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Profile: John Harris

John Harris was a participant or observer in the following events:

A graduate student at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, John Harris, is injured when he opens a box left at the University’s Technological Institute. The box contains a bomb that explodes when opened. Harris suffers minor cuts and burns. [BBC, 11/12/1987; Washington Post, 1998] Authorities recognize fundamental similarities between this and a previous Northwestern University bombing (see May 25-26, 1978). This bomb is quite similar in construction to that one, though more sophisticated in construction and design. It consists of a cigar box and a pipe bomb, triggered by a battery-operated filament that ignites explosive powders. [World of Forensic Science, 1/1/2005] However, the package contains a number of small, finger-sized pieces of wood glued to its outer container. [Knight Ridder, 5/28/1995] The bombing will later be shown to be the work of Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see May 25-26, 1978 and April 3, 1996).

Entity Tags: Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski, Northwestern University, John Harris

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The dispute between the US and China over the downed US spy plane over Chinese territory, and the subsequent detention of the crew by the Chinese (see March 31, 2001, April 4-5, 2001, April 6-7, 2001, and April 8, 2001), is resolved. Chinese officials approve the letter from US officials expressing regret over the incident, and early that morning, the crew members are released into American custody. [CNN, 4/2001] The plane, filled with secret US surveillance equipment, remains in Chinese custody; it will eventually be disassembled on Hainan Island by US crews and returned to American custody in July, 2001. [US Pacific Command, 7/2001] Defense expert Paul Beaver says China’s acquisition of even part of the surveillance equipment—whatever was not destroyed by the crew before the plane was boarded by Chinese troops—is an incalculable loss to the United States. China may cut the US lead in electronic warfare by at least a decade. “The EP-3E is the jewel in the crown of the US Navy’s electronic intelligence gathering capability and the loss of its secrets to a potential unfriendly nation is a grievous loss to the US,” Beaver writes. He writes that the loss of the EP-3 is perhaps the most serious loss to the US intelligence community since the downing of Francis Gary Powers’s U-2 spy plane over the Soviet Union in 1961, and warns that China could even sell the technology it acquires to nations such as Russia or Pakistan. [BBC, 4/3/2001] It is not publicly revealed until 2006 that President Bush secretly engaged Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar to conduct the delicate negotiations with the Chinese over the US aircraft and crew. Bandar, a close friend of the Bush family and a senior Saudi official, is an unusual choice for the negotiations, but Bandar has a special relationship with the Chinese due to Saudi Arabia’s various deals to purchase arms and missiles, and the increasing reliance of China on Saudi oil. Bandar, never a modest man, considers it a personal favor from the Chinese to have them release the 24 American hostages. Bandar also oversees the wording of the American “apology” to the Chinese for the incident, where the US apologizes for entering Chinese airspace to make an emergency landing, but does not apologize for the E-3’s legitimate intelligence-gathering mission. Secretary of State Colin Powell, nominally in charge of the US negotiations, only finds out about Bandar’s efforts through the NSA’s monitoring of Bandar’s phone calls to the Chinese; when he calls Bandar to congratulate him on his success, Bandar snaps to the Secretary of State, “How the hell do you know?” [Woodward, 2006, pp. 28-29] Media pundit Eric Alterman characterizes the response of the US media as “extremely indulgent” towards Bush, with the notable exception of neoconservatives, who complain about “the national humilation [Bush] has brought upon the United States” and Bush’s “weakness…and fear.” Alterman says that while the incident itself is a foreign policy disaster, the manipulation of a compliant US media is brilliant. He notes that Bush was able to apologize twice to the Chinese without actually being reported in America as apologizing. Neither was the tremendous intelligence loss of the EP-3 focused upon as the potential disaster that many military and intelligence officials perceived it to be. He quotes Washington Post correspondent John Harris as writing, “The truth is, this new president has done things with relative impunity that would have been huge uproars if they had occurred under Clinton. Take it from someone who made a living writing about these uproars.…Take the recent emergency landing of a US surveillance plane in China. Imagine how conservatives would have reacted had Clinton insisted that detained military personnel were not actually hostages, and then cut a deal to get the people (but not the plane) home by offering two ‘very sorrys’ to the Chinese, while also saying that he had not apologized. What is being hailed as Bush’s shrewd diplomacy would have been savaged as ‘Slick Willie’ contortions.” [Alterman, 2003, pp. 194-197]

Entity Tags: Paul Beaver, John Harris, George W. Bush, Colin Powell, Eric Alterman, Bandar bin Sultan, Francis Gary Powers, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton

Timeline Tags: US Military

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