Some time has passed since the disclosure that U.S. State department diplomats apparently engaged in illegal spying on U.N. officials.
I say ‘apparent’ because it does not appear that any further investigation or possible legal charges are forthcoming.
To recap, both State Department Secretaries Hillary Clinton (Democrat) and Condoleeza Rice (Republican) instructed U.S. foreign service personnel and diplomats to obtain a wide variety of information about U.N. officials, including the following:
* Iris scans
* Computer passwords
* Credit card numbers
* Personal encryption keys
What is ‘Spying’?
While I’m not a legal expert on what constitutes ‘spying’ (which is banned from being performed against the U.N. under international treaty and law), the above laundry list (which once collected by State’s “diplomats” was handed over to the CIA’s HUMINT department) sounds an awfully lot like ‘spying’ to me.
Clinton and Rice signed off on orders instructing diplomats to obtain this type on information ‘on key UN officials, to include undersecretaries, heads of specialised agencies and their chief advisers, top SYG [secretary general] aides, heads of peace operations and political field missions, including force commanders’.
Another angle here is that the U.N. human data collection project, rather than having been carried out by CIA clandestine ops, appears to have been performed by State’s foreign service officers and other diplomatic personnel. One of the purported goals of U.S. diplomats is to build relations and trust among foreign nations. What impact has the disclosure that these individuals are engaged in the gathering of the DNA samples of foreign diplomats had on this important function?
Where’s the Followup?
I’ve been waiting to hear an announcement of an investigation, or perhaps rumours of an internal State department investigation. But so far, not a peep.
Is it possible that the reason behind why no further investigation is that international treaty only outlaws spying against the U.N. and its officials on U.N. premises? In other words, all U.S. State department spying on U.N. officials took place offsite?
Or, in a somewhat more conspiratorial vein, is the lack of follow-up due to the fact that the source of the spying information is WikiLeaks? One way to limit the credence of all WikiLeaks disclosures and move the leaks out of the headlines is to not pursue any of the potentially illegal activity disclosed by WikiLeaks. This may also serve as a disincentive to future prospective leakers.
One of the most interesting elements of the the recent WikiLeaks disclosures was the near uniform international condemnation of WikiLeaks and, as far as I could tell, almost complete lack of international community criticism directed at the U.S. over what was disclosed. Perhaps this is simply a case of the pot not wanting to call the kettle black as I have little doubt that Putin’s Russia, for example, engages in similar espionage.
Walking the Rule of Law Talk
There are many unanswered questions, but the bottom line for me is this: if the U.S. wants to lay claim to the moral high ground or simply preach the importance of the rule of law to countries such as Russia, China, Iran, etc., then the U.S. needs to ‘walk the talk’.
Keeping mum about whether illegal spying on U.N. officials occurred only hurts the U.S.’s international standing and credibility. Instead there should be some type of investigation so that U.S. citizens, and the world at large, can be confident that U.S. leaders and diplomatic staff respect and uphold agreed upon laws.
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