Misspoke on Frequent Flyer Miles But Does Not Explain, Ethics
Office Makes Excuses
Russell Lee, Exclusive
November 30 -- The UN has reversed course and admitted that
its officials and staff keep for personal use the frequent flyer
miles connected to their official travel paid by the UN.
into the documents released by Wikileaks including US
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's request that US diplomats seek
the frequent flyer miles account numbers of UN officials, Inner
Press asked UN acting Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq, “What does
happen with the frequent flyer miles of Ban Ki-moon or other [UN
staff] when they fly around?”
“the frequent flyer miles of UN officials are essentially
possessions of the United Nations...this is all part of the
Press had been told that UN staff keep the frequently flyer miles,
and even that top UN envoy in Liberia Ellen Loj was heard yelling at
UNMIL's Travel Office about “mismanaging” her frequently flyer
miles account, Inner City Press asked Haq again, “can you state,
for example, for SRSGs that travel, it goes to the UN or do they keep
work that you do for the Organization, this is part and parcel of the
Organization... this is held by the Organization.” UN transcript
the evening on
November 29, multiple UN staff members contacted Inner City Press to
say that what they had heard Haq said, including as reported in Inner
City Press' November
29 article, was false. They stated that they
kept their miles, that they had never been asked to return them.
with no correction having been offered at the noon briefing, Inner
City Press pointed back at the November 29 answer and said that many
UN staff said different, did Haq wish to correct what he had said?
instead saying that he was awaiting guidance from the UN Ethics
pointed out that what should happen -- the stated purview of the
Ethics Office -- and what actually DOES happen are too separate
questions. Still, Haq would not answer.
30, at precisely the time that November's Security Council president
Mark Lyall Grant began speaking at the Council stakeout position, Haq
went onto the UN's internal “squawk” system and read out a
statement about frequent flyer miles. Since it was impossible to
hear, Inner City Press asked him to email what he had read. It
followed some minutes later:
Date: Tue, Nov 30, 2010 at 1:13
Subject: Re: Please email me what you read- am at stakeout
Inner City Press
has no policy on frequent flyer miles program because only
individuals can accrue them and since they are not transferable, they
cannot be recovered or converted by the Organization for official
travel. Therefore, using mileage accrued as a result of official
travel is not a violation of the Organization’s rules.
course, this was
not the question asked (and even then, the answer is dubious). What
was asked on November 29 was whether UN officials' and staff's
frequently flyer miles went back to the UN, and the UN acting Deputy
Spokesman twice said yes.
statement makes clear that the answer given on November 29 was false.
Why not then acknowledge it? On the Wikileaks scandal, Ban Ki-moon
was in Kazakhstan saying how transparent the UN is. But is it?
26, when Ban's Spokesperson's Office canceled its noon briefing despite
the UN ostensibly being open, Inner City Press asked some questions in
writing. Left unanswered four days later are questions about UN
payments in Haiti and Sudan, humanitarian access in Sri Lanka, even who
sponsored a particular press conference in the UN's briefing room. The
Spokesperson's office wouldn't never confirm that Ban's chief of staff
was going to Myanmar when he was already there. And: how did he fly?
UN's Ban in airplane aisle, policy and OSSG
candor on frequent flyer miles not shown
appears that the current UN Ethics Office under Joan Elise Dubinsky tries to find reasons that
seeming misappropriations of UN resources and staff time are
acceptable. We will have more on this.
Haq instead of sending Inner City Press the response to the
question it asked on November 29 choose to read it out over a
broadcast system that only reporters who were NOT at the Security
Council stakeout covering the Council President's statements on
Somalia and Haiti could hear, his Office put out a written response
by UN official Francis Deng purporting to refute “assertions of...
the Inner city Press” by name.
Deng's statement, which was only put
out once the noon briefing had begun -- such that it could not be
read and responded to as Haq summarized it -- ends with the statement
that Deng “met with the Director of the Ethics Office on 23
November to seek her advice on these matters. She assured me that she
found no basis for concern.” We will have more on all this --
watch this site.
* * *
Sought UN Frequent Flyer Miles, Misuse of Miles
Alleged in Liberia
29 -- In Wikileaks' release of US
State Hillary Clinton's directive to collect computer passwords,
credit card account numbers and “biometric data,” she included a
request for “frequent flyer account numbers.”
asked UN acting Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq on Monday about Secretary
Clinton's memo, and about UN officials' frequent flyer miles: are
they returned to the UN, which paid for the underlying flights, or
are they kept by some UN officials? Video here,
said he could
or would not vouch for the authenticity of Secretary Clinton's memo.
On frequent flyer miles, he said these are “essentially the
property of the UN.”
asked, can you confirm that all Special Representatives of the
Secretary General give the frequent flyer miles to the UN? Haq spoke
in reply of the “work you do for the Organization” being “part
and parcel of the Organization... held by the Organization.”
City Press asked was that sources for example in Liberia tell it
different. Specifically, sources describe the Special Rapporteur of
the Secretary General at the UN Mission in Liberia Ellen Loj
screaming at UNMIL's Travel Unit for mishandling “her” frequent
Inner City Press in connection with its confirmed reporting on the
conditions for peacekeepers in Liberia and SRSG Loj's UN-managed
living quarters on the UNMIL base.
the US has become even
less responsive, refusing for example to confirm public reports that
the US is providing at least back up security to the UN's SRSG in
Iraq, Ad Melkert.
the UN Susan Rice, who Haq said spoke to Secretary General Ban
Ki-moon just before Wikileaks put online the US memo asking that
Ban's passwords and frequent flyer miles accounts be collected, was
through the WikiLeaks documents that your diplomats
would ask to take personal information in some cases, like frequent
flyer miles, credit cards, and -- were they asked to do so, and had
they used diplomatic resources at the time to do so?
diplomats are doing what diplomats do around the world
every day, which is build relationships, negotiate, advance our
interests, and work to find common solutions to complex problems.
That’s what they do. And they do it extremely well, with great
integrity, with hard work. And I want to just underscore that in the
complex world in which we live, the work that U.S. diplomats do here
in the United Nations and around the world is indispensible to our
national security and substantially advances our shared interests in
international peace and security.
gathering UN officials' frequent flyer miles account numbers
“substantially advance [anyone's] shared interests in international
peace and security”?
UN's Ban flies Saudi, Loj & frequent flyer miles
and spying not shown
November 29 noon briefing transcript:
The document says US diplomats should seek to get the
computer passwords, frequent flyer miles, credit card numbers,
etcetera, not only of the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, but SRSGs
[Special Representatives] and Force Commanders. Would each of those
things, according to you, violate the agreement with the host
Haq: Well, on that, again, bearing in mind that
we don’t have any judgement at this stage on the authenticity of
the document, bearing in mind that, I do want to read to you a little
passage from the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of
the United Nations, and this is a direct quote: “The premises of
the United Nations shall be inviolable. The property and assets of
the United Nations, wherever located and by whomsoever held, shall be
immune from search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation and any
other form of interference, whether by executive, administrative,
judicial, or legislative action.”
I had some other ones on Sudan, but one thing that the
memo made me wonder is there is this reference to frequent flyer
miles that seemed strange. What does happen with the frequent flyer
miles of Ban Ki-moon or other SRSGs when they fly around? Are they
donated to the UN, do they keep them personally, what happens?
The frequent flyer miles of UN officials are
essentially possessions of the United Nations. I don’t have
anything, I don’t have any details about what we do with them, but
this is all part of the Organization…
But can you state, for example, for SRSGs that travel, it
goes to the UN or do they keep it personally?
No, I believe on work that you do for the
Organization, this is part and parcel of the Organization. I need to
get further detail about what happens to them, but this is held by
after this statement, no information had yet been provided about
"what happens" to UN frequent flyer miles. The answer should be given
and should be interesting, particularly but not only with regard to
Liberia. Here's from Secretary Clinton's memo:
E T SECTION 01 OF 24 STATE 080163
COLLECTION NEEDS: THE UNITED NATIONS REF:
ACTING DIR, INR/OPS. REASON: 1.4(C).
provides the full text of the new National HUMINT
Collection Directive (NHCD) on the United Nations (paragraph 3-end)
as well as a request for continued DOS reporting of biographic
information relating to the United Nations (paragraph 2).
include as much of the following information as
possible when they have information relating to... credit card
account numbers; frequent flyer account numbers; work schedules, and
other relevant biographical information.
and future use of communications systems
and technologies by officials or organizations, including cellular
phone networks, mobile satellite phones, very small aperture
terminals (VSAT), trunked and mobile radios, pagers, prepaid calling
cards, firewalls, encryption, international connectivity, use of
electronic data interchange, Voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP),
Worldwide interoperability for microwave access (Wi-Max), and cable
and fiber networks.