Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

WikiLeaks Scandal: Is the United Nations a Den of Spies?

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U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice has dismissed suggestions that her diplomats are part-time spies, as suggested by the latest batch of documents released by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.
 
“Let me be very clear — our diplomats are just that, they’re diplomats,” Rice told reporters at the United Nations where she was peppered with questions about the latest chapter in the WikiLeaks scandal. “Our diplomats are doing what diplomats do around the world every day, which is build relationships, negotiate, advance our interests and work to find common solutions to complex problems.”
 
She didn’t exactly deny the charges of espionage. But the top U.S. diplomat in New York did reject the idea that there would be any diplomatic fallout from the release of thousands of documents obtained by WikiLeaks, some of which have been published by The Guardian and other newspapers.
 
One U.S. diplomatic cable published by The Guardian shows how the State Department instructed diplomats at the United Nations and elsewhere around the world to collect credit card and frequent flyer numbers, work schedules and biometric data for U.N. officials and diplomats. Among the personalities of interest was U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as were the ambassadors of the other 14 Security Council member states. 
 
There is nothing new about espionage at the United Nations, but it’s always embarrassing when classified documents proving it happens surface in the media.
 
Most Security Council envoys declined to comment on the WikiLeaks documents as they headed into the council chambers on Monday for a meeting on North Korea. Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, however, told reporters, “Surprise, surprise.”
 
Churkin should know. One of the diplomats in his charge was implicated earlier this year in a high-profile Russian espionage case in the United States in which nearly a dozen people were accused of being part of a Russian spy ring that carried out deep-cover work in the United States to recruit political sources and gather information for Moscow. The U.S. Justice Department said that an unnamed diplomat at the Russian mission to the United Nations had delivered payments to the spy ring.
    
And then there was the man known as “Comrade J”, a Russian spy based in New York from 1995 to 2000. Working out of Russia’s U.N. mission, Comrade J directed Russian espionage activity in New York City and personally oversaw all covert operations against the United States and its allies in the United Nations. According to a book about his exploits, Comrade J eventually became a double agent for the FBI.
 
Nor does the history of U.N. espionage end there. In 2004, a former British cabinet minister revealed that British intelligence agents had spied on Ban Ki-moon’s predecessor Kofi Annan, who fell afoul of Washington and London by opposing the 2003 invasion of Iraq. 
    
Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the Vienna-based U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was also the victim of a phone-bugging operation, according to media reports from 2004. He had also opposed the invasion of Iraq and angered the United States by saying that their intelligence on Saddam Hussein’s alleged revival of his nuclear arms program was not only incorrect but partly based on falsified evidence. U.S. officials pored over transcripts of ElBaradei’s telephone intercepts in an attempt to secure evidence of mistakes that could be used to oust him from his post, the reports said. Not only did they fail to unseat him, he went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

Did I hear ‘freedom fries’? – France says Iran is no Iraq

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French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud briefs reporters at the United Nations in New York. UN photo

French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud briefs reporters at the United Nations in New York. UN photo

February 2003. Anti-French sentiment sweeps across the United States. President George W. Bush and his top aides can barely contain their irritation at the French government for undermining U.S.-led efforts to get the U.N. Security Council to authorize the impending invasion of Iraq. With the aid of Germany and Russia, France torpedoes the drive for a new resolution authorizing war. Frustration erupts into anger. Bottles of French wine and champagne are emptied into toilets and some restaurants rename French fries “freedom fries.”

Obama, Susan Rice and the U.N. — The right approach or too cuddly?

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U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, briefs press at the White House.

When U.S. President Barack Obama came to power, he announced a “new era of engagement” at the United Nations. He appointed his longtime friend and foreign policy adviser Susan Rice to be his ambassador to the world body. He also raised her post to cabinet level, as some previous Democratic presidents have done, and made her a member of the powerful National Security Council

United Nations confronts life and death in Haiti

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MINUSTAH's collapsed headquarters in Port-au-Prince.

MINUSTAH's collapsed headquarters in Port-au-Prince.

Everybody who knew French Canadian U.N. staffer Alexandra Duguay loved her. She was attractive, energetic and extremely intelligent. I got to know her well when she worked behind the media counter at U.N. headquarters. She was always eager to make sure we reporters had the latest resolutions, U.N. reports and speeches. And in the evening she enjoyed a glass of wine or beer at the Delegates Lounge. But she was bored with her job and wanted more adventure. One morning last spring she had an unusual twinkle in her eye. I asked her if something was up and she said yes. “I’m going to Haiti.” A few months later she had her going-away party at the U.N. Correspondents Association room. She and her boyfriend prepared for their imminent deployment to Haiti, where Alex was to be a spokeswoman and media coordinator for U.N. operations in the Western hemisphere’s poorest nation.

Alex quickly settled into her exciting new job. Late last year she emailed me an update of life in Port-au-Prince: “Even though it’s a bit of a s****y place, I can’t complain. I just spend too much time between my house and my hotel room, a.k.a. office. Yeah, we have peacocks as pets … Haitians are nuts. Lovely but nuts.”

Ban Ki-moon, Gaza and the little plane that could…

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It’s not easy being the secretary-general of the United Nations.

For three weeks, the South Korean U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has been urging Israel and Hamas militants in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza Strip to stop their fighting.  He has described himself as “deeply alarmed” and said he “deplores” the latest war to erupt in the Middle East. Ban said it has caused an “unbearable” number of casualties – over 1,000 Palestinians and 13 Israelis have died since the war began on Dec. 27.

But his appeals – backed by a legally binding U.N. Security Council resolution urging an immediate ceasefire – have fallen on deaf ears.  The Israeli offensive has intensified and Hamas militants have continued to fire rockets at southern Israel.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

China, Pakistan and India

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According to Pakistani newspaper the Daily Times, Pakistan's decision to crack down on the Jammat-ud-Dawa, the charity linked to the Laskhar-e-Taiba, came as the result of pressure from China. Jammat-ud-Dawa was blacklisted by a UN Security Council committee this week.

The Daily Times noted that earlier attempts to target the Jamaat-ud-Dawa at the Security Council had been vetoed by China. "It is the Chinese “message” that has changed our mind. The Chinese did not veto the banning of Dawa on Wednesday, and they had reportedly told Islamabad as much beforehand, compelling our permanent representative at the UN to assert that Pakistan would accept the ban if it came," the newspaper said. "One subliminal message was also given to Chief Minister Punjab, Mr Shehbaz Sharif, during his recent visit to China, and the message was that Pakistan had to seek peace with India or face change of policy in Beijing. Once again, it is our friend China whose advice has been well taken..."

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