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U.N. Will Talk To U.S. About Spying Claims

The United Nations says it will talk to the United States about a report that it spied on the communications of diplomats.

Reuters reports:

"'We're aware of the reports and we intend to be in touch with the relevant authorities on this,' U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters.

"He said well established international law, like the 1961 Vienna Convention governing diplomatic relations, protected functions of the United Nations, diplomatic missions and other international organizations.

"'Therefore member states are expected to act accordingly to protect the inviolability of diplomatic missions," Haq said."

The questions arose after Germany's Der Spiegel reported on secret documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The paper reported that the documents show the American government systematically:

"target[s] other countries and institutions like the EU, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna and the UN. They show how the NSA infiltrated the Europeans' internal computer network between New York and Washington, used US embassies abroad to intercept communications and eavesdropped on video conferences of UN diplomats. The surveillance is intensive and well-organized — and it has little or nothing to do with counter-terrorism."

As the paper reports, you may have assumed that the U.S. spied on its adversaries. But it is surprising the extent of spying alleged to have taken place on its close European Union allies. Der Spiegel reports:

"According to an operational overview from September 2010 that is rated "secret," not only have the Americans infiltrated the EU mission to the UN in New York, but also the EU embassy in Washington, giving the building in the heart of the American capital the code name 'Magothy.'

"According to this secret document, the NSA has targeted the European missions in three ways:

"-- The embassies in Washington and New York are bugged.
"-- At the embassy in New York, the hard disks have also been copied.
"-- In Washington the agents have also tapped into the internal computer cable network."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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