As the WikiLeaks documents steadily reveal more and more controversial actions taken by the government in its international operations, one report from July 2009 shows Secretary of State Hillary Clinton authorizing US diplomats to spy and collect personal information on members of foreign agencies.
The cable, entitled “Reporting and Collection Needs: The United Nations” and sent to 36 American embassies, missions and consuls around the world, details a program called the National HUMINT (human intelligence) Collection Directive (NHCD) and ordered US diplomats to collect a wealth of information on members of the United Nations abroad.
According to the cable, state reporting officers were to gather extensive personal data on UN officials, covering everything from business card titles to frequent flyer account numbers of the foreign diplomats. The information would “serve as a useful tool to help the Embassy manage reporting and collection, including formulation of Mission Strategic Plans.”
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“Reporting officers should include as much of the following information as possible when they have information relating to persons linked to: office and organizational titles; names, position titles and other information on business cards; numbers of telephones, cell phones, pagers and faxes; compendia of contact information, such as telephone directories … and e-mail listings; internet and intranet ‘handles’, internet e-mail addresses, web site identification-URLs; credit card account numbers; frequent flyer account numbers; work schedules, and other relevant biographical information,” the cable stated.
The cable also tasked reporting officers with gathering information on key issues in both the short-term and the long-term, including plans for humanitarian efforts in Darfur and the Middle East Peace Process, among other topics.
On Darfur, officers were to report the views of UN member states on “contributing troops and air transportation equipment, such as helicopters, to the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) and the African Union (AU)-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).”
Officers were also instructed to inform the U.S. about the actions or intentions of Iran and North Korea’s UN Security Council (UNSC) members, specifically on plans to “develop, test, or proliferate nuclear weapons.”
The cable also requested the “current technical specifications, physical layout, and planned upgrades to telecommunications infrastructure and information systems, networks, and technologies used by top officials and their support staffs,” as well as “details on commercial and private VIP networks used for official communications, to include upgrades, security measures, passwords, personal encryption keys, and types of VPN versions used.”
In a statement on November 28, 2010, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the documents were “not an expression of policy,” but could nevertheless “compromise private discussions with foreign governments and opposition leaders.”
“President Obama supports responsible, accountable, and open government at home and around the world, but this reckless and dangerous action runs counter to that goal. By releasing stolen and classified documents, Wikileaks has put at risk not only the cause of human rights but also the lives and work of these individuals. We condemn in the strongest terms the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information.”
Clinton held a press briefing Monday to respond to the leak and said that the U.S. “deeply regrets” the release of classified information, promising to take bold action against the theft.
“I want to make clear that our official foreign policy is not set through these messages, but here in Washington,” Clinton said. “I would also add that to the American people and to our friends and partners … we are taking aggressive steps to hold responsible those who stole this information.”