Among the more bizarre manifestations of the State Department’s approach to gathering intelligence is a long cable circulated in July 2009 to diplomats at the United States mission to the United Nations and diplomats around the world who might be positioned to snoop on the organization.
The cable, among the WikiLeaks documents most recently dumped on selected news organizations, updates a 2004 directive, thus becoming the Obama administration’s—or Hillary Clinton’s —policy statement on how the UN should be milked for intelligence. The directive, from the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, is described as “a comprehensive list of strategic priorities…intended to guide participating USG [US government] agencies as they allocate resources and update plans to collect information on the United Nations.”
There are some shocking requests made of diplomats. They are expected to gather detailed technical information, including passwords and personal encryption keys for communications networks used by UN officials, and to assemble biometric data on officials right up to and including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Sounds like something Norm Coleman would have dreamed up in his crusade to force the resignation of Kofi Annan during the administration of George W. Bush.
There is more. The State Department wants to know about any links any office or agency might have with terrorists. The directive quite blatantly makes the point that diplomats need to cooperate with intelligence agencies in sharing information. There are not a few diplomats who would rather resign than play that role. One of the common guessing games among American correspondents abroad is to speculate on who might be the local Central Intelligence Agency station chief. For a foreign service officer, crossing the line to undercover intelligence work could be both damaging to credibility and a threat to personal safety.
But here is the marching order to diplomats at the UN, spelled out in Secret Section 01 of 24 State 080163, as posted by the Guardian in London:
A. (S/NF) The intelligence community relies on State reporting officers for much of the biographical information collected worldwide. Informal biographic reporting via email and other means is vital to the community’s collection efforts and can be sent to the INR/B (Biographic) office for dissemination to the IC.
B. (S/NF) 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 (in compact disc or electronic format if available) 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.
Fellow diplomats come in for attention as well as UN officials in the US directive. Not surprisingly, Iran, the Middle East and North Korea are of special interest. On North Korea, the State Department directive wants "details about the UNDP Resident Coordinator’s relationship with North Korean officials" and "biographic and biometric information on ranking North Korean diplomats."