United Kingdom Information Review Tribunal Judge Sophie Buckley, writing for a three-member panel, upheld the University of London’s secrecy about the identity of Republic of China in-exile President Tsai Ing-wen’s PhD thesis examiners. President Tsai triggered an academic firestorm in the summer of 2019 when she submitted her 1983 PhD thesis to the London School of Economics Library, thirty-five years after it was due. Tsai has refused to name the examiners who approved her thesis, as have both the London School of Economics where she studied and the University of London which awarded her a PhD degree.
The thesis, entitled Unfair Trade Practices and Safeguard Actions, submitted to the LSE Library appears to be a draft document with pagination problems, footnote issues, and handwritten notations including a question mark. The thesis was purportedly examined on October 16, 1983, a Sunday.
The thesis problems became a political issue in President Tsai’s reelection campaign and many have taken to social media to question the PhD degree award where the matter continues to be debated.
The three-member Tribunal panel included Dave Silvers and Michael Jones, who heard the case and reached a decision on September 13th. Judge Buckley wrote in the decision released a week later: “We accept that Mr. Richardson has a legitimate private interest and that there is a broader public interest in the legitimacy of President Tsai’s PhD.
“We find that the legitimate interest can be achieved by the University’s confirmation that there is a written record of the names of the examiners and of the date that they signed approval of the thesis, and we find that this interferes less with the privacy of the data subjects than releasing the specific date or the names of the examiner. Accordingly, it is not reasonably necessary for the names or the date to be released.”
“Further, we find that there is sufficient evidence already in the public domain to satisfy Mr. Richardson’s or the public’s concerns about whether or not President Tsai was awarded a PhD, without the need to release this particular information.”
“This includes the fact that the University has publicly confirmed that the degree was correctly awarded and that it holds records of the viva and the pass list in relation to President Tsai and the fact that the thesis appeared in the IALS list of legal theses successfully completed for postgraduate degrees published in 1985. In our view it is not reasonably necessary to also disclose the names of the examiners and the date that they signed approval of the thesis.”
“Having concluded that it is not reasonably necessary to disclose the requested information it is not necessary to consider whether the legitimate interests are overridden by the interests of the data subjects and we find that the University was entitled to rely on the exemption.”
One person with a keen interest in the examiners’ identity is Taiwan newsman Dennis Peng, who faces criminal prosecution for defamation of Tsai for statements he made about the thesis. Tsai also sought prosecution against activist attorney Ho De-fen and Taiwanese-American scholar Hwan Lin. ROC prosecutors declined to press charges against the two although are seeking the imprisonment of Peng.
Although President Tsai’s thesis woes began at the London School of Economics, the University of London kicked the bee hive with the claim its copy of Tsai’s thesis was somehow lost during a thirty-year period of library restructuring. The University has failed to provide bibliographic or acquistion records documenting the receipt of the thesis; such records would be kept separate from the thesis in the event of loss of the shelf copy. The University also apparently failed to make a microfilm copy of the thesis, as was standard protocol at the time.
Under the arcane rules of the Information Review Tribunal, permission of the court must be obtained in order to appeal the decision. One of the primary issues in an appeal application will be the necessity of transparency in the verification of President Tsai’s PhD qualification. The Freedom of Information Act litigation now moves from factual assertions to legal arguments as it advances in the United Kingdom judicial system.
This article has been corrected at the suggestion of a reader.
August 17, 1970, was a day of tragedy in Omaha, Nebraska. Patrolman Larry Minard, answering a 911 call about a woman screaming in a vacant house was killed when a suitcase bomb exploded. Buried on what should have been his 30th birthday, Minard left a widow with five young children.
The crime demanded punishment and simultaneously three different law enforcement agencies; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Division; and the Omaha Police Department took steps to pin the crime on Edward Poindexter and David Rice [Wopashite Mondo Eyen we Langa] for their leadership of the Black Panther Party affiliate group, the National Committee to Combat Fascism.
The booby-trap suitcase bomb was placed by a fifteen year-old Panther wannabe, Duane Peak, who confessed on the advice of his grandfather. Peak was turned in by his older brother, Donald Peak, who was suspected of making the 911 call that lured Minard to his death.
Unknown to the public in Omaha were secret directives from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to Special Agent in Charge Paul Young to get Poindexter and Rice out of circulation. The pair were targeted by a clandestine counterintelligence program code-named COINTELPRO. The same day of the bombing Young arranged to have a recording of the 911 call sent to the FBI Laboratory, however Hoover ordered the laboratory to not issue a report on the identity of the anonymous caller. The search for truth at the FBI ended before the first arrest.
At the ATF field office in Omaha, lead investigator Thomas Sledge, a former Omaha policeman, took custody of crime scene evidence and dynamite samples for analysis. Sledge had more than a professional interest in seeing Poindexter and Rice convicted, his younger brother James Sledge had been injured in the fatal blast. ATF believed the two man were part of a four-state conspiracy but was unable to convince U. S. Attorney Richard Dier. Curiously, an ATF chemist started finding dynamite particles in evidence submitted by Sledge; in a shirt pocket, a pants pocket, and in debris from the trunk of an automobile owned by a Peak sister.
An ATF tool marks expert declared a match on a purported bomb fragment and a pair of pliers owned by Rice despite the fact dissimilarities on the tiny sample outnumbered similarities almost two to one.
At the Omaha Police Department, the head of the Intelligence Unit, Jack Swanson, prepared a suspect list with Poindexter and Rice at the top. Swanson led a search with ATF assistance, including Sledge, of Rice’s home and allegedly found dynamite hidden in the basement. Swanson’s account of finding the explosive was contradicted by detective Robert Pfeffer at trial but was not followed up by defense lawyers.
The various actions of the three police agencies were in part coordinated in a formal manner under a multi-agency task force named Domino. The deceptive deeds were kept from the larger group and done secretly. The two Black Panther leaders were convicted in April 1971 following a controversial trial.
Larry Minard was buried on his birthday. Duane Peak made a deal and never served a day in prison. Peak now lives under an assumed name in Spokane, Washington. David Rice, since renamed Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa, died at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in March 2016. Edward Poindexter remains imprisoned at the maximum-security prison where he continues to proclaim his innocence. Poindexter has served over a half-century behind bars for a crime he says that he did not commit.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine and Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts both have refused requests to reopen the Larry Minard murder investigation. August 17, 1970, was a day of tragedy in Omaha, Nebraska.
Julian Lin and Taiwan Civil Government supporters in March 2021 for a Taoyaun District Court appearance where Lin and others face fraud charges from Republic of China in-exile prosecutors. (credit: Taiwan Civil Government)
The long-running trial of leaders of Taiwan Civil Government, an advocacy group, for allegedly defrauding its members with false claims about the benefits of the TCG identity card and support from the United States was to have concluded in late May. However, the recent Covid virus surge in Taiwan has led to yet one more continuance in the two-year long trial. There is no jury in the marathon proceeding as the Republic of China in-exile does not permit jury trials.
During the course of the lengthy trial the chief defendant Roger Lin died and the TCG headquarters was demolished under order for code violations. Group members have been repeatedly interrogated and TCG parades are closely monitored and filmed by police. The reason for the unfriendly attention TCG has brought to itself is the group goal of expelling the ROC from Taiwan with assistance from the United States. At the core of it all lies Taiwan’s unresolved sovereignty since the end of World War II.
The United States installed the Republic of China on Taiwan, then called Formosa, in October 1945 as an occupation government. Abuses by ROC against the Formosans resulted in the island’s sovereignty away from Japan to be put on hold at the San Francisco Peace Treaty which formally ended the war. The unresolved status has lasted seven decades and the ongoing “strategic ambiguity” has left everyone confused.
Roger and Julian Lin sued both the exiled Republic of China and the United States in the District of Columbia U. S. District Court to force the repeal of the ROC “Nationality Act” which stripped Formosans of their Japanese citizenship. The case was dismissed for not having been filed a half-century earlier and not including Japan as a defendant. However, Roger & Julian Lin vs. Republic of China & United States of America put the couple in the cross-hairs of the ROC Ministry of Justice.
The election of Donald Trump presented TCG with a new administration to lobby for American help to rid Taiwan of the ROC. The group began pouring millions of dollars into its campaign in an attempt to win over President Trump. TCG funded an inauguration party, hosted receptions, bought an expensive advertising campaign, courted think-tanks, underwrote a Heritage Foundation reception and event for Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, picked up the bill for several POLITICO events, and dropped money on Roll Call Live. TCG members volunteered for delegation trips to Washington, New York, Zurich, and Japan. Much of the money was funneled through lobbyist Neil Hare and his company Global Vision Communications.
Julian Lin, wife of TCG founder Roger Lin, became the public face of the organization in America and led the junkets. Hare helped Lin score a private chat session with Trump’s counselor Kellyanne Conway. However, hours after announcements about the Heritage Foundation event were sent out ROC prosecutors decided to act. Quickly a raid was planned for TCG headquarters and homes of the leaders. The news media was alerted just prior to the May 10, 2018 raid. Roger and Julian Lin were paraded in handcuffs and held incommunicado without bail for five months.
The destruction of the TCG headquarters ended the group’s overnight training classes and was a severe morale blow to members. Interrogations and surveillance took its toll on membership, claimed by Hare to be 70,000. The trial itself, an endless series of hearings and continuances, has burdened the faithful.
The October 2019 death of Roger Lin, in the middle of the trial, unraveled TCG and factions formed. One faction led by Gavin Tsai had previously split and began calling itself Taiwan Government. Julian Lin, as the widow, picked up her husband’s mantle and claims her faction is the legitimate TCG. Tsai Tsai-yuan, a co-defendant, split with Julian and heads a reform faction called TCG 3.0 and keeps the trademark black suit as uniform. Tsai, a former political prisoner at the infamous Green Island Prison, now faults Julian for group woes. Both Tsai and Lin face prison if convicted.
The trial, which has brought in witnesses a few at a time, scheduled four days at the end of May to hear statements from over 1,000 purported victims. Allegedly there were over 1,300 victims, however many of them deny being victims and remain loyal supporters still donating money. Court records show statements were received from over five hundred witnesses. Some witnesses had purchased the identity card while others had attended TCG training classes held at headquarters.
Julian Lin maintains that witness statements were obtained by fear of prosecution as witnesses had first been interrogated as victims. “The judge hinted to the defense in advance, explaining that we are currently split into several different groups with different positions, and may arrange for riot police to be there.”
“The witnesses so far have not said I gave orders, got money from them, or ever cheated a member.”
Julian did concede some witnesses said she claimed TCG was authorized by the United States Military Government. Lin says the answer was given to a question fabricated by the prosecutor. “Usually the prosecutor asked the witness, “Did the TCG personnel tell you that they are authorized by the US military government?”
“Most witness don’t understand the question,but have to answer yes or no.”
Then prosecutors would ask, “What role does Julian hold in it?”
Witness: “Roger also listen to her, she made decision for everything.”
When the defense attorney would ask for an example, “All the witness answer, “It is said that….”
Julian concluded, “Some of victims think can get money from me and listen to investigators….but until now no one said I gave order.”
Two Roger Lin lawsuits have been filed in Washington with Julian being a co-plaintiff in the second case. The first Lin lawsuit against the United States sought American passports for Taiwan residents. A sympathetic court declined to rule stating it was a political issue not a legal matter as the court lacked authority over foreign policy. However, the court described Taiwan’s long unresolved history as “political purgatory” and the people as stateless. Julian Lin and Tsai Tai-yuan both can give personal testimony to what that purgatory feels like as they await their fate over claims that TCG founder Roger Lin made before his death.
CORRECTION: KEVIN HAYNES IS INCORRECTLY IDENTIFIED AS AN ATTORNEY IN THE HEADLINE. A FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST HAS UNCOVERED THAT THE “HEAD OFLEGAL TEAM” CANNOT PRACTICE LAW IN THE UNITED KINGDOM. WHILE THE HEADLINE WAS INCORRECT, THE ARTICLE STANDS AS WRITTEN.
In an unexpected development in the ongoing controversy over Republic of China in-exile President Tsai Ing-wen’s1983 PhD thesis, two top officials of the London School of Economics and Political Science have made contradictory statements about the thesis. Tsai triggered an academic firestorm that took on political dimensions during her re-election campaign when she filed her PhD thesis with the LSE Library in June 2019, thirty-five years late.
The tardy thesis has the appearance of a draft document with pagination problems, footnote issues, and hand-written entries including a question mark. At the time of Tsai’s enrollment at LSE the school was unable to award its own PhD degrees and submitted a pass list to the University of London.
President Tsai has refused to name the thesis examiners that passed her for a degree from the University of London. Tsai has bragged about the examiners however, claiming they wanted to give her a double degree for the thesis entitled, “Unfair Trade Practices and Safeguard Actions.”
Two Freedom of Information requests, one in 2019 and the second in 2021, to LSE for the identities of the thesis examiners elicited the same answer from Rachael Maguire, Records Manager, that LSE did not have the examiner names. An Internal Review by LSE confirmed the school could not answer the request. School Secretary Louise Nadal stated on May 26, 2021, that “the School does not hold the information you have requested.”
However, what Nadal either did not know or was deceptive about, is that Kevin Haynes, “Head of Legal Team” at LSE, has compiled a 278 page file from President Tsai’s student days that is indexed and carefully numbered.
The revelation that Haynes could cite specific page numbers to a file that Secretary Nadal said did not exist has led to a complaint against LSE to the Information Commissioner’s Office. The language of the ICO complaint tells the rest of the story.
“That the Internal Review is contrary to 19 December 2020 email correspondence by Kevin Haynes, Head of Legal Team, addressed to Kristen Chen at the Republic of China Ministry of Justice, which discloses information from Tsai Ing-wen’s 278 page student file, citing specific page numbers (pp. 74-75) of the record.”
“Exhibit A is a copy of an email exchange of Kristen Chen on 17 December 2020 to Kevin Haynes and his 19 December 2020 response. Exhibit A was received from Taiwan newsman Dennis Peng, who received it from Republic of China prosecutors acting on Tsai Ing-wen’s complaint against Peng, in the discovery phase of his criminal trial for alleged defamation of President Tsai.”
“Kevin Haynes aided a foreign government’s criminal prosecution by disclosure of information that the Internal Review denied LSE possessed. Further, Haynes’ disclosure to ROC prosecutors was done without written consent, warrant or court order.”
“Kevin Haynes’ job description on the LSE website is as follows: “Kevin’s background is in compliance, regulation, complaints and litigation. He is responsible for the School’s Legal Team, which deals with student complaints, litigation and misconduct cases, dispute resolution, contracts and other legal agreements, Data Protection and Freedom of Information, ethics, insurance, Intellectual Property, records management and the School’s relationship with external providers of legal services.”
“Kevin Haynes is Rachael Maguire’s immediate supervisor at the “Legal Team” and knew, or should have known, that both his subordinate Records Manager and the School Secretary, who conducted the Internal Review, were responding to a Freedom of Information request with deceptive and false information.”
“That the Internal Review false statement that LSE did not have the requested information is part of a larger, ongoing, pattern of willful violations of the Freedom of Information Act by school personnel.”
“That the fended off enquiries…ongoing information denials to the public, and the false statement of the Internal Review constitute a pattern of willful and intentional violations of the Freedom of Information Act of almost two years in duration.”
“That said pattern of FOIA violations heightens the legitimate interest of…the public in the verification of qualification of Tsai Ing-wen and makes necessary the disclosure of the examiners’ report for the 16 October 1983 thesis viva examination as the least intrusive method of achieving full transparency in this matter.”
“That said pattern of FOIA violations by LSE requires supervisory, corrective measures by the Information Commissioner beyond ordering the information request be processed.”
There is presently a pending motion to obtain the thesis viva examination report in a Freedom of Information case before the Information Review Tribunal. The ICO has petitioned the court to permit a “closed” submission of evidence delaying resolution of the motion.
The conflicting statements of Louise Nadal and Kevin Haynes, both London School of Economics top officials, now cast the shadow of doubt on the veracity of LSE pronouncements about Tsai Ing-wen, deepening the mystery of the 1983 thesis.
After a long silence about the controversial 1983 PhD thesis of Republic of China in-exile President Tsai Ing-wen, the University of London has intervened in a Freedom of Information case pending in the United Kingdom. The University has entered the FOI case brought by a Taiwanese-American to determine if President Tsai’s October 16, 1983 PhD viva examination was a full PhD exam or if it was instead a Masters to PhD transfer viva. However, instead of bringing clarity to the Information Review Tribunal hearing the case, the University brought obfuscation, ambiguity, and speculation with its formal entry into the case, giving the unavoidable appearance of a cover-up.
The litigation is an outgrowth of the academic firestorm ignited by President Tsai in June 2019 when she submitted her 1983 PhD thesis to the London School of Economics Library, thirty-five years late. Further, the tardy thesis appears to be a draft document with pagination problems, footnote issues, and hand-written notations, including a question mark. The thesis, entitled “Unfair Trade Practices and Safeguard Actions,” was also said to have been submitted to the University of London’s Senate House Library and the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies Library, neither of which received the thesis, according to library staff correspondence.
The international academic brouhaha is now two years old and shows no signs of going away anytime soon. President Tsai’s refusal to name her thesis examiners, who Tsai brags were so impressed with the thesis they wanted to award her a double degree, has added fuel to the fire. Tsai attended the London School of Economics and Political Science but accepted a PhD degree from the University of London because LSE was not then qualified to issue its own degree. Tsai’s adviser at LSE was Michael Elliott who lacked his own PhD degree making the thesis examination critical to a valid award.
The thesis viva examination was conducted on October 16, 1983, a Sunday, according to LSE which refers all other questions from the public to the University of London. For its part the University of London has stonewalled and refused to answer questions about the viva examination, including even the identity of the examiners. The University has cited President Tsai’s privacy as its reason for silence.
In its submission to the Information Review Tribunal, the University admits it has not asked President Tsai for her permission to discuss her student days. School officials pick and choose what they want to tell the public so the court submission was carefully vetted and worded making its obfuscation and ambiguity one of intent rather than sloppy wordsmiths. The University of London submission to the court, as told by Data Protection and Information Compliance Manager Kit Good, tells its own story.
“In some cases, the University may weigh up the legitimate interests and confirm a qualification has been obtained….Recipients of PhD degrees in almost all cases have their thesis listed in the publicly searchable University library and therefore the confirmation of qualification can be determined via this route.”
“The copy held by the library was lost or mis-shelved sometime between the mid-1980s and 2010s over which period there were numerous structural changes to the library.”
The ambiguity of this speculation about the fate of President Tsai’s thesis goes to the phrase “structural changes” and whether it is referring to staff reorganizations or physical remodeling of the library facility. The difference, which cannot be parsed from the University’s choice of words, would put the blame for loss of Tsai’s thesis on either librarian negligence or on contractors who mistook the thesis for construction debris.
The University of London speculation that President Tsai’s thesis was lost sometime over a thirty year period is disingenuous as Senate House librarians have yet to establish with acquisition records that the University ever possessed the thesis in the first place. The thesis could not have been put on the wrong shelf or tossed out with the trash if the library never had it. The lack of an acquisition record for Tsai’s thesis makes the University’s submission to the Tribunal with its speculation of loss a classic example of the legal phrase “a fact not in evidence.”
The University of London also cites an October 2019 public relations statement by LSE as evidence of the validity of President Tsai’s PhD degree. The University does not explain to the Tribunal how an announcement, decades later, by a subordinate school unable to award its own degree, could verify the University decision to award a diploma.
The University does make an admission. “In some cases, there is a legitimate interest in confirming details of an individual’s degree qualification.” However, no need of confirmation details in President Tsai’s case. “The qualification has been confirmed. The thesis is available online.”
The University ambiguity and speculation are accompanied by obfuscation. The school’s submission to the Tribunal explains that no harm has been done because President Tsai did not need her degree to run for the ROC presidency. “The degree qualification is not essential for a political career in the same way that a medical degree would be for a physician.”
“A PhD thesis is not a professional requirement for a public career and is not analogous to a scenario such as surgeon and a medical degree. The graduate in question here was not elected to public office at the time they were a registered student.”
However, the University of London did not tell the Tribunal that President Tsai used her PhD to obtain teaching positions at Soochow University and National Chengchi University in Taiwan. If the PhD was not legitimate, Tsai would have violated ROC criminal fraud laws. Whether or not a statute of limitations would preclude prosecution does not diminish President Tsai’s culpability for academic fraud in the event the thesis was not legitimate and her University degree was improperly awarded.
The University of London’s submission to the Tribunal falls short of full disclosure and does not tell the court that President Tsai used her PhD for commercial purposes, founding and operating TaiMed Biologics, which continued to use Tsai’s degree from the University of London for commercial purposes after her election to public office.
Meanwhile, another FOI case before the Tribunal awaits decision on release of the thesis examiner identities. A decision is expected in June. The University of London did not intervene in that case.
As Puerto Rico nears a statehood vote in Washington, the necessary votes do not seem to be there and agitation for a vote has been quiet. Statehood for the District of Columbia is a perpetual question that never seems to advance. Now, on the other side of the globe, there seems to be growing interest in statehood for Taiwan.
The unresolved fate of Formosa, now called Taiwan, caught up in a “strategic ambiguity” that the District of Columbia United States Court of Appeals has declared a condition of “political purgatory” is increasingly in the news. For a long time many people have failed to realize or understand how and why the people of Taiwan are stateless, the result of decades of propaganda and false history fed to the public by the United States, the People’s Republic of China, and the exiled Republic of China.
Taiwan, banned from the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and even the Olympics unless it calls itself “Chinese Taipei” in the games, has been a colony of some foreign power for four centuries. Since World War II the island has been occupied by an exiled Chinese Nationalist government installed by the United States as a caretaker regime. Unfortunately, the Cold War followed World War II and Formosa fell into an abyss under four decades of harsh martial law, sternly administered by the Republic of China in-exile. The United States looked the other way, aware of the atrocities committed by the ROC against innocent Formosans, because the ROC was an ally against “Red China” and communism.
The sovereignty of the former Japanese colony was to be decided at the San Francisco Peace Treaty that ended World War II with Japan. However, the Korean War was raging and President Harry Truman decided it was not time to resolve the international status of the island, leaving dictator Chiang Kai-shek in charge. Over the long years of uncertainty, the name Formosa fell into disuse in favor of Taiwan as the history of it all dimmed with the passage of time.
Now, the People’s Republic of China wants to finish the civil war and conquer Taiwan which it claims is a rebellious province. The entrenched ROC has already brutally demonstrated the lengths it will go to remain in power. Taiwanese independence advocates have long had to battle opposition from China, opposition from the ROC, and even opposition from the United States. What to do?
Activist David Chou has an idea, give the Taiwanese people the option of statehood in the United States of America. Sound far-fetched? Maybe not.
Chou founded the Taiwan State Movement in 1994 and has consistently advocated since then that Taiwan be under the political custody of the United States. Chou wants the future determined through referendum and self-determination and seeks a phased but comprehensive integration with America.
The statehood activists point out that it is a non-military solution to China’s aggressive threats and in some manner is compensation to the Formosans who suffered under the ROC while the USA did nothing. The statehood proponents cite Hawaii’s progress as a state and argue statehood would boost both economies giving America a true doorway to Asian markets.
Former U.S. Secretary of State John Dulles once said, “As the main victorious country against Japan, the United States has interests in the ultimate future of Taiwan and that “the U.S. could have made legal claims against Taiwan.”
David Chou seeks sovereignty of Taiwan as a territory of the United States as a prelude to incorporation and a statehood referendum and subsequent Congressional vote. If Chou had his way, there would already be contests to redesign the flag to accommodate a fifty-first state. Statehood for Taiwan? Perhaps it is an idea whose time has come.
What began as a blatant attempt by Republic of China in-exile President Tsai Ing-wen to silence her most vocal critic, backfired, with a stunning reversal and release of a secret she has long kept from the public. President Tsai made a criminal defamation complaint against Professor Dennis Peng, host of the popular internet news program “True Voice of Taiwan.” Peng has raised questions about the validity of the University of London PhD degree that Tsai received in 1984 after studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Professor Peng has has fought back against President Tsai’s attempt to imprison him for remarks about her LSE thesis. Peng has obtained from his prosecutor, through a pre-trial discovery order, a series of email exchanges between Kristen Chen, a “Liaison Officer” at the Investigation Bureau of the ROC Ministry of Justice, and Kevin Haynes of the “LSE Legal Team.” The go-between was Nicole Lee, the “Education Division Director” of the Taipei Representative Office in the United Kingdom.
Tsai set off an academic firestorm in Taiwan in June 2019 when she filed with the LSE Library, thirty-five years late, her tardy dissertation entitled “Unfair Trade Practices and Safeguard Actions.” The unbound thesis appears to be a draft document with pagination problems, footnote issues, and handwritten notations, including a question mark. Peng has been relentless in his drive to uncover the truth about events in London thirty-seven years ago.
Nicole Lee made the opening move by emailing Kevin Haynes, with whom Lee was obviously familiar. “I have been contacted by the Taiwanese judiciary institution, which is carrying out investigations into the case of President Tsai’s PhD qualification and thesis submission, and have been asked to obtain answers to ten questions.”
“I realize we have covered some of this ground before and am sorry to trouble you, but we would be extremely grateful if you to provide as much detail as possible and include an supporting documents that may be available.”
Growing impatient with Haynes’ slow response, Kristen Chen entered the conversation. “Thank you for dedicating your time and effort to help us sort things out.”
“It would be very appreciated if you could share with us the information you have already researched at your earliest convenience….I feel terribly sorry every time we put this burden on you.”
The back and forth email exchange between Chen, Lee, and Haynes, at the height of President Tsai’s reelection campaign, discusses what could be released without Tsai’s consent from her 278 page LSE student file with Haynes acknowledging he could answer some questions without Tsai’s consent. “If nothing else, it is difficult to deny her registration at LSE.”
While LSE was busy fending off questions from the public about President Tsai’s thesis, Haynes was busy answering Chen’s questions, although Chen had no warrant, court order, or written consent. Chen’s standing under the Freedom of Information Act was no different from the members of the public with information requests similar to Chen which were routinely denied. Unknown to Haynes, because the request had come from Lee at the “Taiwan Embassy” and Chen in Taiwan, was that the questions had been posed by Dennis Peng through his attorney. One of the questions Haynes did not need consent for was the identity of Tsai’s thesis examiners, despite the University of London’s repeated assertions that disclosure would breach Tsai’s privacy right.
According to Haynes, “It appears from her student file that MJE [Michael Elliott] and Professor Leonard H Leigh examined President’s Tsai’s thesis in October 1983.”
Michael Elliott was Tsai’s faculty advisor before she withdrew from LSE in November 1982. Elliot, who lacked a PhD himself, was briefly listed by the LSE Library as co-author of Tsai’s thesis when the phantom thesis emerged in 2019. Elliott could not have officially served as an external examiner of Tsai’s thesis and any role as internal examiner raises questions about his impartiality.
Professor Leigh, who taught criminal law at LSE, was eligible to have served as an internal examiner but not as an external examiner. The principle, to prevent academic fraud, is for at least one member of a doctoral examination viva panel to be from an external educational institution. However, the time-bound practice of external examiners was apparently not followed in Tsai’s case. The lack of an external thesis examiner and the tardy submission of what appears to be a draft dissertation suggest that ROC prosecutors may be knowingly pursing Professor Peng for criminal defamation without foundation for their case, which would be a political prosecution.
Peng will not get the benefit of a jury trial. The exiled Chinese government, headed by Tsai, has an antiquated justice system that does not allow juries in Taiwan. Peng can hope his case does not go the way of former ROC President Chen Shui-bian who was subjected to courtroom heckling, midnight court sessions, a substitute judge, and perjured testimony when he was convicted for alleged corruption. Peng can also hope that he does not end up like the Taiwan Civil Government political fraud defendants, caught up in a never-ending trial with multiple hearing adjournments stretching the criminal trial into a two-year long ordeal.
The disclosure to Chen of the identity of the thesis examiners occurred on December 17, 2020, along with other admissions by Haynes. To the question whether Tsai was enrolled at LSE when she submitted her thesis for consideration in June 1983, Haynes answered, “It appears not from her student file.” But, not to worry. “We understand it was not uncommon at the time of President Tsai’s period of study for PhD candidates in the UK universities to complete their thesis independently and be permitted to enter for examination.”
Meanwhile, the University of London stubbornly refuses to name the thesis examiners citing Tsai’s privacy, a view shared by Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham. A Freedom of Information appeal is pending before the Information Review Tribunal of the United Kingdom. A decision from the Tribunal is expected in June.
The revelation that there was no external examiner at Tsai Ing-wen’s viva examination of her thesis renews concerns about academic fraud. Tsai attended a school, the London School of Economics and Political Science, that could not issue its own doctoral degrees. Tsai was not enrolled in LSE at the time she submitted her thesis for review. Tsai’s advisor, Michael Elliott lacked a PhD degree. Now comes the admission by the LSE Legal Team that Tsai’s thesis examination lacked an external examiner. Throw in the tardy thesis to the mix and one is forced to wonder if the reason the University of London refuses to confirm the examiners’ identities has less to do with Tsai Ing-wen’s privacy and more to do with a cover-up by the academic gatekeeper of an unearned doctoral degree.
Fifty years ago, April 28, 1971, a clandestine, counterintelligence program of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, code-named COINTELPRO, in secret operation from 1956 until 1971, was abruptly terminated. Assistant FBI Director Charles Brennan, head of the Domestic Intelligence Division, realized that release of stolen FBI memoranda from the Media, PA office would compromise the illegal undercover program.
Ten days after the COINTELPRO-corrupted murder trial of Edward Poindexter and David Rice in Omaha, Nebraska, ended, Brennan wrote a memorandum urging immediate termination of the secret operations.
“To afford additional security to our sensitive techniques and operations, it is recommended the COINTELPROS operated by the Domestic Intelligence Division be discontinued.”
“These programs involve a variety of sensitive intelligence techniques and disruptive activities which are afforded close supervision at the Seat of Government. They have been carefully supervised with all actions being afforded prior Bureau approval and an effort has been made to avoid engaging in harassment. Although successful over the years, it is felt they should now be discontinued for security reasons because of their sensitivity.”
“In exceptional instances where counterintelligence is warranted, it will be considered on a highly selective individual basis with tight procedures to insure absolute security.”
The next day, J. Edgar Hoover sent out a short directive to FBI field offices. “Effective immediately, all COINTELPROs operated by this Bureau are discontinued.”
One of Brennan’s priority duties as head of the Domestic Intelligence Division, which he aggressively pursued, was directing counterintelligence operations under COINTELPRO. Brennan was determined to break the Black Panther Party which J. Edgar Hoover had declared was the number one threat to domestic security. Brennan no doubt hated having to pull the plug on his primary weapon, COINTELPRO.
The summer before, just two weeks after Brennan had been promoted to head Domestic Intelligence, he was ramrodding COINTELPRO operations. Brennan would later testify to a Senate committee. The Church Committee, with ten Senators present, convened to question Charles Brennan about illegal FBI activities. Brennan said he became chief of the Domestic Intelligence Division in August 1970. Brennan did not tell the Senators he was part of a conspiracy to withhold a report on the identity of Omaha Patrolman Larry Minard’s killer that same month in order to make a case against Poindexter and Rice.
Brennan was asked if there was “a program of intensification” of investigations beginning August 1970. Brennan admitted Domestic Intelligence did intensify counterintelligence operations.
Brennan was asked if the intensification concerned J. Edgar Hoover over abridgment of individual liberties. Brennan replied, “He hadn’t demonstrated a previous concern of this nature in the past.”
During Brennan’s intensification campaign, on August 17, 1970, at 2:07 a.m., Omaha police received a 911 emergency telephone call from a male who spoke in a deep gravely voice that a woman was screaming at 2867 Ohio Street, a vacant house. Eight policemen responded. While officers searched a tremendous, blinding flash and deafening blast shook the silent neighborhood and ripped through the walls of the vacant house killing Patrolman Larry Minard.
Two men, Edward Poindexter and David Rice (later Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa), leaders of the Black Panther affiliate National Committee to Combat Fascism were COINTELPRO targets at the time of the murder and were blamed for the crime. A call was made to FBI headquarters in Washington from the Omaha office at 6:45 a.m. Charles Brennan, Assistant Directer, was informed by memorandum about the call concerning the death of Minard.
“Omaha Office offered assistance in covering out-of-state leads and FBI Laboratory facilities offered. Omaha advised it had notified military and Secret Service, was following closely, and alerted its racial informants in pursuit of investigation.”
Brennan was also assured, “Pertinent parts will be included in teletype summary to the White House, Vice President, Attorney General, military and Secret Service.”
Brennan stayed in the loop with letters and calls from Special Agent in Charge Paul Young to FBI headquarters keeping Brennan updated on the case. Two internal memorandums from William Bradley, a supervisor, detailed a plan to withhold a laboratory report on the 911 recording of the anonymous caller’s voice.
“Omaha Office has advised that the Omaha Police Department has requested laboratory assistance in connection with a bombing which took place in Omaha 8/17/70. This bombing resulted in the death of one police officer and the injuring of six other officers and is apparently directly connected with a series of racial bombings which the Omaha Police have experienced. The Police were lured to the bomb site by a telephonic distress call from an unknown male.”
“If approved, the results of any examinations will be orally furnished the Police on an informal basis through the SAC, Omaha.”
Poindexter and Rice were convicted by a jury that never heard the 911 recording and were sentenced to life at hard labor. Rice, who changed his name to Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa, died at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in March 2016. Poindexter remains imprisoned at the maximum-security prison where he continues to proclaim his innocence. Poindexter has a pending commutation of sentence request with the Nebraska Board of Pardons but the Board has refused to set a hearing date for him ignoring a prayer vigil, a march, a demonstration at the home of Governor Pete Ricketts, and a billboard campaign.
Although the runaway train that COINTELPRO had become continued to barrel down the tracks and returned in partial form in different guises over the years, the formal counterintelligence tactics developed to combat foreign spy rings were terminated a half-century ago. Sitting in a tiny prison cell for that half-century is Ed Poindexter, COINTELPRO’s last victim.
This article is excerpted from FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO & the Omaha Two story, in print edition at Amazon and available in ebook. Portions of the book may be read free online at NorthOmahaHistory.com. The book is also available to patrons of the Omaha Public Library.
So near, yet so far. That is the status of Puerto Rico statehood. Closer to statehood than it has ever been in over a century from its status as a territory of the United States. Called a commonwealth, full rights as American citizens do not exist for Puerto Ricans, who are barred from voting for President and electing Members of Congress. Statehood, however, seems to lack enough political support on what is a bi-partisan issue for both sides of the debate. Actually, it is a three-way matter not only involving continued territorial status or statehood but also includes independence, which has had a difficult history on the island.
Although the Senate will cast the final determining vote on statehood, eyes are on two Representatives from New York, Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) Both women of Puerto Rican descent are opposed to statehood and instead support a binding convention on the issue. The two Representatives issued a statement explaining their stance. “For true, legitimate change, Puerto Rico’s status must be resolved from the ground up. Plans for altering the Island’s relationship with the U.S. should not just garner the consent of the Puerto Rican people; they should originate with them. In fact, many in Puerto Rico would view Congress pushing statehood not as an end to colonization, but the culmination of it.”
There have been a half-dozen referendums with varying outcomes, although they were all of an advisory nature and not binding.
Former Puerto Rico Governor Carlos Romero Barcelo has said, “The people know that we do not want the colony anymore, we want equality, especially political equality, because in a democracy what matters is the right to vote and the right to participate on equal terms in the bodies that govern the nation.”
Puerto Ricans voted on ballot measures addressing statehood in 1967, 1993, 1998, 2012, and 2017 with various results.
On July 23, 1967, Puerto Ricans were given three options at the ballot box on the island’s political status; commonwealth, statehood, or independence. Commonwealth won with 60 percent of the vote. Independence received less than one percent.
On November 14, 1993, another vote was held. Former Presidents George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Gerald R. Ford participated in the campaign for statehood. President Bill Clinton remained neutral on the referendum. The results were much closer than before, 48.9 percent favored remaining as a commonwealth, while statehood received 46.6 percent of the vote. The vote for independence grew to 4.5 percent.
On December 13, 1998, voters were given five options: commonwealth, free association, statehood, independence, and none of the above. None of the above won with a majority of the vote at 50.5 percent. Statehood received the next highest share of votes at 46.6 percent. Independence dropped to 2.6 percent, with free association receiving 0.3 percent. Puerto Rico’s status as a commonwealth finished last with 0.1 percent of the vote. The None of the above category received so many votes because of controversy over the wording of the referendum.
On November 6, 2012, Puerto Rico held another vote on the island’s territorial status. The referendum was structured into two questions. The first question asked was, “Do you agree that Puerto Rico should continue to have its present form of territorial status?” A majority, 54.3 percent, voted no. The second question asked voters about their preferred status: statehood, free association, or independence. Statehood received a majority of the vote, 61.2 percent. The option of free association received 33.3 percent, and independence climbed to 5.5 percent. Curiously, one-fourth of the voters declined to answer the second question. 1,798,987 people voted on the first question, while only 1,363,854 people voted on the second question.
On June 11, 2017, Puerto Ricans voted again in a referendum which gave voters three options: commonwealth, statehood, and free association. Statehood received 97.2 percent of the vote. The Popular Democratic Party boycotted the election. Turnout was a paltry 22.9 percent, undermining a mandate for statehood.
On November 3, 2020, Puerto Rico held its most recent vote on status. The ballot question simply asked “Should Puerto Rico be immediately admitted into the Union as a state?” A majority of voters, 52 percent, said yes.
The three elected parties fall into different views on statehood. The Popular Democratic Party traditionally has been pro-commonwealth. The New Progressive Party is associated with statehood. The Puerto Rico Independence Party advocates becoming its own nation.
Legal experts debate whether Puerto Rico’s status as a commonwealth has a specific legal meaning apart from territory, or is just stylistic. Under free association status Puerto Rico would become a sovereign nation independent of the Territory Clause of the U.S. Constitution. However, the island would maintain a free and voluntary association with the United States. An agreement of free association would delegate certain powers, typically those regarding military, trade, and currency, to the United States. Free association would put Puerto Rico on the same status as three Pacific nations. The Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau, all former jurisdictions of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, are sovereign nations in free association with the United States.
If Puerto Rico became an independent sovereign nation, the country would develop its own government and economy. Puerto Ricans who are residents of the island would lose United States citizenship.
Governor Pedro Pierluisi has called statehood a matter of “democracy, equality and doing what is right.” However, one thing that is lacking is a public outcry for statehood. If the statehood movement wants to achieve its goal, it needs to connect its struggle to the broader fight for racial and social justice. Many of the injustices we see today in the United States are the direct legacy of colonialism and imperialism. Another significant reason statehood efforts have stalled has been a lack of engagement with Puerto Ricans who oppose the idea, both on the island and in the diaspora. Statehood has divided the populace and has not been a unifying factor.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has announced his opposition to statehood for Puerto Rico. However, Schumer’s opposition is not the kiss of death as statehood has bi-partisan support in the Senate.
In the House of Representatives Nydia Velázquez and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have been busy. On March 26 they, and others, introduced House Resolution 279 condemning the Insular Cases. The resolution keeps the Puerto Rico statehood question on the stovetop while the kitchen heats.
“The United States Supreme Court’s decisions in the Insular Cases and the “territorial incorporation doctrine” are contrary to the text and history of the United States Constitution, rest on racial views and stereotypes from the era of Plessy v. Ferguson that have long been rejected, are contrary to our Nation’s most basic constitutional and democratic principles, and should be rejected as having no place in United States constitutional law.”
“Today the United States has 5 populated territories, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands of the United States, which together have a population of over 3,500,000 residents, equal to the population of the 5 smallest States combined, more than 95 percent of whom are racial or ethnic minorities.”
“Until the Insular Cases were decided in the early 1900s, the Supreme Court long recognized that Congress’ powers over the territories, while broad, were “not absolute and unlimited”, but rather subject “to such restrictions as are expressed in the Constitution.”
“The Supreme Court’s decisions in the Insular Cases broke from its prior precedent to establish a doctrine of territorial incorporation, creating for the first time a distinction between so-called “incorporated” territories, where the United States Constitution applies “in full”, and “unincorporated” territories, where the Constitution applies “only in part”.
“Downes v. Bidwell, the most prominent of the Insular Cases, was delivered by Justice Henry Billings Brown, the author of Plessy v. Ferguson’s doctrine of “separate but equal”, who wrote that America’s newly acquired overseas territories were “inhabited by alien races, differing from us in religion, customs, … and modes of thought”, making it impossible to govern “according to Anglo-Saxon principles.”
“Justice Edward White, who in a separate 3-Justice plurality developed the territorial incorporation doctrine in Downes, expressed concerns over the “evils” of admitting “millions of inhabitants” of “unknown islands, peopled with an uncivilized race”, who he believed would be “absolutely unfit” for citizenship.”
“Justice Harlan, who penned the lone dissent to Plessy v. Ferguson, also wrote a series of powerful dissents to the Insular Cases, declaring in Downes that “[t]he idea that this country may acquire territories anywhere upon the earth, by conquest or treaty, and hold them as mere colonies or provinces—the people inhabiting them to enjoy only such rights as Congress chooses to accord to them—is wholly inconsistent with the spirit and genius, as well as with the words, of the Constitution.”
“Judge Juan Torruella, who served on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit from 1984 until his death in 2020, labeled the territorial incorporation doctrine a “doctrine of separate and unequal”, writing that “the Insular Cases represent classic Plessy v. Ferguson legal doctrine and thought that should be eradicated from present-day constitutional reasoning” because they run contrary to “the most basic precept for which this nation stands: the equality before the law of all its citizens.”
“The Insular Cases are relics of the racial views of an earlier era that have no place in our Nation today.”
Constitutional Law Professor Sanford Levinson has called the Insular Cases “central documents in the history of American racism.”
Puerto Rico statehood is about more than adding a star to the flag, it speaks to the heart of American democracy about equal rights for all.
Nothing in Taiwan brings into focus the fact that the island is under the control of an exiled Chinese regime more than the many statues of dictator Chiang Kai-shek which litter the landscape. Hundreds of statues of Chiang still disgrace public spaces throughout Taiwan. Officials of the Republic of China in-exile from President Tsai Ing-wen on down have been slow to remove the Chinese hero worship statues despite the atrocities Chiang ordered against innocent Formosans after his installation by the United States after World War II.
One patriotic Taiwanese activist, Chen Jun-han, better known as Chilly Chen, has made it a personal crusade to correct the Chinese propaganda icons with non-violent actions. Chilly’s most recent effort was to spray paint a Chiang statue in Taipei with the words “slayer of the century” and “devil murderer.” Chilly was quickly hauled off to a police station but not before he made a public statement explaining covering up authoritarian propaganda messages with black plastic while leaving the statue of Chiang in place was wrong.
Chilly was taken into police custody for “mutilation” of the statue and then transferred to a ROC prosecutor’s office for interrogation where he continued to give them an earful. Chilly was finally released after ten hours in custody after police were able to clean the red paint off the statue base.
The veteran activist is Taipei director of Taiwan National Volunteer Team and has participated or led six non-violent paint balloon assaults and protests at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall where a giant statue of the dictator is protected by a ROC honor guard. Untold thousands of Formosans were murdered, tortured, and imprisoned under orders from Chiang beginning with the 228 Massacre in 1947 and continuing under the White Terror period during four decades of harsh martial law as Chiang, and later his son Chiang Ching-kuo, tightened their grip on the island following Chiang’s 1949 defeat in the Chinese civil war.
“There are still 94 bronze statues of Chiang Kai-shek in Taipei that Mayor Ko Wen-je refuses to remove. Covering up authoritarian words with an acrylic board does not cover up the fact Chiang was an incredible butcher known worldwide. Covering up words like “national Savior” and other sickening slogans cannot cover from the hearts of the Taiwanese people the evil Chiang has done.”
“Mayor Ko has sprinkled salt into the wounds of 228 victims and families by inviting Ma Ying-jeou to participate in 228 memorial activities. Ko should follow the example of Keelung Mayor Lin Yu-chang to dismantle Chiang statues.”
Chilly’s artistic statements over the years have resulted in multiple arrests and $12,000 NTD in fines which he has not paid. Chilly prefers to save his money for more paint.
Chilly Chen, though passionate in his patriotism, is modest and calls himself a nobody. However, Chilly’s modesty hides the fact that few dare to follow his example and that his determination to speak the truth about Chiang Kai-shek and his government makes Chilly a role model for truth, justice and courage.