UN launches inquiry into American spying
Martin Bright, Ed Vulliamy in New York and Peter Beaumont
March 9, 2003
The United Nations has begun a top-level
investigation into the bugging of its delegations by the United States, first revealed in The Observer last week.
Sources in the office of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
confirmed last night that the spying operation had already been discussed at the UN's counter-terrorism committee and will
be further investigated.
The news comes as British police confirmed the arrest
of a 28-year-old woman working at the top secret Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) on suspicion of contravening
the Official Secrets Act.
Last week The Observer published details of a memo sent
by Frank Koza, Defence Chief of Staff (Regional Targets) at the US National Security Agency, which monitors international
communications. The memo ordered an intelligence 'surge' directed against Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Bulgaria and Guinea with
'extra focus on Pakistan UN matters'. The 'dirty tricks' operation was designed to win votes in favor of intervention in Iraq.
The Observer reported that the memo was sent to a friendly
foreign intelligence agency asking for help in the operation. It has been known for some time that elements within the British
security services were unhappy with the Government's use of intelligence information.
The leak was described as 'more timely and potentially
more important than the Pentagon Papers' by Daniel Ellsberg, the most celebrated whistleblower in recent American history.
In 1971, Ellsberg was responsible for leaking a secret
history of US involvement in Vietnam, which became known as 'the Pentagon Papers', while working as a Defence Department analyst.
The papers fed the American public's hostility to the war.
The revelations of the spying operation have caused
deep embarrassment to the Bush administration at a key point in the sensitive diplomatic negotiations to gain support for
a second UN resolution authorizing intervention in Iraq.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and Defence Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld were both challenged about the operation last week, but said they could not comment on security matters.
The operation is thought to have been authorized by
US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, but American intelligence experts told The Observer that a decision of this
kind would also have involved Donald Rumsfeld, CIA director George Tenet and NSA chief General Michael Hayden.
President Bush himself would have been informed at one
of the daily intelligence briefings held every morning at the White House.
Attention has now turned to the foreign intelligence
agency responsible for the leak. It is now believed the memo was sent out via Echelon, an international surveillance network
set up by the NSA with the cooperation of GCHQ in Britain and similar organizations in Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
Wayne Madsen, of the Electronic Privacy Information
Centre and himself a former NSA intelligence officer, said the leak demonstrated that there was deep unhappiness in the intelligence
world over attempts to link Iraq to the terrorist network al-Qaeda.
'My feeling is that this was an authorized leak. I've
been hearing for months of people in the US and British intelligence community who are deeply concerned about their governments
"cooking" intelligence to link Iraq to al-Qaeda.'
The Observer story caused a political furor in Chile,
where President Ricardo Lagos demanded an immediate explanation of the spying operation. The Chilean public is extremely sensitive
to reports of US 'dirty tricks' after decades of American secret service involvement in the country's internal affairs. In
1973 the CIA supported a coup that toppled the democratically-elected socialist government of Salvador Allende and installed
the dictator General Augusto Pinochet.
President Lagos spoke on the telephone with Prime Minister
Tony Blair about the memo last Sunday, immediately after the publication of the story, and twice again on Wednesday. Chile's
Foreign Minister Soledad Alvear also raised the matter with Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.
Chile's ambassador to Britain Mariano Fernández told
The Observer: 'We cannot understand why the United States was spying on Chile. We were very surprised. Relations have been
good with America since the time of George Bush Snr.' He said that the position of the Chilean mission to the UN was published
in regular diplomatic bulletins, which were public documents openly available.
While the bugging of foreign diplomats at the UN is
permissible under the US Foreign Intelligence Services Act, it is a breach of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,
according to one of America's leading experts on international law, Professor John Quigley of Ohio University.
He says the convention stipulates
that: 'The receiving state shall permit and protect free communication on the part of the mission for all official purposes...
The official correspondence of the mission shall be inviolable.'
Iraq: Observer special
News: the dirty tricks memo
09.03.2003: GCHQ arrest over Observer spying report
09.03.2003: UN launches inquiry into American spying
09.03.2003: The spies and the spinner
Comment and reaction
09.03.2003: Stephen Pritchard: Our spy story spelt conspiracy to some
More from the Readers' editor
09.03.2003: Ian Davis: The long history of UN espionage
09.03.2003: Norman Solomon: US press slow to react
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ABC Lateline: Martin Bright interview