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

The Economic Times - - World View - Char­lie Sav­age

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.

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