CIA behind US request for UN information: report

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The CIA asked US diplomats to gather information on United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other senior UN figures, The Guardian newspaper reported Thursday.

Documents released by the WikiLeaks website showed that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton requested that diplomats at the UN seek intelligence about Ban's stance on Iran and the Middle East.

The July 31, 2009 cable also requested information on his "management and decision-making style".

According to the British newspaper, the US intelligence agency drew up the "wish list" of information and passed it on to the State Department.

The department then distributed tailored requests to its diplomats around the world, the report said.

The wish list is created annually by the manager of Humanint (human intelligence), a post created in 2005 by the administration of then-president George W. Bush to aid with intelligence co-ordination, the daily said.

The US government also asked for credit card numbers, email addresses, phone, fax and pager numbers and frequent-flyer account numbers for UN leaders, the leaked memo revealed.

A senior US intelligence official defended the data gathering exercise.

"It shouldn't surprise anyone that US officials at the United Nations seek information on how other nations view topics of mutual concern," the official said.

"No-one should think of American diplomats as spies. But our diplomats do, in fact, help add to our country's body of knowledge. That's logical and entirely appropriate, and they do so in strict accord with US law."

The official's remarks echoed those of State Department spokesman Philip Crowley, who spoke earlier Thursday.

"They are diplomats, they are not intelligence assets," said Crowley.

"They collect information that is of use in helping inform our policies and actions... the Secretary of State is not telling her diplomats to be spies."

© 2010 AFP

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