Sunday, March 02, 2003

Well well well... it looks like the Bush administration is going all out to win this UN vote, and I mean all out:

The United States is conducting a secret 'dirty tricks' campaign against UN Security Council delegations in New York as part of its battle to win votes in favour of war against Iraq.
Details of the aggressive surveillance operation, which involves interception of the home and office telephones and the emails of UN delegates in New York, are revealed in a document leaked to The Observer.

The disclosures were made in a memorandum written by a top official at the National Security Agency - the US body which intercepts communications around the world - and circulated to both senior agents in his organisation and to a friendly foreign intelligence agency asking for its input...

...The leaked memorandum makes clear that the target of the heightened surveillance efforts are the delegations from Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Mexico, Guinea and Pakistan at the UN headquarters in New York - the so-called 'Middle Six' delegations whose votes are being fought over by the pro-war party, led by the US and Britain, and the party arguing for more time for UN inspections, led by France, China and Russia.

The memo is directed at senior NSA officials and advises them that the agency is 'mounting a surge' aimed at gleaning information not only on how delegations on the Security Council will vote on any second resolution on Iraq, but also 'policies', 'negotiating positions', 'alliances' and 'dependencies' - the 'whole gamut of information that could give US policymakers an edge in obtaining results favourable to US goals or to head off surprises'...

...Disclosure of the US operation comes in the week that Blix will make what many expect to be his final report to the Security Council.

It also comes amid increasingly threatening noises from the US towards undecided countries on the Security Council who have been warned of the unpleasant economic consequences of standing up to the US.

Sources in Washington familiar with the operation said last week that there had been a division among Bush administration officials over whether to pursue such a high-intensity surveillance campaign with some warning of the serious consequences of discovery.
Now, this is the Observer, so it's inevitable that warhawks will likely respond that this is a fake of some sort.

(Well, assuming they don't go off on some McCarthyite rant about how disapproval of using whatever means are necessary to get rid of Saddam is unpatriotic, "objectively pro-Saddam", or whatever.)

The Observer anticipated this, and does go to some lengths to try to assure readers that it is indeed legitimate. Still, there's a problem. The date format and spelling of the quoted memo are British, not American, raising questions about why an American email would include U.K. English. The email quotation has an addendum that says that it was for the benefit of the British audience, and that's quite possible, but it does raise the question about whether this is spin control. This question of veracity left hanging means the email probably won't make much difference; countries and individuals that were inclined to distrust the U.S. will continue to do so, and countries and individuals that were inclined to trust the U.S. will continue to do so as well. (Essentially the U.S. citizenry and the Brits in the latter group, and everyone else in the former; but Bush doesn't listen to the former, so it washes out.)

Personally, I find it unsurprising, but I'm intrigued by the question it poses: why is the Bush adminstration so afraid about their ability to make the case using reason and evidence-- to audiences that aren't pre-disposed to agreeing anyway-- that they feel the need to pull these sorts of shenanigans? How badly did the round condemnation and dismissal of the Powell report and the British dossier hurt them, anyway?

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