American teacher accused of being a spy: Hold onto that passport and register it to be safe

Perhaps you’ve come across this story of Michael Lee White, the American teacher at a business college in China who has been accused of being a spy involved with the CIA and having a role in the recent small scale war in Georgia. Those teachers. Just kidding. White doesn’t seem much like spy material from the description in the AP article.

He wears T-shirts that say “Save The Whale,” for example. And if he is a spy, I certainly hope he would have better digs somewhere else. He’s cramped up in a small apartment without a lot of furniture. Where’s the glamor? This doesn’t sound very James Bond like.

The reason White is under scrutiny is that his passport was found in the basement of a house in Georgia along with other items belonging to soldiers who high-tailed it out of there.

According to Michael Lee White, he lost his passport on a flight from Russia to the U.S. October 2005. And, he has never been in Georgia. Besides that, when the war was happening, he was back in the U.S. taking care of his sick father. The CIA also says that White is not in the CIA.

It seems to me that White will be cleared, and this will be chocked up to a weird travel story snafu, but it does hammer home the point, guard that passport carefully.

I know people who have lost their passports and it has always caused a problem. The good thing is that with a lost passport, you can create a paper trail to back up claims about your whereabouts.

Here are the four situations people I know have lost their passports. White’s is similar to number 1. The others were the result of robbery.

1. Left behind at the Milan train station when buying a ticket.

2. Taken from a backpack while the person was sleeping on a train in France.

3. Taken from a backpack while the person was sleeping on the beach in Vietnam.

4. Passport slipped off his neck when he ducked out of his shirt to foil a robbery attempt in Fez, Morocco. When robbers grabbed his shirt, he threw up his arms, ducked out of his shirt and ran. The passport pouch that also held his money and train pass came off along with the shirt.

If your passport is stolen, or if it goes missing because you left it somewhere, make sure you report it missing immediately in order to cover yourself. Your passport will be canceled so no one else can use it (ideally).

There is a form to fill out. Here’s the link for that. You can also call to report it missing or stolen–or you can do that on line at

One way to add protection in case your passport goes missing is to register at the American embassies or the consulates in the countries where you will be traveling.

If you lose your passport, this may speed up getting help. If there are problems when you travel, registering may also help the embassy or consulate serve you better. Here’s the link to the page about registration.