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With UN Ladsous "Eavesdropping," ICP Asks Of Legal Authority, UNclear

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 17 -- Does UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous do telephone eavesdropping? Inner City Press asked on November 17 including, under what authority? The answer was UNclear. Video here.

  The last time UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous himself was scheduled to take questions from the press, instead he lunged forward and blocked the Press' camera, then canceled his Q&A stakeout on Mali. Vine here.

  Since then more peacekeepers have been killed and injured but Ladsous, unlike his also-French predecessors Alain Le Roy and Jean-Marie Guehenno, has not done a stakeout to speak up for those put under his command.

  Instead, Ladsous now tried to do softball interviews with hand-picked correspondents. Even that works out badly -- perhaps very badly.

 In a recent “interview,” in which for example UN Peacekeeping bringing cholera to Haiti is vaguely mentioned but not followed up on, it slips out that Ladsous is expanding “signal intelligence, using high-tech surveillance of communications such as telephone eavesdropping.”

  How can it be that at the same time that the UN General Assembly is considering a Brazilian and German drafted resolution on Privacy in the Digital Age, Ladsous is expanding eavesdropping and wire-tapping? On whose authority?

   So at the November 17 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq, per the UN's transcript (video here) --

Inner City Press: On peacekeeping, Under-Secretary-General [Hervé] Ladsous was interviewed earlier this month, and the resulting story says that "Mr. Ladsous seeks to expand signal intelligence using high tech communications such as telephone eavesdropping," unquote.  And I wanted to know:  Is it the case that UN peacekeeping uses eavesdropping?  And if so, under what authority or mandate?  And how is it consistent with the General Assembly pending resolution on privacy in the digital age?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  We're trying to expand our abilities to deal with the sort of threats that the UN faces, including in its peacekeeping.  As you know, we're also doing a peacekeeping review, which hopefully will address some of these issues.  I don't have anything at this stage to report on signals intelligence, though.

Inner City Press:  I guess what I'm saying, since this is a published report and you said last week that unlike the World Health Organisation that blacklists media, that you simply seek corrections.  Is this the case?  This is reporting that it's currently eavesdropping on telephones.  I want to know under what legal authority?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  I think that's a characterization of something that is not precisely what he said.  That's your characterization of it.

Inner City Press:  Okay, I'll be clear.  Does MINUSMA in Mali use surveillance and intercepted… communications intercepted by the Dutch Intelligence Service that serves the mission?  And if so, under what legal authority?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  I believe MINUSMA is working… I believe one of your colleagues asked about a fusion cell there.  I believe the fusion cell does try to get enhanced information, including from collaboration with Member States.

Inner City Press:  But can the UN intercept or use intercepted communications; and if so, under what legal authority?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  We're not talking about the UN doing any such intercept.

Inner City Press:  Using.  If the Dutch intercepts…?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  Different Member States share information with the United Nations related to our peacekeeping objectives.

Inner City Press:  Are there any limitations on what the UN accepts and uses?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  That's a theoretical question.  At this stage, what I can say is different Member States can sometimes try to help with UN peacekeeping by providing additional information to us, and we use that as needed.

  The Ladous quote was from a softball interview, which didn't mention that in 1994 Ladsous supported and pushed for the escape of genocidaires from Rwanda into Eastern Congo where he now uses the Force Intervention Brigade as, in his words, a “useful tool.” Nor does the interview mention Western Sahara, much less the problematic light thrown on Ladsous by recently leaked cables.

  More recently, Ladsous was asked not only about UN Peacekeeping bringing cholera to Haiti -- Ladsous insisted that it hasn't been proved -- but also about proceeding with drones without C-34 member states' approval, and about the expanding rape scandals. On these, Ladsous claimed he is setting up reviews.

  But Ladsous for months refused Press questions about, and covered up, the 130 rapes by the DR Congo Army in Minova. Video compilation here.

Is it any wonder that his UNAMID in Darfur tried to quickly deny that mass rapes took place in Tabit in Darfur?

 Is this performance acceptable? To whom? Watch this site.


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