, after the interview was aired on 60 Minutes, no comment appears to have been made in the mainstream media, whatsoever. Was this a ‘D-Notice’, or was the media told to shut up? Now, the taped interview lies safely in the archives of Channel Nine.

(Subsequently, in 1988, Gough Whitlam did say that he had no doubt the CIA had been involved in the 1974 dismissal, but Australian Associated Press proclaimed: ‘Whitlam doesn’t see CIA/MI6 hand in events of 1975.’ Only the Melbourne Age ran the story differently and said that Whitlam was convinced the CIA played a part in his downfall.) (See Pilger: A Secret Country, which discusses the dismissal in some detail.)

However, the Martin interview with Christopher Boyce was taken up by Public Radio News Services in a six-part series, Watching Brief, in October 1986. (3CR in Victoria). A ‘Christopher Boyce Alliance’ was formed, involving backbenchers and some ex-ministers of the Whitlam government; but this appears to have come to nothing. After 1988, the Christopher Boyce affair and the supposed CIA involvement in the 1975 dismissal were dead.

Christopher Boyce

Christopher Boyce

So why bother with all this? Shouldn’t we – to use the fashionable phrase – move on? Shouldn’t we make closure? Next November, it will be thirty years since the Whitlam dismissal.

That the CIA was in some way involved with the termination of the 1972-75 Labor government, there seems little doubt. The burial of the Ray Martin interview and the reluctance of the mainstream media to discuss the issue proves just how supine and gutless the media in this country was and is. On a deeper level, the silence over Christopher Boyce demonstrates the limitless capacity of Australians for secrecy, forgetting and self-deception. We cannot bring ourselves to believe that we could be victims of realpolitik. Most other countries are, so why not us? To suggest now that the CIA may have played a part in the downfall of the 1972-75 Labor Government puts one in the category of those who believe in UFOs, or aliens from Outer Space.

The Pine Gap Agreement was renewed by the subsequent Fraser government, and after that, Labor PM, Bob Hawke, advised the people of Australia no longer to ‘maintain their rage’.

The activities of the CIA in Australia seem not to be so aggressive these days. They have no need to be – we have a government at the beck and call of Washington.

In 1985, the Christopher Boyce story was made into a creditable film, called The Falcon and the Snowman, starring Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn. It is worth watching. (Boyce was interested in falconry and his friend and courier, Andrew Daulton Lee, was a drug-dealer.)

After successfully making a case to the US Parole Commission, Boyce was paroled in 1997; but his present whereabouts is not known. (link here)

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