Despite the outrage being generated at the diplomatic communiqué posted on Wikileaks that Hilary Clinton ordered a US spying operation to be launched against the UN it is not the first time that it has happened.
A former intelligence officer told Future Intelligence in 1997 of the UK’s bugging of the UN Secretary General’s Office.
The man, whom we cannot identify, was posted to Washington and New York in the mid-1990’s and revealed one day what he had been asked to do by his masters in London– gain entry to the offices of the then Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali.
“Once I did a job in the office of the UN Secretary General,” he said. “I went in through the courier entrance and met a female colleague inside,” said the man, who provided a detailed description of the layout of the UN and the methods that he had used to obtain entry to the UN building and the offices.
“It was around one o’clock (am) and there were very few people around. From there we made our way up to the offices used by the Secretary General,” the spy told Fi, of how they would use the service staircases in the UN building to make their way around as these were relatively un-monitored and provided an easy way of getting around the UN buildings without being observed.
“I actually got inside his private office can you believe that? He’s got a shower and a toilet.
“I can’t really tell you what we were doing but I can remember thinking this is incredible I’m here in the office of the secretary general, I even used his toilet.”
The former official, an expert in all forms of surveillance, confirmed that he had entered the office to plant bugging devises – though refused to say how many and where exactly they had been planted.
‘It was a very exciting though nerve-wracking experience, I could hardly believe I was there, in the secretary general’s office. We had been told not to walk over to the windows – in case we could be spotted – but I could not resist going over to have a look to see the view from his office.
‘We were not told why this was necessary – we did not need to know – but it was part of our job and so we did it.’
At the time Britain was particular concerned to find out information concerning Libya, the country blamed for Lockerbie and suspected of helping the IRA.
The man also revealed that his section within the Washington Embassy would also routinely infiltrate the offices of what were regarded as IRA supporting New York newspapers.
One favourite method of doing this was to pose as motor-cycle couriers to obtain entry to an office they wanted to bug.
In 2004, the Former Labour Cabinet Minister Clare Short, also revealed that British spies listened in to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s office in the run up to the Iraq war,
Ms Short said she had read transcripts of some of Mr Annan’s conversations.
She said she recalled thinking, as she talked to Mr Annan: “Oh dear, there will be a transcript of this and people will see what he and I are saying.”
UN officials said they did not know whether the allegations were true or not, but say such actions would have been illegal.
Claims that were today confirmed by Craig Murray, the former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan and now a political activist, who wrote on the Guardian website: “It is no surprise that US diplomats are complicit in spying on senior UN staff. The British do it too, and a very brave woman, Katherine Gunn, was sacked for trying to stop it.”
I a carefully worded response on the issue UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon’s spokesman Farhan Haq made three points in response to the Wikileaks evidence, stating:
The UN is not in a position to comment on the authenticity of the document purporting to request information-gathering activities on UN officials and activities.
The UN is by its very nature a transparent organisation that makes a great deal of information about its activities available to the public and member states. UN officials regularly meet representatives of member states to brief them on UN activities.
The UN Charter, the Headquarters Agreement and the 1946 Convention contain provisions relating to the privileges and immunities of the Organization. The UN relies on the adherence by member states to these various undertakings.