Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Christopher Boyce & Andrew Daulton Lee

The Double Smuggle

Early in April 1975, a short, acne-scarred, bushy-haired, mustachioed, and well-dressed American swaggered into the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City.  He had to see someone of importance, he related, because he had information about spy satellites that would interest the Russians.

Daulton Lee was introduced to a Soviet official named Vasily Okana. He was skeptical at first, but was willing to listen as Lee spun his tale.

Ive got a friend who is a socialist, Lee told Okana. The friend worked in a government office and had access to sensitive data.  Although his friend had a sincere desire to aid the Soviet Union, both of them expected to be handsomely paid for transmitting classified secrets. 

Book cover: The Falcon and the Snowman
Book cover:
The Falcon and the Snowman

Okana invited the American to share caviar and vodka.  He appeared to be a gracious host but understandably wary.  The Russian had a habit of incessantly arching his eyebrows that Lee took to be a display of doubt.  Lee handed Okana an envelope.  In it was a brief and blunt note typed but not signed by Christopher Boyce: Enclosed is a computer card from a National Security Agency crypto system.  If you want to do business, please advise the courier.  It also contained, as Robert Lindsey wrote in The Falcon and the Snowman, computer programming cards and a twelve-inch length of paper tape used in the KG-13 and KW-7 crypto machines.

After examining the materials, Okana left the room.  When he returned, he had an envelope for Lee.  It contained $250 in U.S. currency.  There would be more where that came from.  The Russian agreed to do business with the short American and his anonymous friend. Okana told him that he and the other Soviets would call Lee Luis and told Lee that he should call him John. 

When a code name was needed for Christopher Boyce, it was not hard to come up with an appropriate one: Falcon.

Under no circumstances was Luis to return to the embassy.  Rather, he would meet a Soviet agent at a designated place.  They would know each other through passwords or, in this case, pass phrases.  The Russian would ask, Do you know the restaurant in San Francisco? and Luis was to reply, No, but I know the restaurant in Los Angeles.

KW 7 crypto machine
KW 7 crypto machine

One of their rendezvous was held near the Polyforum, one of Mexico Citys landmarks.  The Polyforum was a vast amphitheater created by the famous muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros.  The crowd on the sidewalks was thick with both tourists and Mexicans but the Russian John found his American Luis.  Despite the fact that they easily knew each other on sight, they exchanged the pass phrases.  Lee turned over ten KW-7 cipher cards to the KGB agent.

As Lees trips to Mexico City continued, Okana began pressing Lee to tell him more about his socialist friend who was so interested in helping the Soviet Union.  Lee had told Boyce he would keep Boyces identity secret, so a rather nervous Luis hedged and evaded Johns insistent and repetitive questions.

Is your friend black? Okana asked.

No, Lee replied.  He was puzzled by the question.  Knowing the history of persecution and discrimination blacks had suffered in America, perhaps Okana believed that a black would be more likely to sympathize with the U.S.s chief rival.

Later, the pair met at a restaurant and Okana presented Lee with what the courier most treasured: cash.  Lee was handed an envelope bulging with $100 bills. Sensing that it would be bad form, Lee did not immediately count the contents although he yearned to do so.

Again the Russian pressed Lee for details about his friend and the governmental facility where he worked. Again Lee told Okana that he could disclose nothing further about his source.

Christopher Boyce, like the others who worked in the Black Vault, was often sent outside the office on booze runs to the liquor store.  He would go past the guards, satchel in hand, and they would obligingly look the other way.

One time the spirit of the prankster got the better of Christopher Boyce and, without bothering to inform Lee of his plan, he included some surprise pictures in a package for the Soviets.  They went through spy photographs and came upon some nudes.

The Russians were not amused and loudly dressed down Lee. He, in turn, did not find Boyces trick funny and chewed him out the next time they met.

Minox camera
Minox camera

When Boyce carried the satchel, it often contained rolls of documents. Sometimes he brought these sensitive documents back into the building inside a potted plant.  He would first slip the papers  into a plastic bag, then place the bag inside a clay pot, and then put dirt and a plant on top. Boyce would often ask a gardener at TRW to retrieve a plant from Boyces car and put the plant in the security area. Boyce sometimes photographed the documents and then turned them over to Lee who would return to Mexico and turn them over to the Russians.  Alone in the Black Vault, Boyce betrayed his country with each click of a small Minox camera.

Tim Hutton as Boyce with mini camera
Tim Hutton as Boyce with mini camera

Although the Soviets paid for everything Lee brought them, they sometimes complained.  Photographs were occasionally too fuzzy.  They often asked for details that Lee promised he would get from his friend.  When Lee contacted Boyce, the latter sometimes could not come up with the desired information. Boyces occasional inability to deliver such information led to squabbles between the two.

As their collaboration went on, tensions mounted between Boyce and Lee.  Boyce always suspected (with reason, as it turned out) that Lee was not  giving him his half of the Russian money.  Lees addiction to drugs, especially heroin, grew and Boyce believed his partner was becoming reckless. Indeed, high from the combined effects of drugs and booze, Lee had actually told some people that he was a spy!  The listeners always dismissed him as a joker, but Boyce was understandably dismayed.

Lee was always afraid of being busted in the U.S. upon his return from Mexico.  The dope peddler turned spy once described himself as a lot of dead babies because of his practice of obtaining birth certificates of people who had died young and then getting social security cards, drivers licenses, etc. in their names.  He was hoped to make a fortune in a drug deal, and then permanently retire in Costa Rica.

At one meeting with his Soviet handlers, Lee suggested that they should assist him in his dope dealing by transporting cocaine from Peru to the U.S. for him.  The Russians looked at each other, and then back at Lee in stunned silence.

Boyce's car after arrest
Boyce's car after arrest

In almost two years of spying, Boyce  reaped only $20,000.  His motive was never money, however. The motive was revenge against a country that had disillusioned him.  He was not a communist and did not have a high opinion of the Soviet system.

He was also motivated by the sheer thrill; indeed that may have been this spys primary reason for selling out his country.  He was extremely excited by the danger of spying and achieved a kind of high from pulling one over on the American intelligence community.  He was surprised by how long he was able to hoodwink his colleagues and superiors and that added to the adrenaline rush of his double life.

But Boyce could be fatalistic.  I knew from the beginning that I would eventually be caught, he observed.  There was no escape from it. . . . After all, Im an amateur, 21 years old, and the Central Intelligence Agency had been in business a lot longer than I had.

Boyce began to think that being a spy was more trouble than it was worth.  He discussed with Lee the notion of ending his efforts. Lee would not hear of it.  There was still so much money to be made.  Boyce later claimed that Lee threatened to tell all to Charles Boyce. Chris  was certain that, regardless of his fathers love for him, the elder Boyces patriotism would lead him to turn in his own son.

Meanwhile, the Russians were increasingly eager to meet the man who gathered so much information for them.  Lee was reluctant to arrange the introduction.  After all, Boyce might no longer need a courier if the Soviets dealt with him directly.  However, such a meeting was eventually scheduled and Boyce came along with Lee to Mexico City.

Boyces behavior angered Lee.  The Soviets wanted code room transmission frequencies.  Boyce replied that he simply could not get them that information was not in the Black Vault.  This truthful admission put Lee on the spot.  Lee had repeatedly assured the Russians that his friend could deliver the frequencies. It was only a matter of time before the Russians would have them.

Yet the two pals had some good times in their trip to Mexico.  They even took photographs of each other just like ordinary tourists.

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