The CIA, which acts as the primary agency for collection of human intelligence (Humint), is implicated in the latest cables released by WikiLeaks, which reveal US diplomats took orders from the agency on what data to collect when spying on foreign officials at the UN and in countries around the world.
The Guardian has taken the lead on this story and is reporting, based on two cables they have cited, that not only were US diplomats asked to gather intelligence on Ban Ki-Moon and other senior UN staff, security council members and other foreign diplomats, but the directive to engage in spying, a possible violation of international, came from the CIA.
What is being referred to as "an intelligence shopping list" by The Guardian was drawn up annually by the manager of Humint, which was a post created by the Bush Administration in 2005 to help coordinate intelligence after 9/11. The manager set out "priorities," which were sent out to the State Department on an annual basis. Intelligence analysts at the State Department provided input on what "priorities" should be listed.
Specifically, the cables indicate: "US diplomats at the embassy in AsunciÃ³n, 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. The US is concerned about an increasing Islamist terrorist presence in Paraguay, and the influence of China."
Diplomats are urged to provide if possible: "office and organizational titles; names, position titles and other information on business cards; numbers of telephones, cell phones, pagers and faxes; compendia of contact information, such as telephone directories (in compact disc or electronic format if available) and e-mail listings; internet and intranet "handles", internet e-mail addresses, web site identification-URLs; credit card account numbers; frequent flyer account numbers; work schedules, and other relevant biographical information."
A particular cable reveals the embassy in Paraguay was targeted because Washington believed Paraguay was harboring Iranian agents and Islamist terrorists. It specifically requested "information on the presence, intentions, plans and activities of terrorist groups, facilitators, and support networks - including, but not limited to, Hizballah, Hamas, al-Gama'at al-Islamiya, al-Qa'ida, jihadist media organizations, Iranian state agents or surrogates - in Paraguay, in particular in the Tri-Border Area (TBA)."
The intelligence gathering called for was intended to presumably help develop policy and actions around current issues facing the U.S. government, which are listed: UN Security Council Reform, Iraq, the Middle East Peace Process, Human Rights and War Crimes. UN Humanitarian and Complex Emergency Response, Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Terrorist Threat to UN Operations, Burm and other issues.
Each issue in the cable has with it specific requests for information. For example: on Darfur/Sudan, views of UN member states on contributing troops and air transportation equipment to the UN mission in Sudan; on Afghanistan/Pakistan, plans and intentions of key UN leaders and member states on force protection in Afghanistan; on Somalia, UN views on deploying a maritime force to monitor piracy off of the coast; on Iran, plans and intentions of UN Secretary General and staff to address development, testing and proliferation of nuclear weapons in Iran.
In the case of North Korea, not only are the views of UN Security Council members requested but US diplomats are also urged to collect "biographic and biometric information on ranking North Korean diplomats." That means fingerprints, palm prints, or DNA, etc.
Given the work the US was engaged in to prevent Spain from prosecuting US officials for torture or war crimes, it is interesting that Humint called for "Plans and perceptions of member states toward establishment of new measures to prevent genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and other systematic human rights abuses" and "plans and intentions of member states or UN Special Rapporteurs to press for resolutions or investigations into US counterterrorism strategies and treatment of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan or Guantanamo," to be collected.
The cable also shows that, "Current technical specifications, physical layout, and planned upgrades to telecommunications infrastructure and information systems, networks, and technologies used by top officials and their support staffs." The purpose of such information would likely ensure the US would have capabilities to spy on countries after they made adjustments to their telecommunications infrastructure and systems.
It was revealed earlier in the week that diplomats had been spying but who was giving the order was unknown. Then, U.S. Envoy to the U.N. contended, "Our diplomats are doing what diplomats do around the world every day, which is build relationships, negotiate, advance our interests, and work to find common solutions to complex problems."
How collecting biometrics or very specific and often private biographical information is unclear. One idea is that the information could be used to blackmail individuals into taking certain actions or not taking action on things like investigating war crimes or signing a cluster bomb ban or halting rendition flights or choosing to not help the U.S. clean up its human rights mess and take a Guantanamo detainee.
Spokesman for the U.N, Farhan Haq, has pointed out that a "1946 treaty on "privileges and immunities' of the U.N. states that its offices "shall be immune from search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation and any other form of interference, whether by executive, administrative, judicial or legislative action."
All of this is not all that new although it does bring into focus a double standard. In May of 2003, the State Department expelled 14 Cuban diplomats who were accused of "inappropriate activities," which included spying. The move appeared to be political since there was no specific espionage event. The charge was enough. The accused were not to be conducting diplomacy in the United States any longer.
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