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At UN, Diplomats Marvel at Wikileaks, Yemen Betrayal & Gaddafi Companion

By Matthew Russell Lee, News Muse

UNITED NATIONS, November 29 -- Wikileaks was the topic at the UN Monday evening, whether at an event about Gaza or an African alliance against malaria.

  US Ambassador Susan Rice earlier in the day had tried to sidestep the memo, signed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, directing US Ambassadors to collect computer passwords and even frequent flyer miles account numbers of other Security Council members and UN bureaucrats and force commanders.

  But in the Delegates' Dining Room some eight hours later, several African Ambassadors asked Inner City Press how the US could have allowed this to happen.

  “Did you see what they did to Yemen's President?” one of them asked, referring to the cable by then US ambassador Stephen Seche which quotes President Ali Abdullah Saleh telling US General David Petraeus, "We'll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.”

The whiskey thing is not going to help him,” said another, at an end with an open bar with Jack Daniels and Finlandia vodka. After several drinks talk turns to Libya's Gaddafi and his Ukrainian companion, whom the US turned back from the General Debate in New York in September. That the leaked US cable has her talking to Ukrainian diplomats might end the relationship right there, one predicted.

  Over in the General Assembly lobby at the Gaza event there was no liquor, only lamb chops and raw tuna on crackers. Inner City Press tried to follow a diplomat from Belgium, the country which both hosts US nuclear weapons and was offered “low cost” prestige if it took those released from Guantanamo Bay.

  But he disappeared into the crowd, to which Permanent Observer Riyad Mansour gave a speech as UNRWA's John Ging beamed. The cables predict that Abbas will not long hold his post.

Gaddafi & UN Ban: one travels in style, the other out of town when news breaks

  Most of the countries whose Permanent Representatives Inner City Press managed to speak with were most surprised that anyone other than at the highest levels of the Obama administration would have had access to this breadth of information.

  Some speculated, as is common at the UN, that Israel is behind it, since the cable point the finger at Iran. One even noted that the timing lifts some pressure on North Korea. That UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is again out of town when news hits was not viewed as surprising. Nor was the implication that the US expects another candidate to emerge in 2012. Watch this site.

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As US Sought UN Frequent Flyer Miles, Misuse of Miles Alleged in Liberia

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 29 -- In Wikileaks' release of US Secretary of 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.”

  Inner City Press 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, from Minute 8:04.

  Haq 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.”

  Inner City Press 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.”

  The reason Inner 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 flyer miles.

  This report came to 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.

  Since then, 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.

  US Ambassador to 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 asked

Q: it’s alleged 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?

Ambassador Rice: Our 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.

  But how does 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

From the UN's November 29 noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press: 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 country?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson 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.”

Inner City Press 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?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson: 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…

Inner City Press: But can you state, for example, for SRSGs that travel, it goes to the UN or do they keep it personally?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson: 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 the Organization.

  Five hours 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:

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 24 STATE 080163

NOFORN, SIPDIS, E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/31/2034




¶1. (S/NF) This cable 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).

...Reporting officers should 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.

...Information about current 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.


 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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