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KAL 007: A Targeted Assassination?

On September 1, 1983, Korean Air Lines Flight 007 en route on its second leg from Anchorage, Alaska to Seoul, South Korea was shot down by a Soviet interceptor aircraft into the Sea of Japan when it deviated from its intended route into Soviet territory.  The total death toll of 269 passengers included the U.S. Congressman from Georgia, Lawrence McDonald.  This act only further heightened tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union.  Leaving 15 minutes after KAL 007, the ‘sister flight’ KAL 015 carrying North Carolina Senator, Jesse Helms, Idaho Senator Steven Symms, and Kentucky Representative, Carroll J. Hubbard, arrived in Seoul without incident. As the Political Counselor in Seoul from 1983 to 1987, Thomas P.H. Dunlop discusses finding out about the downed plane and the reaction of Senator Jesse Helms; he was interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy beginning in July 1996.  Senator Helms, described by Dunlop as the ‘Cold War Senator’, thought that the downed plane was actually a targeted assassination attempt against him and demanded to leave the country on an Air Force flight immediately.   Read more

Leaving with Their Heads Held High – The U.S. Expulsion from Eritrea, 1977

Throughout its history, there have been numerous occasions where the United States has been forced to shut down its embassies quickly, usually because of war or because the U.S. had fallen into disfavor with the host government.  Eritrea in 1977 was one of those instances. However, with the fall of Saigon and the panicked evacuation from the embassy still fresh on people’s minds, the American staff was determined to leave with calm and dignity – and leave little parting gifts for Soviet intelligence as well.    Read more

Yeltsin Under Siege — The October 1993 Constitutional Crisis

For Russians, it was yet another dramatic confrontation which played out in the streets of Moscow, one which marked the growing frustration many people had with their elected President. The constitutional crisis of 1993 was a political stand-off between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and the Russian Parliament that was resolved by military force. The relations between the President and the Parliament had been deteriorating for some time.

The constitutional crisis reached a tipping point on September 21, 1993, when Yeltsin aimed to dissolve the country’s legislature (the Congress of People’s Deputies and its Supreme Soviet), although the president did not have the constitutional authority to do so. Yeltsin used the results of the referendum of April 1993 to justify his actions. Read more

“Vive Le Québec Libre!” — When Canada’s Separatist Movement Turned Violent

Scotland, Catalonia, Northern Ireland, Quebec –Western regions with distinct histories and linguistic identities, which have at times also experienced violent episodes of nationalism. For Quebec, the month of October in 1970 was its darkest hour, as the Front de Liberation du Québec (FLQ), a separatist paramilitary group formed in 1963 advocating the creation of an independent Marxist state of Quebec, targeted the government, English speakers and business, and the Catholic Church, which were viewed to be suppressing French-Canadian interests. Bombings of mailboxes by the FLQ were common throughout Quebec from 1963 to 1970, but other targets included the Montreal Stock Exchange, Montreal City Hall, police offices, railways, and banks.  Earlier in June 1970, police raids of a cottage in Prévost, Quebec discovered firearms, ammunition, and leaflets of plans for the kidnapping of American Consul General in Montreal, Harrison Burgess.

On October 5, 1970, two members of the FLQ’s “Liberation Cell” kidnapped British Trade Commissioner James Cross outside his home. The FLQ demanded the release of detained FLQ members and the public broadcast of the FLQ Manifesto which criticized business, religion, and the political leaders of Quebec and Canada. Then on October 10, Pierre Laporte, the Quebec Minister of Labour, was abducted by the “Chenier Cell” while playing football with his family in Saint-Lambert.  Thus began the October Crisis. Read more