The Great American Spy
Glenn Greenwald’s book reveals a wider net of US spying on envoys. NSA, he says, even helped US diplomatic negotiations just before an Iran sanctions vote
In May 2010, when the UN Security Council was weighing sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme, several members were undecided about how they would vote. The American ambassador to the UN, Susan E Rice, asked the National Security Agency for help “so that she could develop a strategy,” a leaked agency document shows.
The NSA swiftly went to work, developing the paperwork to obtain legal approval for spying on diplomats from four Security Council members — Bosnia, Gabon, Nigeria and Uganda — whose embassies and missions were not already under surveillance. The following month, 12 members of the 15-seat Security Council voted to approve new sanctions, with Lebanon abstaining and only Brazil and Turkey voting against.
Later that summer, Rice thanked the agency, saying its intelligence had helped her to know when diplomats from the other permanent representatives — China, England, France and Russia — “were telling the truth ... revealed their real position on sanctions... gave us an upper hand in negotiations... and provided information on various countries ‘red lines.’ ”
The two documents laying out that episode, both leaked by the former NSA contractor Edward J Snowden, are reproduced in a new book by Glenn Greenwald, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the US Surveillance State. The book is being published Tuesday. Elements of the NSA’s role in helping aid American diplomatic negotiations leading up to the Iran sanctions vote had been previously reported, including in an October 2013 article in the French newspaper Le Monde that focused on the agency’s spying on French diplomats. Greenwald’s book also reproduces a document listing embassies and missions that had been penetrated by the NSA, including those of India, Brazil, Bulgaria, Colombia, the European Union, France, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, Venezuela and Vietnam. Aspects of that document were reported in June by The Guardian. Revelations about NSA spying abroad, including on officials of American allies, has fuelled anger at the United States. But Caitlin Hayden, an NSA spokeswoman, noted that President Barack Obama sought to address those issues in January when he promised greater limits on spying aimed at allies and partners. “While our intelligence agencies will continue to gather information about the intentions of governments — as opposed to ordinary citizens — around the world, in the same way that the intelligence services of every other nation do, we will not apologise because our services may be more effective,” she said.
Rice’s request for help in May 2010 was recounted in an internal report by the security agency’s Special Source Operations division, which works with telecommunications companies on the American network.
A legal team was called in on May 22 to begin drawing up the paperwork for the four court orders, one for each of the four countries on the Security Council whose embassies and missions were apparently not yet under surveillance. A judge signed them on May 26.
The internal report showing that the NSA obtains countryspecific orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to eavesdrop on their diplomatic facilities may shed light on a murky document published in March by Der Spiegel. It showed that the court had issued an order authorising spying on “Germany” on March 7, 2013, and listed several other countries whose orders were about to expire.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act does not authorise the court to issue orders for broad monitoring of specific countries. It does authorise orders of specific “foreign powers” operating on American soil, which expire after a year.