Mon, Mar 10, 2003 - Page 1 News List

UN launches investigation into US spying on envoys

THE OBSERVER , NEW YORK AND LONDON

The UN has begun a top-level investigation into the bugging of its delegations by the US, first revealed in The Observer newspaper last week.

Sources in the office of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan confirmed Saturday night that the spying operation had already been discussed at the UN's counter-terrorism committee and will be further investigated.

The news comes as British police confirmed the arrest of a 28-year-old woman working at the top secret Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) on suspicion of contravening the Official Secrets Act.

Last week The Observer published details of a memo sent by Frank Koza, defense chief of staff (Regional Targets) at the US National Security Agency (NSA), which monitors international communications. The memo ordered an intelligence "surge" directed against Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Bulgaria and Guinea with "extra focus on Pakistan UN matters." The "dirty tricks" operation was designed to win votes in favor of intervention in Iraq.

The Observer reported that the memo was sent to a friendly foreign intelligence agency asking for help in the operation. It has been known for some time that elements within the British security services were unhappy with the British government's use of intelligence information.

The leak was described as "more timely and potentially more important than the Pentagon Papers" by Daniel Ellsberg, the most celebrated whistleblower in recent American history.

In 1971, Ellsberg was responsible for leaking a secret history of US involvement in Vietnam, which became known as "the Pentagon Papers," while working as a Defense Department analyst. The papers fed the American public's hostility to the war and put Ellsberg in prison.

The revelations of the spying operation have caused deep embarrassment to the George W. Bush administration at a key point in the sensitive diplomatic negotiations to gain support for a second UN resolution authorizing intervention in Iraq.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld were both challenged about the operation last week, but said they could not comment on security matters.

The operation is thought to have been authorized by US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, but American intelligence experts told The Observer that a decision of this kind would also have involved Rumsfeld, CIA Director George Tenet and NSA chief General Michael Hayden.

Bush himself would have been informed at one of the daily intelligence briefings held every morning at the White House.

Attention has now turned to the foreign intelligence agency responsible for the leak. It is now believed the memo was sent out via Echelon, an international surveillance network set up by the NSA with the cooperation of GCHQ in Britain and similar organizations in Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

Wayne Madsen, of the Electronic Privacy Information Center and himself a former NSA intelligence officer, said the leak demonstrated that there was deep unhappiness in the intelligence world over attempts to link Iraq to the terrorist network al-Qaeda.

"My feeling is that this was an authorized leak. I've been hearing for months of people in the US and British intelligence community who are deeply concerned about their governments `cooking' intelligence to link Iraq to al-Qaeda," Madsen said.

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