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Extradition Clouds: The Duggan Case and the Chinese Angle

Soon, the US government may be making waves regarding another extradition request for a figure connected with that oft exaggerated notion of national security. While the high profile and insidious effort to extradite Julian Assange from the United Kingdom continues, the case of former US pilot, Marine Corps major and flight instructor Daniel Edmund Duggan has crossed the radar of reporters and international lawyers.

On October 21, Duggan was arrested by Australian authorities in the New South Wales town of Orange at the request of Washington. He appeared in Orange Local Court and was refused bail.

After his formal tenure as a military pilot, Duggan moved into the field of aviation consultancy, running AVIBIZ Limited, “a comprehensive consultancy company with a focus on the fast growing and dynamic Chinese Aviation Industry.” He moved to Australia in 2005, where he founded Top Gun Tasmania, providing customers flights in the British military jet trainer, the BAC Jet Provost, and the CJ-6A Nanchang, a Chinese propeller-driven trainer. His staff consisted of former US and UK military pilots.

From Australia, he moved to Beijing in 2014 after selling Top Gun Tasmania, working with a Chinese businessman, Stephen Su, also known as Su Bin. Su had been convicted for hacking charges in the US, having been arrested in Canada in July 2014 regarding the theft of US military aircraft designs. Duggan’s residential address from December 2013, an apartment in Beijing’s Chaoyang district, was also of interest given that it appears on the US Entity List in August 2014 as belonging to Su and his technology company, Nuodian Technology.

Duggan’s own expertise is being babbled about in some circles: as a former Harrier pilot, his expertise in vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) fighters such as the F-35B and AV-8B is considered of interest to some powers.

That same week, a stir had been made of Chinese mischief regarding certain pilots keen to make some post-retirement cash. British intelligence had flagged the issue of 30 ex-RAF pilots working with the PRC military, though a South African flying school damped matters in claiming that no classified information had passed hands.

According to a statement from the Test Flying Academy of South Africa (TFASA), “none of its trainers are in possession of legally or operationally sensitive information relating to the national security interest of any country, whether those from where its employees are drawn or in which it provides training”. Since 2013, “British tutors have been in direct contact on an individual basis with the UK MoD and other UK government agencies prior” regarding training duties, including Chinese clients. No objection had been raised.

The whirligig of time is, however, a strange thing. UK Armed Forces Minister James Heappey thought that enough smoke had risen to warrant a comment on loyalties. “It certainly doesn’t match my understanding of service of our nation – even in retirement – to then go and work with a foreign power, especially one that challenges the UK interest so keenly.”

Much of this is stringent codswallop, given the vast array of consultancies and training connected to old military hands and a multitude of foreign powers. Such old dogs rarely go quietly in retirement, and are, at the best of times, happy to offer their services at a consultative level. That surprise should even register at this point suggests that something more is afoot.

Without a wisp of evidence and basis, Duggan, a former US marine and naturalised Australian citizen, is already being treated as a target for extradition. He has been advised that he will be moved to Goulburn Supermax, described by his lawyer Dennis Miralis as “dramatic and aggressive” and “without any proper foundation”. “There is no factual material that has been provided supporting the way he was indicted secretly in the US.”

The authorities have been disturbingly reticent. “As the matter is before the courts, it would not be appropriate to comment further,” claim the Australian Attorney-General’s department and police authorities. Beijing has also decided to shed little light on the matter. “I’m not aware of the situation you mentioned,” came the response of Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin to a query on the issue.

The US Navy has also stated that it was “not aware” of the pending arrest of Duggan, while the US Marine Corps would only confirm Duggan’s service record. In a response to Forbes, the US Air Force noted that, “At this time, we aren’t aware of any ex-Air Force pilots working with the Chinese.”

Former USN captain Bill Hamlet was more forthcoming, noting that the issue of having former US military pilots working with Chinese authorities had never made an appearance between the sacrosanct covers of the Naval Institute’s journal Proceedings. “There’s growing concern that this is a problem and people are wondering to what extent. How many NATO pilots have been helping the Chinese improve the proficiency of their airforce?”

Miralis has made it clear that a complaint will be filed with the Australian Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, which should leave little room for optimism. Duggan had returned from China “a few weeks prior to his arrest and in the intervening period a number of interactions occurred with those agencies that the inspector-general of intelligence has the capacity to investigate.”

The will is there, but the flesh is weak; the IGIS, as with many other oversight bodies in the Australian bureaucratic canon, is scandalously understaffed. The 2020-21 annual report is unreserved about the nature of the staffing problems, unable to achieve “well-developed and effective complaint and PID [Public Interest Disclosure] management processes”. As of June 30, the office has 33 working individuals, which is 22 short of what is recommended.

The US Justice Department, for its part, has 60 days from the date of Duggan’s arrest to request extradition. Miralis is cognisant about what this case entails. Throw out the legal protocols and the jurisprudence: brute power is at stake. “This has nothing to do with law, this has everything to do with international politics and international relations.”

 

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18 comments

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  1. Phil Pryor

    So many people of no known merit get on a :”superman costume” of egorelated power in government, police, military, agencies, and then begin to make lashes, lunges, thrusts. with or without apparent legality as we are supposed to know this. Perhaps the shittyspooky C I A types think Mr. Duggan has been too close to Far Kyu Tu, China’s diplomat for smoothing international relations.

  2. New England Cocky

    Why does any country need enemies when they have the USA (United States of Apartheid) as allies.

  3. Claudio Pompili

    Extraordinary that while Albo’s ALP stays guiet on Duggan, it has done everything in its power by the troika warmongers Albo/Marles/Wong to extradict Assange to the USA and, speaking to this expose, Albo’s ALP have not only allowed ‘retired’ ex-USA Admirals from the Pentagon to infiltrate Australia’s Defence-intelligence-military-industrial complex but also to affect directly Australia’s commitment to US illegal future wars with China through its armaments and foreign policy, not to mention the elevated risk on nuclear armageddon to Australia.

  4. Andreas Bimba

    Julian Assange is an Australian hero for revealing the truth about crimes committed by Western and other governments. Our governments are pathetic for letting him rot in jail for so long. The US Virginia courts that have the jurisdiction to try Julian Assange according to fairly recent US law drafted by the US right during the sham ‘War on Terrorism’ era, are by design kangaroo courts designed to severely punish anyone who cares to think and act differently to the US right. The US may as well assassinate Julian Assange as what is the difference with such a farcical and unjust system of justice in his situation.

    As for military training of PRC pilots by ex Western airforce pilots for money, this is a serious betrayal even if no official secret documents have been provided as the tactics and training methods used by the West’s airforces are extremely important in gaining an advantage in combat and also for deterrence. Fighter pilot tactics and training have been a known weak point of the PLA Airforce pilots and in the event of conflict if these weaknesses have been reduced the outcome of conflict can change and the resulting casualties for the PRC’s foes can also rise perhaps significantly.

    Courts must however be just and the correct rule of well drafted law applied.

    China’s current rulers are not ideological allies and friends of ours but neither are the extremists in the US right. We are stumbling into conflict when nearly all the citizens of all countries want the same things but some leaders are willing to push the envelope too far at enormous risk.

    The PRC does not have the right to invade Taiwan, occupy the South China Sea or brutally occupy Tibet or the Turkestan regions. The relentless efforts by the PRC to exploit openings and weaknesses in Western countries for the purposes of domination must no longer be tolerated.

    We are indeed entering an era of conflict that President Xi Jinping and other PRC hard liners deliberately initiated. The PRC is also not Russia’s friend but an occasional convenient ally that could at any time also become a foe. China has never been stronger and Russia has never been so relatively weak compared to China. Putin and his clique of FSB gangsters are a military, socioeconomic and geopolitical disaster for Russia. The rule of the neoliberal bankers and amoral corporate elites in most of the West have been almost equally inept and dangerous.

    The answer however is not for the very imperfect Western liberal democracies to continuously take backwards steps in this situation as that will lead to subjugation which is even worse than military conflict. Ask the Tibetans or Uyghurs how subjugation feels and rest assured this form of subjugation is far worse than joining the neoliberal Western camp as Ukraine has done.

  5. Fred

    AB: I’m sure the PRC believe they do have the right to invade Taiwan, etc. (Apparently you just need to wait a couple of years until Trump gets back in as he will fix it. 🙂 Sorry about that – sucked into the mid-term hype.) Despite China being the most populous country in the world and therefore potentially have the largest army, they should learn from the Ukraine invasion. There is little point in razing what is intended to be controlled. Unprovoked attacks on another state may lead to other countries banding together and the imposition of sanctions. Occupying another state might give Xi a warm feeling, but he would need to watch his back when visiting if most of the population hates him.

  6. Karlo

    I cannot believe the crap that emanates from some of these sinophobes and right wing zealots. Taiwan IS a part of China and is recognised by the world as such. So if China (mainland) invaded China (island) it can be seen as invading itself. Tibet is a province of China and has been for a very long time. Ukraine hasn’t joined the neoliberal camp, it is being used as a means to bleed Russia dry. Neither NATO nor the neoliberals have any regard for Ukraine or its population. They will fight to the last Ukrainian in order to try and maintain their geopolitical dominance.

  7. Fred

    Karlo: The ROC does not accept that they are ruled by the PRC and haven’t since retreating to Taiwan in 1949 as a result of the civil war. From a PRC perspective an attack on Taiwan would be an “internal minor policing action”. From a ROC perspective, an attack would be an existential threat with a proportion of the population prepared to fight to the death. It doesn’t take much imagination to expect Taiwan would be completely trashed as a result. The ROC is officially recognized by 13 UN member states and maintains unofficial relations with around 100 nations, including the United States and Japan.

    As for your comment regarding Ukraine: “it is being used as a means to bleed Russia dry”, please remember who attacked Ukraine in February and who could stop the fighting today.

  8. Canguro

    Not that many still have a shiny rose-coloured glasses perspective in regard to our ‘friendly’ ally across the Pacific, the massively dysfunctional shitshow that calls itself the United States of America, hah!, but should such delusionary perspectives still exist among the vanishing cohort of burger & bling blinded locals, here’s yet another instance of how our comrade in arms speaks with a forked tongue; this article from this morning’s Guardian…

    US warns Australia against joining treaty banning nuclear weapons… which says, in effect, don’t fuck with us, or else.

    Kudos to Karlo also, for cogent and correct commentary; Taiwan is part of China, and has been for a long time, despite Japanese occupation and then becoming a place of refuge for the Chinese Nationalist Party (aka Kuomintang) and their followers & supporters following their loss to the CCP & PLA in the battle for political control of the mainland, with the KMT robbing the government treasuries and fleeing with the loot across the Taiwanese Strait to what they saw as safe harbour and out of reach of their enemy. And let’s also dispel the rosy notion of them being a bunch of goodies who had the misfortune to get into a bit of a fracas with the CCP and came off second best; their track record is pretty lousy, all said and done, Sun Yat-sen’s early contribution notwithstanding.

  9. Denis Hay

    Why is the Australian government even considering extradition? If there are any “real” charges to answer, as an Australian citizen, he should face the charges here NOT in the U.S. the most corrupt country in the world.

  10. Fred

    Canguro: Out of idle curiosity, who are the goodies in Asia? It seems the CCP has got your vote, but I’m sure most Uyghurs would beg to differ.

  11. Roswell

    Karlo, in saying that Tibet is a province of China, you are being too kind to China.

    China invaded Tibet in 1949. Since then, 1.2 million Tibetans (out of a population of about 6 million) have been killed by the Chinese, 6,000 monasteries have been destroyed, and thousands of Tibetans are rotting in jail.

  12. Canguro

    Roswell, there does exist, as you’d be aware, a much deeper historical relationship between the two countries; the Chinese assimilated Tibet into their own territory during the Yuan dynasty (1270- 1360), and maintains that assimilation continued through the next two dynasties, the Ming and Qing, a further ~600 years. Tibet’s surge towards independence coincided with the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911.Despite the political chaos in China through much of the early half of the twentieth century, the claim that Tibet was part of China was never relinquished.

    Tibetan opposition to Chinese rule, entirely understandable within context, lay behind the brutality exhibited by the PLA in its crackdown against dissent fomented by the Buddhists and supported by the laity. China is not a democratic society, never has been, unlikely to ever be, and they don’t tolerate opposition in the way westerners suppose they ought to. To put it crudely, when you’re in a position of power within the planet’s largest populace nation, and you have at your disposal between two & three million troops across the armed forces incl. paramilitary, you can pretty much say ‘It’s my way or the highway. Don’t like it? Cop this then’. Very little reason for China to take any serious notice of the cries of opposition from other countries; akin to mosquitos on the elephant’s back.

    Fred, the CCP don’t have my vote, a ludicrous assertion. As noted above, they’ll do whatever they deem necessary to maintain control and run their own agenda. As far as who are the goodies (or baddies, for that matter), do your own research. Here’s a list of Asian countries. The valuation of goodies and baddies is subjective and depends on your perspective. If you’d really like me to nominate a goodie, how about Bhutan? Peaceful, non-aggressive, Buddhist, relatively unspoilt by the diseases of capitalism and 21st C madness.. what’s not to like about it? Difficult to see many other contenders within that list not riven by issues that disqualify them from an easy ‘goodie’ tick. On the other hand, baddies? Too many to list.

  13. leefe

    Claudio:

    The infiltration of Australia’s Defence-intelligence-military-industrial complex by retired USA top brass occured under the previous government. I concede that the current government does not seem to have a problem with it.

  14. Harry Lime

    Canguro,apparently General Cash My Cheque’s bounced.

  15. Fred

    Canguro: Asian history is full of wars, dynasties, atrocities, bad leadership, nastiness, colonialism (some of the worst behavior), weird stuff, hence the difficulty in finding a goodie. Thanks, hadn’t considered Bhutan, took a look and found some weird:

    “In 1910 Bhutan and Britain signed a treaty. Britain agreed not to interfere in the internal affairs of Bhutan as long as the Bhutanese accepted British advice on its external relations. In 1947 India became independent. In 1949 India signed a treaty with Bhutan. India agreed not to interfere in Bhutanese affairs as long as Bhutan accepted Indian advice on its internal affairs.” (WTF – sounds like a comedy skit.)

  16. B Sullivan

    Karlo,

    Even the USA officially recognises that Taiwan is a province of China. The US is none the less opposed to any peaceful reunification and is doing all it can to incite a war instead. Australia, as per usual, can shamefully be relied upon to support the US in this objective even to its own detriment.

  17. A Commentator

    The CCP doesn’t appear capable of persuading Taiwanese people that integration is in their interests.
    After observing the “peaceful integration” of Hong Kong, that’s understandable.
    There is no one else to blame. The CCP is responsible for any antipathy from the Taiwanese public

  18. Terence Mills

    Since the Nixon 1972 communiqué nothing has changed beyond sabre rattling by the US and Australia : the United States expressed their own interpretation of the One-China policy by acknowledging that “all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China” and reaffirmed “its interest in a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question by the Chinese themselves”

    The relationship between Taiwan and the mainland is complicated but we have to recognize that this is not our problem and for Australia to make interventionist statements, as was the policy under the former government, will not assist.

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