Posts Tagged ‘classified diplomatic cables’
Terwijl in de Verenigde Staten soldaat Bradley Manning (23), de klokkenluider die WikiLeaks informatie verschafte over onder meer oorlogsmisdaden in Irak en Afghanistan, systematisch geïsoleerd en onmenselijk behandeld wordt, overweegt het kabinet-Rutte de uitlevering van internetactivist Rop Gonggrijp aan de V.S.
Gonggrijp, oprichter van Nederlands eerste internetprovider XS4ALL, is al jaren bezorgd over enerzijds de toenemende greep van overheden wereldwijd op informatie over hun burgers, en anderzijds de geheimhouding van onwelgevallige informatie. Hoewel hij niet structureel betrokken is geweest bij WikiLeaks, dat zijn zorgen deelt, heeft hij wel meegewerkt aan de totstandkoming en publicatie van de “Collateral Murder”-video – waarop te zien is hoe de bemanning van een Amerikaanse Apache-helikopter in Irak als in een computerspel onschuldige burgers en journalisten vermoordt. Een nobele daad van Gonggrijp, zou je zeggen, gezien de aard van de handelingen en de overmatige reactie van de Amerikaanse overheid op het vrijkomen van deze informatie.
Daar denkt minister Rosenthal (VVD) dus blijkbaar anders over – evenals de Telegraaf, die Gonggrijp een “linkse terreuractivist” en “Assanges adjudant” noemde. Wat Rosenthal betreft is uitlevering van Gonggrijp aan de V.S. – hoewel het Europees Parlement vragen heeft gesteld over de waarschijnlijk illegale methodes van datavergaring die de Amerikaanse overheid op onder meer Gonggrijp heeft toegepast – niet uitgesloten. Dat medewerkers van WikiLeaks door de regering-Obama stelselmatig geïntimideerd en onder druk gezet worden doet er blijkbaar niet toe. Sterker nog, Rosenthal zegt – hoewel de woordvoerder van het Amerikaanse ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken vorige maand nog ontslagen werd omdat hij de behandeling van Manning ‘belachelijk en contraproductief’ had genoemd – hier niet eens van op de hoogte te zijn.
GroenLinks-Kamerlid Arjen El Fassed noemt de antwoorden van Rosenthal ‘genânt’. Dat is nog een understatement, wat mij betreft.
Minister Uri Rosenthal sluit niet uit dat Nederland XS4ALL-oprichter en stemcomputercriticus Rop Gonggrijp gaat uitleveren aan de VS. De procedure is volgens hem met voldoende waarborgen omkleed.
Dat blijkt uit antwoorden van de Minister van Buitenlandse Zaken op vragen van het GroenLinks-kamerlid Arjan El Fassed. Sinds begin dit jaar is duidelijk dat de Amerikaanse autoriteiten onderzoek doen naar Gonggrijp. Daar wordt gekeken naar de vermeende rol van Gonggrijp bij Wikileaks.
Gonggrijp komt voor in het onderzoek naar Bradley Manning, die ervan wordt verdacht documenten te hebben gelekt. Gonggrijp zou hebben meegeholpen aan het samenstellen van de film Collateral Murder, waarin te zien is hoe vanuit een Amerikaanse gevechtshelikopter journalisten onder vuur worden genomen. Volgens Rosenthal is die video de aanleiding: “De naam van de heer Gonggrijp wordt hierbij genoemd omdat hij Wikileaks, naar eigen zeggen, heeft geholpen een video over Irak te publiceren en er een strafrechtelijk onderzoek loopt naar degene die de beelden aan Wikileaks heeft verstrekt.”
Op dit moment ligt er volgens de bewindvoerder geen aanklacht tegen Gonggrijp, maar als dat zo is dan sluit hij uitlevering niet uit. “Uit dat verzoek dient onder andere te blijken naar welke strafbare feiten onderzoek wordt gedaan, zodat de Amerikaanse strafrechtelijke belangen kunnen worden afgewogen tegen de belangen van betrokkene”, stelt Rosenthal. “Dat proces is met voldoende waarborgen omkleed. Ik sluit daarom niet nu uit dat Nederland medewerking zal verlenen.”
De uitspraak is belangrijk. Als er daadwerkelijk een aanklacht komt dan wordt niet op inhoud van de zaak getoetst, maar alleen op procedurele zaken gelet. Zo mag er nooit de doodstraf worden opgelegd. Dat er veel ophef is over de behandeling van Bradley Manning in de gevangenis, is Rosenthal niet bekend. “Met het detentieregime van de heer Manning ben ik niet bekend. Het betreft een Amerikaanse strafzaak tegen een verdachte met de Amerikaanse nationaliteit.” Vorige maand stapte de voorlichter van de Amerikaanse minister van Buitenlandse Zaken nog op, omdat hij de behandeling van Manning kwalificeerde als ‘belachelijk’ en ‘stom’.
Dat er valt te twijfelen op de manier waarop de VS met gevangenen omgaan weet de bewindvoerder wel. Nederland heeft in november 2010 vragen tijdens een soort examen voor de mensenrechten, de Universal Periodic Review, vragen over de VS gesteld. Zo zijn onder andere vragen gesteld over regeling rond seksueel geweld tegen homo’s en of eerdere aanbevelingen rond het vastbinden van vrouwen tijdens de bevalling. “Tot slot is gevraagd wat de Amerikaanse regering doet om de lichamelijke en geestelijke situatie van gevangenen in penitentiaire instellingen te verbeteren.”
Eerder werd al duidelijk dat Nederland niet in actie voor Gonggrijp willen komen, zoals de IJslanders dat wel voor hun parlementslid Birgitta Jónsdóttir doen.
Gonggrijp heeft altijd ontkend onderdeel van Wikileaks te zijn, maar is open over zijn bijdrage aan de Colleteral Murder video. Die bestond vooral uit het doen ondersteunende zaken bij het samenstellen van de video.
In een reactie zegt El Fassed de antwoorden ‘genânt’ te vinden. “Ze doen niet eens meer een poging om te verhullen dat ze hier geen aandacht aan willen geven”, vertelt hij Webwereld. “Wij zullen de minister van Buitenlandse Zaken bij het aankomend debat over mensenrechten hierover opheldering vragen.”
The NYT reports that Bradley Manning (23) - the American soldier who originally passed the Iraq helicopter video, the Iraq and Afghan war logs and the US diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks – is being treated in an increasingly inhumane way in the cell in which he is locked up in Quantico, Virginia. He is now permanently stripped of this clothes during the night and the morning inspection, where he stands along the other detainees. This comes in addition to his 23-hour solitary confinement; his one hour of outside-cell time, during which he is shackled and must walk around all time; his deprivation of exercise; and the constant surveillance he is under. Bradley Manning, even though he is not suicidal and has acted like a model detainee (although he’s increasingly showing signs of psychological duress) has been forced to endure this treatment for the past ten months.
Four days ago, charges of ‘aiding the enemy’ have been filed against him, which could theoretically lead to the death penalty.
Let’s be clear about this: Bradley Manning’s treatment amounts to torture. Forced nudity is a breach of the standards of the Geneva Conventions, and prolonged solitary confinement is torture anyhow. And this is being done under one President Barack Obama. Manning is the person thanks to whom we know that American soldiers in Iraq shot innocent civilians from an Apache helicopter; thanks to whom we know how high the death toll of the Iraq War really was; and thanks to whom we know all those revelations from the WikiLeaks cables, that are still coming out. They even played a role in the Tunisian uprising, leading to the historic events of the past few weeks. In other words, this person is a hero if there ever was one. And yet, even though he has not been convicted of any crime, he is being handled in a manner reserved for the worst criminals in Supermax prisons (or terror suspects in Guantánamo Bay).
Here’s an excerpt from the chat logs between Adrian Lamo (the guy who turned him in) and Manning, revealing the latter’s motivations for revealing information being held secret to the public:
Manning: [B]ecause it’s public data. . . . it belongs in the public domain -information should be free – it belongs in the public domain – because another state would just take advantage of the information… try and get some edge – if its out in the open . . . it should be a public good.
Lamo: what’s your endgame plan, then?. . .
Manning: well, it was forwarded to [WikiLeaks] – and god knows what happens now – hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms – if not, than [sic] we’re doomed – as a species – i will officially give up on the society we have if nothing happens – the reaction to the [Baghdad Apache attack] video gave me immense hope; CNN’s iReport was overwhelmed; Twitter exploded – people who saw, knew there was something wrong . . . Washington Post sat on the video… David Finkel acquired a copy while embedded out here. . . . – i want people to see the truth . . . regardless of who they are . . . because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.
So this is how the American government treats whistleblowers. And it is all happening under the watchful eye of President Obama, who as a candidate in 2007 said the following things:
They will be ready to show the world that we are not a country that ships prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far off countries. That we are not a country that runs prisons which lock people away without ever telling them why they are there or what they are charged with. That we are not a country which preaches compassion and justice to others while we allow bodies to float down the streets of a major American city.
That is not who we are.
Yes we can, President Obama. Change we can believe in.
For more about this, read Glenn Greenwald. Also check the Bradley Manning Support Network. You can donate to Bradley Manning’s legal defence fund here.
Well well, it seems that all the talk about WikiLeaks causing damage to American diplomacy and interests – leading right-wing commentators to label Julian Assange a ‘terrorist’ and call for his assassination - has been severely overblown.
I still think that a whisteblowers’ organization like WikiLeaks should take care to redact documents so that individuals like Afghan informants will not be harmed; and that releasing documents about either diplomatic gossip or vulnerable infrastructure is either unnecessary or irresponsible; but otherwise, it’s transparency 1, secrecy 0.
Now what about those criminal charges against Assange and those who aided him, like the Dutch Rop Gonggrijp?
The damage caused by the WikiLeaks controversy has caused little real and lasting damage to American diplomacy, senior state department officials have concluded.
It emerged in private briefings to Congress by top diplomats that the fallout from the release of thousands of private diplomatic cables from all over the globe has not been especially bad.
This is in direct opposition to the official stance of the White House and the US government which has been vocal in condemning the whistle-blowing organisation and seeking to bring its founder, Julian Assange, to trial in the US.
A congressional official briefed on the reviews told Reuters news agency that the administration felt compelled to say publicly that the revelations had seriously damaged American interests in order to bolster legal efforts to shut down the WikiLeaks website and bring charges against the leakers. “I think they want to present the toughest front they can muster,” the official said.
The official implied that the WikiLeaks fiasco was bad public relations but had little concrete impact on policy.
“We were told [it] was embarrassing, not damaging,” the official added.
It appears that damage was localised in terms of a few specific cables, for example about Yemen, and thus expected to be containable in the long-run.
So far WikiLeaks has released just a fraction of a cache of diplomatic messages which came into its possession. It has done so with the co-operation of several global news organisations like the Guardian, the New York Times and Der Spiegel.
With all the fuss about either the WikiLeaks cables or the Anonymous hacks, the fate of Bradley Manning, the 22-year old private in the U.S. Army who allegedly leaked the Apache helicopter video, the Afghan and Iraq war documents and the U.S. embassy cables to WikiLeaks, has received scarce attention.
The indispensable Glenn Greenwald, however, has a large piece about the conditions of Manning’s detention. For seven months straight, Manning has been held in solitary confinement (a treatment normally reserved for the worst convicted criminals) in Kuwait and Quantico, Virginia. He only has one hour of outside time a day, and has even been denied sheets and a pillow. He is not allowed to exercise, and is under constant surveillance to enforce this. Also, he has no access to news and current evens programs. This is based on interviews with friends and relatives, as well as a Quantico brig official.
Conceivably, even though Manning has acted as a model detainee with no disciplinary problems, he is now starting to show signs of psychological stress and exhaustion; and is treated with antidepresssants as a result. As Greenwald notes, the complete isolation of solitary confinement is considered torture by many nations. Moreover, Manning has not even been convicted of anything! Yet, he is receiving the treatment normally reserved for the worst criminals in Supermax prisons.
Please spread word of this injustice far and wide. Manning is the guy thanks to whom we know about the Apache helicopter incident, the higher death tolls in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S.-run United Nations espionage program, Pfizer’s smear tactics in Nigerian drug experiment trials, and so much more.
You can donate to the legal defense fund of Bradley Manning here.
- Update: MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann has a segment on the inhumane conditions of Manning’s detention. Also, Glenn Greenwald appeared on Democracy Now! to discuss this.
Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old U.S. Army Private accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks, has never been convicted of that crime, nor of any other crime. Despite that, he has been detained at the U.S. Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia for five months — and for two months before that in a military jail in Kuwait — under conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment and, by the standards of many nations, even torture. Interviews with several people directly familiar with the conditions of Manning’s detention, ultimately including a Quantico brig official (Lt. Brian Villiard) who confirmed much of what they conveyed, establishes that the accused leaker is subjected to detention conditions likely to create long-term psychological injuries.
Since his arrest in May, Manning has been a model detainee, without any episodes of violence or disciplinary problems. He nonetheless was declared from the start to be a “Maximum Custody Detainee,” the highest and most repressive level of military detention, which then became the basis for the series of inhumane measures imposed on him.
From the beginning of his detention, Manning has been held in intensive solitary confinement. For 23 out of 24 hours every day — for seven straight months and counting — he sits completely alone in his cell. Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he’s barred even from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce those restrictions. For reasons that appear completely punitive, he’s being denied many of the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment, including even a pillow or sheets for his bed (he is not and never has been on suicide watch). For the one hour per day when he is freed from this isolation, he is barred from accessing any news or current events programs. Lt. Villiard protested that the conditions are not “like jail movies where someone gets thrown into the hole,” but confirmed that he is in solitary confinement, isolated entirely alone in his cell except for the one hour per day he is taken out.
In sum, Manning has been subjected for many months without pause to inhumane, personality-erasing, soul-destroying, insanity-inducing conditions of isolation similar to those perfected at America’s Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado: all without so much as having been convicted of anything. And as is true of many prisoners subjected to warped treatment of this sort, the brig’s medical personnel now administer regular doses of anti-depressants to Manning to prevent his brain from snapping from the effects of this isolation.
Manning is barred from communicating with any reporters, even indirectly, so nothing he has said can be quoted here. But David House, a 23-year-old MIT researcher who befriended Manning after his detention (and then had his laptops, camera and cellphone seized by Homeland Security when entering the U.S.) is one of the few people to have visited Manning several times at Quantico. He describes palpable changes in Manning’s physical appearance and behavior just over the course of the several months that he’s been visiting him. Like most individuals held in severe isolation, Manning sleeps much of the day, is particularly frustrated by the petty, vindictive denial of a pillow or sheets, and suffers from less and less outdoor time as part of his one-hour daily removal from his cage.
That is plainly what is going on here. Anyone remotely affiliated with WikiLeaks, including American citizens (and plenty of other government critics), has their property seized and communications stored at the border without so much as a warrant. Julian Assange — despite never having been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime — has now spent more than a week in solitary confinement with severe restrictions under what his lawyer calls “Dickensian conditions.” But Bradley Manning has suffered much worse, and not for a week, but for seven months, with no end in sight. If you became aware of secret information revealing serious wrongdoing, deceit and/or criminality on the part of the U.S. Government, would you — knowing that you could and likely would be imprisoned under these kinds of repressive, torturous conditions for months on end without so much as a trial: just locked away by yourself 23 hours a day without recourse — be willing to expose it? That’s the climate of fear and intimidation which these inhumane detention conditions are intended to create.
Well, here you have me complaining about how the DDoS attacks of Anonymous are distracting from the real issue – the content of the cables leaked by WikiLeaks – and here you have Anonymous changing their strategy.
If this .gif that is popping up ’round the Internet is to be believed, Anonymous, instead of attacking websites of entities hostile to WikiLeaks, is going to delve into the content of the cables and spread it everywhere – including on YouTube, hidden behind tags like ‘Tea Party’ and ‘Justin Bieber’.
Delving into the cables and exposing and analyzing their contents is exactly what we’ve been trying to do at this blog the past two weeks (here, here, here, here and here), so this is welcome news. Keep up the good work!
Because of DDOS attacks (and likely, pressure by the U.S. government on the hosting) the original domain WikiLeaks.org has been shut off. Fortunately, they’re back online at WikiLeaks.ch.
Unfortunately, this means that all the links in our blogging on WikiLeaks, which refer to the .org domain, are dead.
Here’s hoping they can go back to their old domain soon. Everybody can, by the way, download the complete Cablegate archive on his or her computer via
this torrent this torrent. (Note: this is WikiLeaks’ “insurance policy”: the torrent likely contains the Cablegate documents, but the encryption key will only be provided in case the site goes down permanently.)
- Update: Real big fat kudos to Dutch blog GeenStijl. They uploaded a WikiLeaks mirror on their own server.
Edit: The mirror is now also hosted on the site of their sister broadcasting company PowNed: click here. Funny thing is that PowNed receives subsidy from the Dutch government.
Also, everybody vote for Julian Assange in the TIME’s Person of the Year contest. Because you can.
- Update 2: Here’s the Twitter feed of the hacker, calling himself the Jester, who claims to be responsible for the two DDOS attacks on WikiLeaks of late.
Interessant. Hoewel de New York Times, The Guardian en Der Spiegel een beperkt grasduinen in de originele documenten toestaan, heb ik zo snel niet iets uit of over Nederland kunnen vinden. De Volkskrant bericht echter dat 2745 van de kwart miljoen door WikiLeaks openbaar gemaakte geheime Amerikaanse diplomatieke documenten over Nederland handelen.
Zeer benieuwd wat daar in staat.
- Edit: Ah, Der Spiegel heeft meer. Volgens hen zijn er 3021 stukken uit Nederland, waarvan 45 “Secret Noforn” – oftewel niet voor buitenlandse ogen bestemd. Die stammen zo te zien uit de periode 2001-2010.
- Edit 2: The Guardian voorziet ons in onderstaand mooie plaatje. Den Haag is aardig vertegenwoordigd.
- Edit 3: Legers Twitteraars zijn inmiddels bezig de documenten door te pluizen. #cablegate is de te volgen hashtag! Check de Cable Viewer om zelf documenten door te nemen!
- Edit 4 @ 1.00 uur: Nederlandse tactical nukes genoemd in VS-overleg met Duitsland. Met de Cable Viewer naar tag NATO, en dan naar document 09BERLIN1433 “NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR HEUSGEN ON AFGHANISTAN”. Ctrl-f op “Netherlands”:
TACTICAL NUCLEAR WEAPONS
Â¶8. (C) In response to Gordon’s question about how the government planned to take forward the commitment in the coalition agreement to seek the removal of all remaining nuclear weapons from Germany, Heusgen distanced the Chancellery from the proposal, claiming that this had been forced upon them by FM Westerwelle. Heusgen said that from his perspective, it made no sense to unilaterally withdraw ”the 20″ tactical nuclear weapons still in Germany while Russia maintains “thousands” of them. It would only be worth it if both sides drew down. Gordon noted that it was important to think through all the potential consequences of the German proposal before going forward. For example, a withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Germany and perhaps from Belgium and the Netherlands could make it very difficult politically for Turkey to maintain its own stockpile, even though it was still convinced of the need to do so.
- Edit 5: Ah, het is 12.11 uur en bij Trouw springen ze ook op de bandwagon. Trouw: WikiLeaks: kernwapens in Nederland
- Edit 6: De Volkskrant is er ook, De Pers ook.
Van de ruim 250 duizend Amerikaanse diplomatieke documenten die klokkenluidersite Wikileaks de komende maanden zal publiceren, handelen er 2.745 over Nederland.
Dat valt op te maken uit een grafiek die Wikileaks zondagavond online plaatste. Dat zijn er net iets minder dan over Duitsland, en iets meer dan over Turkmenistan.
De meeste documenten gaan over Irak (15.365), gevolgd door Turkije (11.086), Iran (10.093) en Israël (9.520). Ook Afghanistan is goed vertegenwoordigd met 7.095 documenten.
Er zijn ook relatief veel documenten gelekt die op de Amerikaanse ambassade in Den Haag zijn opgesteld; zo’n 3.000. Van slechts 17 andere Amerikaanse overheidsinstanties zullen er de komende tijd meer documenten online komen.
One of the most important revelations from the WikiLeaks classified diplomatic cable publication is possibly that, as we blogged about earlier, not only Israel is urging the U.S. to go military on Iran before it acquires nuclear weaponry, but so do Arab nations such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. For the Sunni leaders of these states, the prospect of the Shiite republic having an atom bomb must be awful.
And not only that: the sense is that if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, this might set off a Middle East arms race, with other states scrambling to arm themselves as well. On the other hand: imagine the prospect of either Israel unilaterally attacking Iran, or the US engaging in its third war against an Islamic state in a decade.
Yet since, whether we like it or not, a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities by either Israel or the US is increasingly in the air (the war drums are already being beaten by American conservatives), this is pretty consequential information.
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has repeatedly urged the United States to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear programme, according to leaked US diplomatic cables that describe how other Arab allies have secretly agitated for military action against Tehran.
The revelations, in secret memos from US embassies across the Middle East, expose behind-the-scenes pressures in the scramble to contain the Islamic Republic, which the US, Arab states and Israel suspect is close to acquiring nuclear weapons. Bombing Iranian nuclear facilities has hitherto been viewed as a desperate last resort that could ignite a far wider war.
The Saudi king was recorded as having “frequently exhorted the US to attack Iran to put an end to its nuclear weapons programme”, one cable stated. “He told you [Americans] to cut off the head of the snake,” the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Adel al-Jubeir said, according to a report on Abdullah’s meeting with the US general David Petraeus in April 2008.
The cables also highlight Israel’s anxiety to preserve its regional nuclear monopoly, its readiness to go it alone against Iran – and its unstinting attempts to influence American policy. The defence minister, Ehud Barak, estimated in June 2009 that there was a window of “between six and 18 months from now in which stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons might still be viable”. After that, Barak said, “any military solution would result in unacceptable collateral damage.”
The leaked US cables also reveal that:
• Officials in Jordan and Bahrain have openly called for Iran’s nuclear programme to be stopped by any means, including military.
• Leaders in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt referred to Iran as “evil”, an “existential threat” and a power that “is going to take us to war”.
• Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, warned in February that if diplomatic efforts failed, “we risk nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, war prompted by an Israeli strike, or both”.
• Major General Amos Yadlin, Israeli’s military intelligence chief, warned last year: “Israel is not in a position to underestimate Iran and be surprised like the US was on 11 September 2001.”
[In] a meeting with Italy’s foreign minister earlier this year, Gates said time was running out. If Iran were allowed to develop a nuclear weapon, the US and its allies would face a different world in four to five years, with a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. King Abdullah had warned the Americans that if Iran developed nuclear weapons “everyone in the region would do the same, including Saudi Arabia”.
No US ally is keener on military action than Israel, and officials there have repeatedly warned that time is running out. “If the Iranians continue to protect and harden their nuclear sites, it will be more difficult to target and damage them,” the US embassy reported Israeli defence officials as saying in November 2009.
This really boggles me. Revealed by the publication by WikiLeaks of a quarter millon classified diplomatic cables from American embassies, is a massive secret intelligence campaign directed by the U.S. government against the leadership of the United Nations.
This included the gathering of personal details, biometric information (fingerprints and iris scans), passwords, credit card numbers, use of private networks and frequent flyer accounts of the secretary general, permanent Security Council representatives, undersecretaries, heads of agencies, chief advisers, heads of peacekeeping operations and other key top UN personnel.
While of course in the dark side of international relations such a thing shouldn’t surprise anyone, I’m still amazed at the grandiosity of this scheme.
Washington is running a secret intelligence campaign targeted at the leadership of the United Nations, including the secretary general, Ban Ki-moon and the permanent security council representatives from China, Russia, France and the UK.
A classified directive which appears to blur the line between diplomacy and spying was issued to US diplomats under Hillary Clinton’s name in July 2009, demanding forensic technical details about the communications systems used by top UN officials, including passwords and personal encryption keys used in private and commercial networks for official communications.
It called for detailed biometric 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” as well as intelligence on Ban’s “management and decision-making style and his influence on the secretariat”. A parallel intelligence directive sent to diplomats in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi said biometric data included DNA, fingerprints and iris scans.
Washington also wanted credit card numbers, email addresses, phone, fax and pager numbers and even frequent-flyer account numbers for UN figures and “biographic and biometric information on UN Security Council permanent representatives”.
The secret “national human intelligence collection directive” was sent to US missions at the UN in New York, Vienna and Rome; 33 embassies and consulates, including those in London, Paris and Moscow.
The operation targetted at the UN appears to have involved all of Washington’s main intelligence agencies. The CIA’s clandestine service, the US Secret Service and the FBI were included in the “reporting and collection needs” cable alongside the state department under the heading “collection requirements and tasking”.
The leak of the directive is likely to spark questions about the legality of the operation and about whether state department diplomats are expected to spy. The level of technical and personal detail demanded about the UN top team’s communication systems could be seen as laying the groundwork for surveillance or hacking operations. It requested “current technical specifications, physical layout and planned upgrades to telecommunications infrastructure and information systems, networks and technologies used by top officials and their support staff”, as well as details on private networks used for official comunication, “to include upgrades, security measures, passwords, personal encryption keys and virtual private network versions used”.
The UN has previously asserted that bugging the secretary general is illegal, citing the 1946 UN convention on priveleges and immunities which states: “The premises of the United Nations shall be inviolable. 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”.
The 1961 Vienna convention on diplomatic relations, which covers the UN, also states that “the official correspondence of the mission shall be inviolable”.
The emergence of the directive also risks undermining political trust between the UN leadership and the US, which is the former’s biggest paying member, supplying almost a quarter of its budget – more than $3bn (£1.9bn) this year.
Washington wanted intelligence on the contentious issue of the “relationship or funding between UN personnel and/or missions and terrorist organisations” and links between the UN Relief and Works Agency in the Middle East, and Hamas and Hezbollah. It also wanted to know about plans by UN special rapporteurs to press for potentially embarrassing investigations into the US treatment of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay, and “details of friction” between the agencies co-ordinating UN humanitarian operations, evidence of corruption inside UNAids, the joint UN programme on HIV, and in international health organisations, including the World Health Organisation (WHO). It even called for “biographic and biometric” information on Dr Margaret Chan, the director general of WHO, as well as details of her personality, role, effectiveness, management style and influence.
It’s on: despite a cyberattack on their website just hours ago, WikiLeaks has published more than 250,000 classified diplomatic cables from American embassies around the globe. In major newspapers, there’s now talk about a worldwide diplomatic crisis.
What’s in it is, well, huge and encompassing, with lots and lots of information on countless international matters.
The United States was catapulted into a worldwide diplomatic crisis today, with the leaking to the Guardian and other international media of more than 250,000 classified cables from its embassies, many sent as recently as February this year.
At the start of a series of daily extracts from the US embassy cables – many of which are designated “secret” – the Guardian can disclose that Arab leaders are privately urging an air strike on Iran and that US officials have been instructed to spy on the UN’s leadership.
These two revelations alone would be likely to reverberate around the world. But the secret dispatches which were obtained by WikiLeaks, the whistlebowers’ website, also reveal Washington’s evaluation of many other highly sensitive international issues.
These include a major shift in relations between China and North Korea, Pakistan’s growing instability and details of clandestine US efforts to combat al-Qaida in Yemen.
Among scores of other disclosures that are likely to cause uproar, the cables detail:
• Grave fears in Washington and London over the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme
• Alleged links between the Russian government and organised crime.
• Devastating criticism of the UK’s military operations in Afghanistan.
• Claims of inappropriate behaviour by a member of the British royal family.
The US has particularly intimate dealings with Britain, and some of the dispatches from the London embassy in Grosvenor Square will make uncomfortable reading in Whitehall and Westminster. They range from serious political criticisms of David Cameron to requests for specific intelligence about individual MPs.
The cache of cables contains specific allegations of corruption and against foreign leaders, as well as harsh criticism by US embassy staff of their host governments, from tiny islands in the Caribbean to China and Russia.
The material includes a reference to Vladimir Putin as an “alpha-dog”, Hamid Karzai as being “driven by paranoia” and Angela Merkel allegedly “avoids risk and is rarely creative”. There is also a comparison between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Adolf Hitler.
The cables name countries involved in financing terror groups, and describe a near “environmental disaster” last year over a rogue shipment of enriched uranium. They disclose technical details of secret US-Russian nuclear missile negotiations in Geneva, and include a profile of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who they say is accompanied everywhere by a “voluptuous blonde” Ukrainian nurse.
The electronic archive of embassy dispatches from around the world was allegedly downloaded by a US soldier earlier this year and passed to WikiLeaks. Assange made them available to the Guardian and four other newspapers: the New York Times, Der Spiegel in Germany, Le Monde in France and El País in Spain. All five plan to publish extracts from the most significant cables, but have decided neither to “dump” the entire dataset into the public domain, nor to publish names that would endanger innocent individuals. WikiLeaks says that, contrary to the state department’s fears, it also initially intends to post only limited cable extracts, and to redact identities.
The cables published today reveal how the US uses its embassies as part of a global espionage network, with diplomats tasked to obtain not just information from the people they meet, but personal details, such as frequent flyer numbers, credit card details and even DNA material.
Classified “human intelligence directives” issued in the name of Hillary Clinton or her predecessor, Condoleeza Rice, instruct officials to gather information on military installations, weapons markings, vehicle details of political leaders as well as iris scans, fingerprints and DNA.
The most controversial target was the leadership of the United Nations. That directive requested the specification of telecoms and IT systems used by top UN officials and their staff and details of “private VIP networks used for official communication, to include upgrades, security measures, passwords, personal encryption keys”.
They are classified at various levels up to “SECRET NOFORN” [no foreigners]. More than 11,000 are marked secret, while around 9,000 of the cables are marked noforn. The embassies which sent most cables were Ankara, Baghdad, Amman, Kuwait and Tokyo.