Convicted Soviet spy Christopher Boyce may have caused the ratification failure of Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty II by selling the Russians top-secret documents detailing aspects of the U.S. satellite surveillance system, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) said tonight on the CBS television program "60 Minutes".
Moynihan, vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said Boyce and a friend, Dalton Lee, also convicted of espionage, "compromised" the U.S. satellite system.
"Basically, with respect to the, the satellite systems that were compromised, they made them temporarily, at least, useless to us," Moynihan said, "because the Soviets could block them. And the fear that that would happen, had happened, permeated the Senate and, as much as any one thing was responsible for the failure of the SALT treaty.
"And if you think as I do that the breakdown of our arms negotiations with the Soviets is an ominous event, then nothing quite so awful has happened to our country as the escapade of these two young men."
Boyce, convicted of espionage with Lee in 1977 for selling defense secrets to the Soviets, was sentenced to 40 years in prison but escaped after serving two years. He was recaptured after 19 months of freedom in the Pacific Northwest, during which time he supported himself by robbing banks.
SALT II was signed by Presidents Carter and Leonid I. Brezhnev in June, 1979, but languished in the Senate, which refused to ratify it after the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan six months later.
Boyce had worked his way into a top-secret position in a code vault at TRW Inc. in Redondo Beach, Calif. Boyce, also interviewed on "60 Minutes," said there was virtually no security at TRW.
Boyce told CBS that he smuggled documents in and out of the top-secret TRW facility using document satchels. He said that his boss sent him out to buy liquor and that he smuggled documents out through satchels that guards never inspected, thinking they contained only liquor approved by Boyce's boss.
The problem was bringing documents in, Boyce said.
"One time I bought . . . a pot and a plant, and I rolled documents up in plastic and stuck them in the pot and put dirt over that and stuck the plant in the top and then walked in and told . . . the guards to go out to my car and bring the potted plant into the offices," Boyce said.