Thursday, January 5, 2006

How Long Have I Been Sleeping?

Kathleen Dunn's guest on Wisconsin Public Radio this morning was one Patrick Radden Keefe, author of Chatter: Dispatches From the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping. In addition to all the usual sleazy and illegal government dealings to which we are becoming inured, he had an especially juicy tale to tell, one as damning as the Downing Street Memo, and one which has similarly received nowhere near the mainstream news coverage in this country that it warrants. (So much for that liberal media conspiracy.)

His story involved a Ms. Katharine Gunn, a translator for an official British spying agency, the Gov't Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). It seems that prior to the US going to war in Iraq, when the UN was considering whether to pass a resolution authorizing the war, Katharine disclosed to The Observer information from a memo she received from the US National Security Agency. In the memo, the NSA requested British government assistance in a surveillance operation focusing on the six delegations holding the balance of power in the UN Security Council. This involved bugging home and office phones and intercepting e-mails of diplomats from countries such as Chile and Mexico. (Apparently the British were engaged because US law specifically prohibits this kind of spying, but the British were under their system legally able to do it for us.)

Former GCHQ employee Phillip Hilton explained further in an interview from British radio:
"I think countries which were wavering in their votes on whether to support the American invasion of Iraq or whether not to support the invasion, I think one of the countries was Mexico, there were a number of other countries as well, and the Americans or the British through GCHQ tapped the telephones in order to find out exactly what the thoughts were of the delegates so that when British and American diplomats at the U.N. tackled the delegates on their reasons for not supporting or supporting the war, that they knew exactly how to attack these people because they knew exactly what their thoughts were."

"It weakened the position of the wavering delegates - and that was obviously the purpose of the phone tapping."

"I think it's reasonable to expect that the telephones of Kofi Annan and other international figures to be tapped. He's an important figure; he's an influential figure. The Americans and British want to know exactly where they stand before they speak to him, so they know exactly what information to put before him to try and convince him of their point of view."

Mr. Keefe said that clearly the objective was to maneuver these questionable votes into a mandate for war.

And it gets better: in a particularly Dick Cheney moment, Ms. Gunn subsequently faced prison time for exposing the illegal spying campaign. (Just like W going after the person who pulls away Oz's curtain.) It seems those charges have been dropped, due not to a sudden attack of governmental conscience but, as The Observer reported, "over fears British intelligence secrets would be revealed in open court and lead to questions over the legality of the war." All that's left is to find her at the bottom of the Thames with some good old American cement shoes.

Combing thru emails for keywords or analyzing phone records may be one thing: but tapping the phones--that is, monitoring the private conversations--of delegates on the U.N. Security Council for the purpose of pressuring them to support an aggressive war is entirely something else. And I cannot believe that this had no impetus from somewhere above the NSA (and how much is there above the NSA, really?). It is an outrage, and a very sad chapter--yet another sad chapter--for this country.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Scandalous. Bush spied on the UN for political purposes. It opens the door wide for calls for a wider investigation. Who else has he spied on for political purposes, rather than national security purposes?
I justed blogged about this at