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Nov 28 2010

New WikiLeaks release

As rumored, WikiLeaks has released a new batch of documents. The Guardian has probably the best coverage of what is in the documents.

A small sample:

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 Clinton or her predecessor, Condoleezza 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 UN leadership. That directive requested the specification of telecoms and IT systems used by top officials and their staff and details of “private VIP networks used for official communication, to include upgrades, security measures, passwords, personal encryption keys”.

PJ Crowley, the state department spokesman in Washington, said: “Let me assure you: our diplomats are just that, diplomats. They do not engage in intelligence activities. They represent our country around the world, maintain open and transparent contact with other governments as well as public and private figures, and report home. That’s what diplomats have done for hundreds of years.”

3 comments

  1. 1
    Jeff Hess

    Shalom Mano,

    I’ll read the Guardian article in a bit, but my take is the same as Mike’s: embassies and diplomats have always been in the business of gathering intelligence.

    I’m not sure what is new here.

    B’shalom,

    Jeff

  2. 2
    Jeff Hess

    Shalom Mano,

    I just finished reading the Guardian article and I just don’t see any news there.

    Any nation not doing business under the assumption that all foreign government officials doing business in their country are not gathering intelligence are fools.

    Our tradition here certainly extends back to Benjamin Franklin, our first ambassador to France.

    B’shalom,

    Jeff

  3. 3
    Mano Singham

    Jeff and Mike,

    Embassies have always been used for intelligence gathering but I think there were certain unwritten rules of the game as to who who be the intelligence agents (“cultural attaches” were the titles used most often), who wouldn’t do any direct spying, and who were the targets. It was usually well known who was serving as the CIA station chief in an embassy for example. It would be unusual for the ambassadors or first secretaries to be spies which is why they are rarely expelled when the periodic spy scandal breaks out.

    I think that what is revealed here is that the US has violated these rules.

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