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Wikileaks: Hillary Clinton told US diplomats to spy on UN

Wikileaks' Julian Assange

Wikileaks' Julian Assange

By now, I assume you’ve heard that Wikileaks has released another batch of documents, this time regarding American diplomacy and foreign policy.

My two cents: Much of what I’ve read that’s been reported out of these leaked documents so far isn’t really too surprising: We learned someone in the U.S. government thinks Iran’s president is like “Hitler” and might be crazy, Pakistan’s intelligence service isn’t really on our side (duh!), that Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi have a “special relationship” (huh?) and China’s government did hack Google.

Some in the aid community are among those arguing, along with the embarrassed politicians, in defense of secrecy.

I’m sure the language revealed here is a bit embarrassing and may make for awkward moments at embassy socials, but most of this so far just seems like a raw dose of reality — peeling back the layers — rather than an expose of any great scandal.

One thing did catch my eye, however:

The leaked documents revealed that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered U.S. diplomats to act as spies — work with the intelligence services to spy on their diplomatic colleagues, including our British allies and the United Nations leadership.

The Guardian has this story on the spying campaign and also printed out (online) an entire U.S. diplomatic document, which was written in 2009 as the “new National HUMINT (human intelligence) Collection Directive (NHCD) on the United Nations.”

Apparently, even global health, food and women’s issues were targets of this spy game:

G. Other Substantive Issues 1) Food Security (FOOD-3) 2) Climate Change, Energy, and Environment (ENVR-4) 3) Transnational Economic Issues (ECFS-4H) 4) Arms Control and Treaty Monitoring (ACTM-4) 5) Health Issues (HLTH-4) 6) Terrorism (TERR-5H) 7) Trafficking, Social, and Women’s Issues (DEPS-5H)

I’m sure many people will be outraged to learn that the Obama Administration is acting just like the Bush Administration.

But perhaps the UN brass should be happy to learn we think they are worth spying on. Most of the time, we (Americans) just hear about how useless and bureaucratic the UN has become. Looks like the government thought the UN was important enough to spy on, not to mention compromising our diplomatic integrity.

As for those like Scott Gilmore of Peace Dividend Trust who defend secrecy as a necessary tool to achieving noble ends, sure it can be at times. But that’s a slippery slope.


About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.