US diplomats took marching orders from CIA on UN spying

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, December 2, 2010 15:45 EDT
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US officials continue to insist that its diplomats to the United Nations are not intelligence assets and do not engage in any form of spying. Yet stolen diplomatic cables released by whistleblower website WikiLeaks show that America’s top spy agency drew up an “intelligence shopping list” for ambassadors and their staffs to collect, according to a published report.

“The intelligence gathering directives on the UN and other countries were sent from the intelligence operations office within the state department’s bureau of intelligence and research, which describes itself as ‘at the nexus of intelligence and foreign policy’,” The Guardian reported Thursday.

Leaked cables showed that diplomats were tasked to obtain “much of the biographical information collected worldwide” on foreign officials, which included credit card numbers, frequent flier accounts, IP addressed, Internet accounts and passwords, phone numbers, fax numbers, contact lists, social networks and even specific times calls were placed, along with other assorted contact information, the paper noted.

“New cables released last night also reveal that Washington has called for diplomats in Romania, Hungary and Slovenia to provide ‘biometric’ information on ‘current and emerging leaders and advisors’ as well as information about ‘corruption among senior officials’ information about leaders’ health and ‘vulnerability’,” they added.

“The UN Charter, the Headquarters Agreement and the 1946 Convention contain provisions relating to the privileges and immunities of the Organisation,” a statement by UN spokesman Farhan Haq said. “The UN relies on the adherence by member states to these various undertakings.”

Haq noted the following clause of the UN Charter: “The property and assets of the United Nations, wherever located and by whomsoever held, shall be immune from search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation and any other form of interference, whether by executive, administrative, judicial, or legislative action.”

US Secretary of State Clinton has been under fire this week after the whistleblower website revealed that she ordered US diplomats to gather intelligence on UN dignitaries.

The targets of the spying reportedly included UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, as well as the ambassadors of the permanent members of the UN Security Council — China, Russia, France and the UK.

Cables released Thursday also revealed that “US diplomats at the embassy in Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay, were ordered to obtain dates, times and telephone numbers of calls received and placed by foreign diplomats from China, Iran and the Latin American socialist states of Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia,” according to The Guardian.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange recently told Time that if revelations in the cables of Clinton ordering diplomats to spy hold true, she should “resign”. White House officials brushed off the remark as “absurd,” but may face more serious questioning in the media over the issue following the latest revelations.

Sec. Clinton has called the release of documents from her State Dept. an attack on the global community.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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