Reports: China discovers bugging devices on U.S.-made presidential jet

Saturday, January 19th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BEIJING (AP) _ China has discovered 27 bugging devices in a U.S.-made Boeing 767 it bought for the personal use of President Jiang Zemin, published reports said Saturday.

The tiny, highly sophisticated devices were hidden in the jetliner's upholstery, including in the president's bathroom and the headboard of his bed, the London-based Financial Times said, citing unnamed Chinese sources.

It said Jiang was outraged at the discovery.

The bugs were discovered when they emitted static during a test flight after the plane's delivery in August, the newspaper said.

In a separate report, The Washington Post said Chinese army communications experts found the bugs in October, days before the plane's first official voyage. It said the jet is now sitting with its insides torn out on an air base north of Beijing.

The Washington Post report said Chinese officials blamed U.S. intelligence agencies for the bugs. It said the incident would be raised during President Bush's Feb. 21 summit with Jiang in Beijing.

The reports described the devices as satellite-controlled and more complex than those available commercially.

Chinese officials were puzzled as to how and when the bugs were planted, the reports said. They had carefully monitored the plane's construction at the Boeing plant in Seattle, Wash., and the fitting of its interior by several aircraft maintenance companies in San Antonio, Texas.

Two of the companies, Gore Design Completions and Dee Howard Aircraft Maintenance, issued a statement Friday saying they had received no complaints about their work on the plane, the San Antonio Express-News reported.

``I know that we had no culpability whatsoever in this. All we did was put an interior in it,'' Jerry Gore, president of Gore Design, told the paper.

The plane was parked in a Dee Howard hangar and work began shortly after a contract was signed in October 2000, the Express-News reported, continuing through a contentious period the following spring when Beijing and Washington had a standoff over the forced landing of a U.S. Navy spy plane and China's detention of its 24-member crew.

Chinese officials were concerned Washington would seize the plane, so security was tight, Gore told the Express-News. The hangar was guarded by Dee Howard security staff and Chinese troops.

The reports said 20 Chinese Air Force officers and two employees of the China Aviation Supply Export & Import Corp., which bought the plane, were being questioned.

Officials at the State Department in Washington and the U.S. Embassy in Beijing had no comment. China's Foreign Ministry did not answer calls.

Employees at the Chinese aviation company refused to comment.

Randy Harrison, a Boeing spokesman in Seattle said he had no knowledge of the reports.