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Michael Lee White

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Michael Lee White

Michael Lee White (born 1967) is a business and English teacher and writer who resides in China.[1] In August 2008 the Russian government implied that he may be a covert agent of the United States or Military Professional Resources involved in the 2008 South Ossetia war, a claim that the White House has repeatedly denied.[2]

Biography before controversy

White was born in 1967, the second son of Philip L. White, later a Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Texas at Austin. White served in the United States Army from 1992 to 1997 as a Petroleum Supply Specialist in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Germany, and Bosnia. He fueled helicopters,[3] drove fuel trucks, and, according to a resume posted online, he graduated from Air Assault training school in 1993.[4] Although part of the curriculum of this school has included training in the application of infiltration and extraction techniques (such as Special Patrol Insertion Extraction), it is very common for soldiers with non-elite specialties to attend the ten-day course. This is especially true for soldiers stationed at Fort Campbell and assigned to the 101st Infantry Division (Air Assault), as this entire division is supposed to be able to perform helicopter air assault operations. After two years at Fort Campbell, White was transferred to the 1st Armored Division in Germany in 1994, where he continued to work as a fueler. The division was deployed to Operation Joint Endeavor in January 1996 as part of the multinational effort responsible for carrying out the Dayton Peace Accords.

After his single term of enlistment, White earned a degree in Public Management at Austin Peay State University in Tennessee. He got his first teaching assignment in the Haidian District of Beijing in 1998. It was the first of many education-related travels around the world, including teaching stints in Kazakhstan, Vietnam, and Japan, in addition to graduate work in Development Studies at the University of Melbourne in Australia, and at the University of Essex in Colchester, and Communication, Psychology, and Business at Angelo State University in Texas.[5] White also claims to have visited more than 85 countries, and all major regions of the world, while attending graduate classes or working on four different continents over the past 15 years. The Wall Street Journal reported that he married and later separated from a Kazakh citizen.[3]

Nationality in World History

White has co-authored with his father a book entitled Nationality in World History; the work discusses the roots of nationalism and includes a chapter titled ["The Evolution of the Russian National Identity"].[3] According to White, "Nationality has caused major conflicts in world history. Much of what has passed for history through the ages concerns such nationalistic conflicts. Many works of contemporary history (political, constitutional, etc.) have been written in a ‘national’ context. It is not wise to simply hope or assume that a phenomenon that has dominated history so far will now simply fade away in the Information Age. Nationality in World History aims to help others understand the deeper phenomenon of why and how sovereign nations have been formed and maintained, from prehistory to the present day. We believe that understanding nationality in our species is helpful to attaining a peaceful and more civil future".[6]

Passport controversy

On August 28, 2008, Col. Gen. Anatoliy Nogovitsyn gave a news conference in Moscow,[7] where he produced a photocopy of an American passport belonging to a Michael Lee White who was born in 1967 and lived in Texas.[8] Subsequently, internet bloggers tried to locate him.[9] The Wall Street Journal did locate and interview him in Guangzhou, China, on September 2, 2008. White told the Journal that he was in Texas caring for his ailing father during the period when Russia alleged that he was in Georgia. The Journal says that White showed reporters two U.S. passports in his possession, one issued in 2005 and one issued in 2008. Although U.S. passports typically have a ten-year validity, no explanation is given in the article as to why he has two in his possession.[3] The Associated Press interviewed him the next day, on September 3, and reported that White said he could not show his passport to the AP because university officials who are helping him apply for a work permit have the document.[1] The Office of National Intelligence, which oversees all U.S. intelligence agencies, refused to comment on White, and the Central Intelligence Agency stated that White was not their employee.[3] White claims, and the United States Department of State confirms, that he contacted the authorities immediately in 2005 to report the loss of his passport and that the passport was canceled.[5] White said that he must have left it in a seat pocket on a Moscow to New York flight in October 2005.[3] His current passport shows he left China on July 18, 2008, returning on August 28. The Wall Street Journal says there is no entry stamp in the passport from U.S. authorities to show that he returned to the United States during those 41 days, but that sometimes U.S. authorities do not mark the passports of returning Americans.[3] White also told AP that he applied for a Russian visa while teaching in Kazakhstan in the summer of 2005.[1]

Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn said that Russian military discovered a passport in a building where Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs forces had been fighting. Nagovitsyn said,

What was the gentleman’s purpose of being among the special forces and what he is doing today, I so far cannot answer..there is a building in Zemonekozi - a settlement to the south of Tskhinvali that was fiercely defended by a Georgian special operations squad. Upon clearing the building, Russian peacekeepers recovered, among other documents, an American passport in the name of Michael Lee White of Texas...I do not know why he was there, but it is a fact that he was in the building, among Georgian special forces troops.

On August 31, an Austin, Texas-based newspaper reported that on August 29 the U.S. State Department phoned Austin resident John White, White's younger brother, asking how they could contact Michael, stating that it was "urgent that we speak with him". When asked why, the official said that he could not discuss the matter. John White said his brother was a world traveler who had gone to China on August 27, 2008, and that he last contacted his family Saturday evening by e-mail.

The newspaper also reported that it had email conversation on August 30 with Michael Lee White who is apparently in Guangzhou, China, lecturing at the Guangdong University of Business Studies. He said that his passport was lost/stolen during a flight from Moscow to New York in 2005 and that he had no idea how the passport ended up in South Ossetia.[5]

Alexei Kondaurov, a KGB veteran and critic of the Kremlin is quoted as saying that 'using a 'found' passport to expose the Americans seems really small-time". He added, "the Soviet Union's secret services never stooped that low".[3]

Foreign media coverage

White was interviewed by Guangzhou's leading newspaper, Southern Metropolis Daily, on September 4,[10] for whom he provided a computer image of the lost/stolen passport in question, in addition to a family photo of his father's 85th birthday party from July 31 in Austin, Texas. The English-language publication Shenzhen Daily also ran a story the same day.[11] A Russian Newsweek interview with White from September 8 appears not to support the Russian government's accusation,[12] and other Russian sites have noted the U.S. State Department's confirmation of White's claim that the passport was reported lost/stolen and canceled in October 2005.[13] Russian state television Channel One (ORT), however, appears to have repeated the government's innuendos against White in a September 14, 2008 broadcast.[2] Several weeks later, an October 2008 article in the Chinese weekly Southern Weekly summarized the chronology of events.[14]


External links

  • Dr. White and Mr. White's book, "Nationality: A History of Human Group Formation"
  • Russia Today
  • LA Times
  • Fort Campbell
  • article (translation)
  • Russian 1TV story/video link
  • magazine article (Chinese)
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