U.S. Expands Role of Diplomats in Spying

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The United States has expanded the role of American diplomats in collecting intelligence overseas and at the United Nations, ordering State Department personnel to gather the credit card and frequent-flier numbers, work schedules and other personal information of foreign dignitaries.

Revealed in classified State Department cables, the directives, going back to 2008, appear to blur the traditional boundaries between statesmen and spies.

The cables give a laundry list of instructions for how State Department employees can fulfill the demands of a “National Humint Collection Directive” in specific countries. (“Humint” is spy-world jargon for human intelligence collection.) One cable asks officers overseas to gather information about “office and organizational titles; names, position titles and other information on business cards; numbers of telephones, cellphones, pagers and faxes,” as well as “internet and intranet ‘handles’, internet e-mail addresses, web site identification-URLs; credit card account numbers; frequent-flier account numbers; work schedules, and other relevant biographical information.”

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the InternetGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

Posted November 28, 2010 at 5:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

To use diplomatic accreditation with all the privileges that come with it - immunity, diplomatic bag, etc is an abuse of the status of the diplomatic with the receiving nation, and grounds for immediate expulsion.  That is different from information gathering, such as reviewing local newspapers, and making contacts.

It places all members of that country’s diplomatic corps in a difficult position, and may make life difficult for them, if not endangering them.  Diplomats are regularly targeted as ‘spies’ and this has been used from time to time to lay siege to them or imprison them, as happened with the US Embassy in Teheran after the Iranian revolution, and to a British diplomat in China during the cultural revolution [Gray was his name as far as I remember].

So it is an extremely dangerous thing for diplomats to be asked to do, and if caught, can cause considerable damage - UK relations with Israel were set back considerably when a London consular officer collected British passport details which were then used to provide false passports for assassins sent to Dubai.

It is a breach of the essence of diplomacy, and an abuse of the relationship with the host country, often counterproductive and regularly backfires; but that said, almost everybody does it to some extent.

November 28, 7:21 pm | [comment link]
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