The song is profound and meaningful – and absolutely perfect for today’s circumstances. But, I’ve gotten ahead of myself.
I’m an avid HDTV watcher. The last few days I’ve spent time on the RETRO (RetroPlex) channel. Interestingly there’s been an increase of movies about disillusioned civilian contractors working in the U.S. Government on the line-up. Covert operations complete with code names, spy camera’s that even Bond would be envious.
In the 1970’s it was called the “black vault” (classified communications center). Move forward 30+ years and it’s a data center called PRISM which serves as a communication facility to vacuum up information on millions of private citizens in contradiction to the 4th amendment.
And while we’re on the topic, I was under the impression that the NSA hired Ph.D’s with military service, but now we learn that Edward Snowden, a low-level IT technician making $200K a year – only in America could a civilian contractor who didn’t graduate high school or complete college make $200K – used a banned USB thumb drive to smuggle documents.
I just don’t understand the lack of outrage about his salary, but I’m off point.
Mr. Snowden stated that he justified smuggling documents because the intelligence community had become the United Stasi of America – a reference of the surveillance powers over their own citizens that the East German Stasi – the secret police in the former Democratic Republic of East Germany.
Is this déjà vu all over again?
You might recall that back in 1979, journalist Robert Lindsey chronicled the true story of Andrew Daulton Lee and Christopher John Boyce. Two high school buddies from good families who were tried and convicted of espionage. Boyce’s FBI agent father landed the floundering 21-year-old a job at TRW who developed and manufactured satellites for the CIA. Boyce became disillusioned after learning about the CIA activity to remove Australia’s Prime Minister Gough Whitlam because he wanted to close U.S. military bases. With Lee’s help, Boyce set out to sell government secrets to the Soviets.
In 1985, the book was turned into a film called The Falcon and the Snowman.
As I watched the movie on RETRO, I was reminded of my employment at ITT/Federal Electric Corporation. I worked at the Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex (MSR) or as the locals called it, the “prairie pyramid.” It was the only operational ABM (Anti-ballistic Missile) defense system. It’s mission was to defend the continental U.S. from a ballistic missile attack from the USSR or China. And similar to the movie, security requirements of any installation housing nuclear weapons are specific and extensive. There were 30 Spartans (long-range intercepts) and 70 Sprint (close-in intercepts) missiles on the complex. I initially worked at the MSR (Missile Site Radar) facility for about a year prior to receiving a restricted access clearance. I was then moved to the RSL (Remote Site Launch) facilities which housed the close-in intercept missiles and on many occasions had access to “exclusion areas” (nuclear missile field) in the facility. The RSL’s were hardened against nuclear blast and were capable of operating autonomously while “buttoned up” during an attack.
After all these years the Edward Snowden story speaks to me, both at a national level and from the mundane working world.
Christopher Boyce justified his actions by claiming he was selling information in the hopes of fostering peace between the Soviet Union and the U.S. Or there was Daniel Ellsberg who in 1971, as a leading Vietnam War strategist concluded that America’s role in the war was based on decades of lies so he leaked 7,000 pages of top-secret documents to the New York Times. It was a daring act that ultimately helped lead to Watergate, President Nixon’s resignation and the end of the war. Do you recall when Nixon stated: “Quit making national hero’s out of those who steal secrets and publish them in the newspaper.”
Unfortunately in 2013 this all sounds similar.
Then in Oregon we have the “slippery slimy” Senator Ron Wyden who tried to cast himself in a positive light. Being on the Intelligence Committee, he had been briefed and knew the answer, but ask the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, “do you collect telephone data on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Mr. Clapper should have duck the question – neither confirm or deny here in open session – but instead he provided the least “untruthful answer” – or LIED.
Hey, I want to defeat the terrorists as much as the next guy, but harvesting data on millions of innocent American’s… I don’t recall signing up for that or empowering a despotic government here in the U.S.
And long before PRISM there was Good Will Hunting. Why shouldn’t I join the NSA? It’s a classic!
You might wonder where Christopher Boyce is now? In 1977 he was convicted of espionage and spent time in various federal prisons. In 1980, he made headlines when he escaped from Lompoc, CA., and remained on the run for 19 months while supporting himself by robbing banks in the Pacific Northwest. In 1997, he was released from the medium-security prison in Sheridan, OR., and sent to a halfway house in San Francisco. He married Cait Boyce, the woman who helped him fight for parole. In 2003 at the age of 50 years old, he was released from the halfway house. He remains free, but on parole until 2046, his original release date. Mr. Lee was paroled in 1998.
Photos courtesy of U.S. Army, some taken by author at the Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex (MSR) – near Nekoma, and Langdon, N.D. Note: On the Falcon & the Snowman soundtrack the name of the song – This Is Not America is “Chris.”