Madam Secretary

Clinton ordered American diplomats to spy on U.N. officials

Amid all the WikiLeaks uproar is the news that a July 2009 directive under Secretary Clinton’s name ordered U.S. diplomats to spy on officials at the United Nations and gather information such as credit card numbers, frequent flier numbers, and "biometric information on U.N. Security Council permanent representatives." Biometric information would include fingerprints and iris ...

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

Amid all the WikiLeaks uproar is the news that a July 2009 directive under Secretary Clinton's name ordered U.S. diplomats to spy on officials at the United Nations and gather information such as credit card numbers, frequent flier numbers, and "biometric information on U.N. Security Council permanent representatives." Biometric information would include fingerprints and iris recognition. Also on the list of whom to gather biometric information from include, "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," reports the Daily Telegraph.

The directive also requested passwords and encryption keys for communications systems used by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other high-level U.N. officials.

The Daily Telegraph reports, "The directive appears to push the boundary between diplomacy and espionage and could breach the 1946 UN convention on privileges and immunities which states that the 'premises of the United Nations shall be inviolable'."

Amid all the WikiLeaks uproar is the news that a July 2009 directive under Secretary Clinton’s name ordered U.S. diplomats to spy on officials at the United Nations and gather information such as credit card numbers, frequent flier numbers, and "biometric information on U.N. Security Council permanent representatives." Biometric information would include fingerprints and iris recognition. Also on the list of whom to gather biometric information from include, "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," reports the Daily Telegraph.

The directive also requested passwords and encryption keys for communications systems used by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other high-level U.N. officials.

The Daily Telegraph reports, "The directive appears to push the boundary between diplomacy and espionage and could breach the 1946 UN convention on privileges and immunities which states that the ‘premises of the United Nations shall be inviolable’."

The Daily Mail even states that the request for such information "is set to lead to international calls for Mrs Clinton to resign."

Clinton heads to Central Asia later today, where she might be in the hot seat, having to answer some tough questions about the directive. U.S. diplomats are frequently accused of secretly being spies, and the WikiLeaks news will likely only fuel those fears and possibly make it more difficult for U.S. diplomats to build trust. It’ll be interesting to what Clinton has to say during this trip.

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. Twitter: @pjaroonFP

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