Dodges from Afghan Deaths through Moonlighting to MMB, Hacks of
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, April 19 -- The UN’s spokesman Martin Nesirky, in place
for over four months now, has recently descended into try to silence
questions and to limit their number, while his Office doles out
answers to one media’s questions to another more favored source, if
they answer at all.
question is about the deaths of UN staff in Afghanistan or something
as simple as who invited former UN official Mark Malloch Brown to
speak to the Ban Ki-moon administration's Chief Executives Board,
Nesirky last week acknowledged questions, said he would get answers
-- but give days later, nothing. Here's from the April
City Press: Two questions... In Afghanistan, there are these reports
that Chris Alexander, when he was the Deputy SRSG [Special
Representative of the Secretary-General] in Afghanistan, raised to
Canadian authorities that he thought that the Governor of Kandahar,
Mr. Asadullah Khalid, was involved not only in human rights
violations but was actually responsible for a bombing that killed
five UN personnel. I am wondering if you can…this has now been
reported, based on Canadian documents. Can you say whether, within
the UN system, particularly Mr. Alexander when he was a UN official,
believed that a sitting Governor of Kandahar was responsible for the
death of UN staff?
Nesirky: Not here and now. I would need to find out, but thank you
for bringing it to my attention....
City Press: The CEB [Chief Executive Board] meeting, were you there?
For part of it.
City Press: The second day, I wanted to know, I have heard that
Mark Malloch Brown, former Deputy Secretary-General, was present. If
it is the case, in what capacity and what is his affiliation with the
UN system at present?
My understanding is that the CEB, which as you know brings together
the heads of the agencies, funds and programmes and key individuals
from the Secretariat Headquarters, on that second day there was a
decision -- not taken on that day but in advance -- that it would be
useful to have an outside view of the way that the UN works. I am
not privy to what exactly was said, but there was a conscious
decision to have an outside speaker to brief the CEB members. I do
not have any further details and I was not in the room. We can find
City Press: Including who invited him and on what topic.
As I say, it was a conscious decision not for this to be simply
inward looking, but to have some outside input into it. The details
of who made the invitation and so on we can find out very easily.
would have been
easy to find out -- but the information as not been provided as of
April 19. Nor has any response been made on the first Afghanistan
question. On a second Afghanistan question, about UN staff death by
friendly fire or execution, despite repeated questions by Inner City
on a information from a UN whistleblower in Kabul,
Nesirky's Office gave its response to another media.
extends throughout Nesirky's team. Taking the week before as a
sample, we find a slew of questions left unanswered, culminating in
answers give to some but withheld from the media which asked. Whether
this is retaliation or more ineptitude was asked, but not answered.
City Press asked Mr. Nesirky deputy Marie Okabe
City Press: there is a report by the think tank at the University of
Toronto, reported on BBC, about alleged hacking from within China of
both the Dalai Lama and his supporters. And also, it says that a UN
computer system, I believe ESCAP [Economic and Social Commission for
Asia and the Pacific] but maybe another one, was compromised by these
China-based hackers. Are you aware of the report? Can you confirm,
or will you look into and confirm, that a UN system was compromised
in this way?
Spokesperson Okabe: I am aware of the press reports, but I have not
heard anything from our agencies confirming what you have just said.
Do you think they are going to? It seems like this is widely enough
circulated that it… Do you think they will actually come out and
say "this happened to us" or "this did not happen to
us" or will they just grin and bear it?
UN has yet to answer about the reading of its e-mail by China-based
hackers. On April 8, Nesirky's Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq held
the noon briefing while having told the Press that head UN
Peacekeeper Alain Leroy would be speaking at the Security Council
stakeout elsewhere in the UN basement. When Inner City Press sent Haq
questions in writing, he ended up replying
all I got from Myriam [of ECA], that one sentence I sent you. Please
ask her for more. Matthew, I've already answered quite a lot of
questions and realise you can easily respond with many more. You must
appreciate it's easier to ask them then to obtain the right answers.
I will leave you to do the work on your latest ones with the relevant
parties; UNDP for questions on Kim Bolduc and the boat."
the UN’s "Love
Boat" in Haiti was rented by the World
Food Program, not UNDP. This buck-passing came before Haq
bypassed Inner City Press the next week, handing an answer to a
question Inner City Press had asked to another media.
UN's Ban and OSSG's Nesirky: questions taken,
answers not shown
Haq ended up
rebuffing questions posed in writing, Inner City Press made sure to
attend his noon
briefing on April 9 and asked
City Press: Sure, Farhan. I wanted to get a description of which
offices of the UN -- DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] or
DPA [Department of Political Affairs] -- were involved in this "road
map [towards] peace" for Darfur, the uniting of rebel groups
under a single umbrella that took place in Doha and was ultimately
signed by an, until 8 March, UN staff member. So, you referred me to
ECA [Economic Commission for Africa] and I have gotten some answers
from this, but what I want to know is: was there UN involvement in
the process? I am aware of that, and so I want to know… it is not
ECA; they say they had no engagement in it. So was it the Department
of Peacekeeping Operations or the Department of Political Affairs or
some other UN unit that was involved in seeking to unify the Darfur
rebel groups under the leadership of Mr. Al-Tijani Al-Sissi?
Spokesperson: I will have to check and see which part of the system
deals with that topic.
City Press: Well, I guess I want to know, and you have referred me
to ECA, I have gotten their answers and now I am just asking you. Given
that they say that Mr.
Al-Tijani Al-Sissi was paid by the UN
system from 2005 through 8 March 2010, and during that time made
public statements about his desire to unify Darfur rebel groups and
to become the leader, what does the UN Secretariat have to say
this use of staff time, violation of staff rules, and, in fact,
involvement in the political process of Darfur by a UN staff member?
Spokesperson: Certainly, if any staff member for ECA is involved in
inappropriate activities, it is for the Economic Commission for
Africa to look into that. As you know, there are rules and
regulations that prohibit certain types of political activity for
staff of the United Nations.
City Press: Is it entirely an ECA matter, or are the UN staff rules
consistent throughout the system and policed by OLA [Office of Legal
Affairs] and others?
Spokesperson: There are staff rules and regulations throughout the
system. Obviously, each different entity is responsible for
monitoring and examining the actions of their own staff to make sure
that they are appropriate and conform with the appropriate rules.
City Press: But just to tie this one up, this is the reason I am
asking -- when you look into which UN units, DPKO or DPA, were
involved in the process of unifying the groups, can you ask how they
were not aware that the person who emerged and who spoke and wanted
to become the leader of these united groups was, in fact, a UN staff
member? I just see it as sort of a fragmented response. It seems
like the UN has a paid staff member that did it. To refer all the
questions to ECA just seems like a way to let DPKO, DPA or the
Secretariat off the hook.
Spokesperson: The questions having to do with his employment in ECA
have to be referred to ECA. That is simply logical.
City Press: How about the question of how DPKO or DPA could be
working with somebody and not know they were a UN staff member when
everyone else knew?
Spokesperson: Well, let’s not speculate about what they were or
were not doing.
City Press: But can I get an answer on that, not from ECA?
Spokesperson: Do not speculate. But first, let's get the details
about what precisely did happen on that.
information has still not been provided, nor has any action been
taken on violation of the rules. With Nesirky back on stage, Inner
City Press on April
City Press: the question is as follows: very simply, it now appears
clear that an individual employed by UN ECA [Economic Commission for
Africa], Al-Tijani Al-Sissi Ateem, was paid by the UN until 8 March
2010. It also appears clear that he made public statements in
September 2009 saying, “I want to lead the Darfur rebellion.” He
spoke with Mr. [Djibril] Bassolé -- this is a newly emerging
who, in my understanding, was aware that this individual was a UN
staff member. What is going to be done? I mean, I was referred by
Farhan [Haq] to ECA, but it seems like the UN system as a whole… If
these facts are correct, the rules were openly broken in terms of
political activity of a UN staff member in a high-profile political
situation of Darfur. Therefore, what is going to happen?
Nesirky: Well, a couple of things. Strange as it may seem, even
when I was not here, I was aware of what is going on and I know that
you had extensive exchanges with Farhan and others about how to get
information on this particular question and that is in the works. You
have been in touch with them and you can continue to be in touch
with them at ECA, which is based Addis [Ababa], as you know.
City Press: The reason I am asking is that ECA has said, on the
record, that they were unaware of this individual’s political
activities, which frankly I find hard to believe because there were
public statements in Addis reported in the press in Addis that he
wanted to lead a Darfur rebel group.
Well Matthew, I am not going to second-guess what my colleagues on
the ground have said. I am not going to second-guess them. The only
thing I will add is what you have already heard the Secretary-General
say, which is a general statement of principle about the
inadmissibility of political activity as a UN official. Now, please,
I would suggest that you continue with your line of inquiry with ECA,
City Press: What if they just say they are unaware of things that
That presumably means that they are unaware, Matthew.
City Press: If it lines up
as a straight violation of the rules -- I
am sorry, I will not go on and on -- I am just wondering who enforces
these staff rules to not be involved in political activity while
employed by the staff?
The United Nations enforces the rules, Matthew. The United Nations
City Press: Which unit?
You have heard
what the Secretary-General said. The rules are there
City Press: Right, but who is going to enforce them? What is going
to happen in this case? If the facts are not true, fine. If they
are, what happens?
This could go on forever, and as I have said, please do go back to
the ECA. That is the correct conduit.
the ECA has stopped providing answers. So on April
13, Inner City
City Press: Purely factually, does the Joint Mediator [for Darfur],
Djibril Bassolé… is he paid by the UN and who speaks for him?
Does he have a separate spokesperson or are you, in a sense, his
spokesperson? Or is DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] his
spokesperson? To whom would I direct questions to Mr. Bassolé in
his UN capacity.
Let me find out.
six days later,
Nesirky has not provided this basic information. There followed, in
the next three days, a series of non-answers about the death of UN
staffer Louis Maxwell in Afghanistan, after which when Nesirky’s
office finally had an answer, they gave it to another media, not
Inner City Press which had been
asking for days.
Inner City Press
objected, Nesirky tried to shut questioning down by invoking the
staff death. One long time reporter called this power play
"disgusting." And, three days later, no explanation or
response has been forthcoming. And so it goes at the UN.
* * *
Admits Afghan 'Friendly Fire' May Have Killed US Staffer, US
Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive
NATIONS, April 15 -- The UN covered up
information that Afghan
national forces killed its staff member Louis Maxwell, and then
asked by Inner City Press, belatedly disclosed an FBI investigation
and said that "the
preliminary conclusions of the mission's investigation raised the
disturbing possibility that a specific UN staff member may have died
due to “friendly fire”, caused directly by responding Afghan
security personnel" -- to another
media, not the one which
Management of information is one thing, but cover up and lies
April 14, based on a tip from a UN source in Afghanistan,
Inner City Press asked about the death of UN staff member Louis
Maxwell, a U.S. citizen, outside the UN's Kabul guesthouse on October
28, 2009. Given time to response, the UN send Inner City Press an
email that the case was
subject to a Board of Inquiry and FBI
investigation, and that therefore there would be no more comment.
April 15, Inner City Press asked again, including when the
Board of Inquiry began, and why the UN had not retracted Secretary
General Ban Ki-moon 2009 statements that the Taliban were responsible
for Louis Maxwell's murder. UN Spokesman Martin Nesirky told Inner
City Press to "be careful" what words it used, and later
said only that the Board of Inquiry began in January.
Nesirky's Associate Farhan Haq, however, issued a quote to
another media -- which had not asked any questions at the UN's noon
briefing -- that
the mission's investigation raised the disturbing possibility that a
specific UN staff member may have died due to 'friendly fire,' caused
directly by responding Afghan security personnel. Once the BOI is
finalized, we will share our findings with the Government of
Afghanistan and if warranted we will ask for a thorough investigation
surrounding the death of this UN employee and the circumstances of
the deaths of the other UN employees."
the UN didn't disclose this "disturbing possibility" when
it became aware of it, and then refused to disclosed it to accredited
media which asked about it in open UN noon briefing sessions. This UN
goes lower and lower every day.
UN Photo of coffins of UN staff killed in Kabul,
disclosure not shown
City Press asked the US Mission to the UN
is a request for comment on newly emerged information about the death
in Afghanistan on October 28, 2009 of U.S. citizen Louis Maxwell.
the time, Ambassador Rice said
condemn in the strongest terms the brutal and cowardly attack in
Kabul today on United Nations workers and members of the Afghan
National Security Forces. An American citizen was among those who
lost their lives. My heartfelt condolences and sympathies go out to
the families and friends of all of the victims.
United Nations has been doing vital work for the Afghan people for
more than fifty years. The United States strongly supports the
leadership and staff of the United Nations Assistance Mission in
Afghanistan as they work bravely each day under incredibly difficult
circumstances, and we are grateful to the Afghan National Security
Forces for their commitment and sacrifice.
international community stands together in its commitment to defeat
those extremists seeking to halt democratic progress in Afghanistan.
The United States stands firmly with the people of Afghanistan as
they prepare for the November 7 presidential runoff elections.
after I asked a question at the noon briefing, the UN Spokesperson's
office sent me this
UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply
Wed, Apr 14, 2010 at 1:00 PM
Your questions on Louis Maxwell
Inner City Press
response on Louis Maxwell)
United Nations has followed due process in investigating the death of
staff in Afghanistan last October by instituting a Board of Inquiry
after an initial fact-finding by staff in Kabul and New York. The
United Nations has been in contact with the responsible Afghan
authorities in the course of its inquiries. The Board will submit its
report in due course. Further actions by the United Nations will
depend on its findings. The specific circumstances in which Louis
Maxwell died are currently being investigated and it would be
premature to comment further at this stage.
United Nations is also cooperating with the Federal Bureau of
Investigation in its inquiries into the incident. The United Nations
has briefed the Maxwell family on the progress of its initial
inquiries and is determined to support the family.
when did the US State Dept and, separately, Amb. Rice become aware of
a credible alternative factual explanation of the attack and death,
and of the US FBI's involvement in investigating this alternative
was Amb Rice's statement not amended at that time?
the statement going to be amended or supplemented now?
Mission to the UN declined to respond in writing, as part of a
telephone conversation the Spokesman of the US Mission, Mark
Kornblau, provide this on the record response:
the UN Spokesman noted yesterday, there are ongoing investigations by
the UN and FBI. It would be premature for us to comment at this
given the political situation between the Obama Administration and
Hamid Karzai, the disclosure of a the murder of a U.S. citizen by
Afghan national forces under Karzai's command would be inconvenient,
to say the least. Asked about this concern, the US Mission to the UN
had no on the record comment. Watch this site.
the UN and US State Department might want to start changing their
close to the chest communications strategy on this -- Inner City
Press' Kabul sources say that ABC News has a crew on the ground now
investigating Louis Maxwell's murder.
15 UN transcript:
City Press: After yesterday’s noon briefing, your office issued a
statement about the situation in Afghanistan -- the deaths of the UN
staff, including Louis Maxwell -- saying, among other things, that
“the United Nations is cooperating with the Federal Bureau of
Investigations (FBI) in its inquiries into this incident”. Because
at times there have been some issues around UN cooperation with
United States law enforcement, including in this building -- whether
they have jurisdiction to come into the building, whether evidence is
shared -- can you say when this cooperation began, of what it
consisted, and ultimately isn’t it the UN’s responsibility? Who
is leading the charge to find out who, in fact, killed these four UN
Nesirky: There is a Board of Inquiry, as I think you know. The
United Nations instituted this Board of Inquiry after initial
fact-finding by staff in Kabul and New York. The United Nations has
been in contact with the responsible Afghan authorities in the course
of its inquiries. The Board will submit its report in due course. Any
further actions by the United Nations will depend on the
findings, and it would be premature at this point to comment further.
City Press: Like you had said, “as you were aware”, but I was
not aware until yesterday afternoon that there was a Board of
That is why you were aware, because you were told yesterday
City Press: Sure. Mr. Ban said clearly at the stakeout that this
was an attack by the Taliban that had done it. Once the UN became
enough aware that they created this Board of Inquiry, was there any
thought given to saying “things are not as we first presented
them”? And secondarily, on these boards of inquiry, how many of
them are there? Are there just UN staff on it? Is it an outside
Board of Inquiry? How many, I mean…
There is a standard way to institute a board of inquiry, and I am
sure that you are familiar with that. You have been here far longer
than I have. The UN takes extremely seriously any incident which
results in the loss of life in whatever circumstances of a UN staff
member, and will investigate it thoroughly. And clearly the UN, as I
mentioned, has been cooperating with the Federal Bureau of
Investigation in its inquiries into the incident. As we have also
mentioned -- and I think you need to take that into account, too --
the United Nations has been briefing the family of Mr. Maxwell on its
initial inquiries and will continue to support the family.
City Press: Thanks for saying that, but this Board of Inquiry, you
are saying, whenever staff are killed, the UN moves to this. Was
this Board of Inquiry set up at the time that these five staff
members were murdered? Or was it created at some later date, and
what triggered its creation?
Matthew, I should be very careful in the words that you are using.
There is a Board of Inquiry and there is an investigation going on
that involves the FBI. And the Afghan authorities are also
investigating this, and it is part of -- as I mentioned earlier in a
different context -- due process when you are investigating. Be very
careful what words you are using.
City Press: Is there any question… it is a question of who did the
There is an investigation going on.
City Press: Right. Is it a new investigation? This took place in
October and we are now in April. Has it been going on since October? I
will just leave it at that. When was the date that this Board of
Inquiry was instituted, since it is such a well known procedure how
these things are done? When was it done? When was this created?
I will let you know.
Spokesperson later added that, in January, the United Nations
established a high-level Board of Inquiry to establish the facts and
look for lessons learned.]
"Lessons learned," indeed. Watch this site.