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Posted 10 March 2003 - 04:46 AM

the London-based Observer reported on March 2, the U.S. government
developed an "aggressive surveillance operation, which involves
interception of the home and office telephones and the e-mails of U.N.
delegates. Go to thier web site at http://www.observer.co.uk/ . From Russia to France to
Chile to Japan to Australia, the story was big mainstream news. But not
in the United States. interesting report and commentary added below about this.



AMERICAN MEDIA DODGING U.N. SURVEILLANCE STORY

By Norman Solomon

Three days after a British newspaper revealed a memo about U.S.
spying on U.N. Security Council delegations, I asked Daniel Ellsberg to
assess the importance of the story. "This leak," he replied, "is more
timely and potentially more important than the Pentagon Papers."

The key word is "timely." Publication of the secret Pentagon Papers
in 1971, made possible by Ellsberg's heroic decision to leak those
documents, came after the Vietnam War had already been underway for many
years. But with all-out war on Iraq still in the future, the leak about
spying at the United Nations could erode the Bush administration's
already slim chances of getting a war resolution through the Security
Council.

"As part of its battle to win votes in favor of war against Iraq,"
the London-based Observer reported on March 2, the U.S. government
developed an "aggressive surveillance operation, which involves
interception of the home and office telephones and the e-mails of U.N.
delegates." The smoking gun was "a memorandum written by a top official
at the National Security Agency -- the U.S. body which intercepts
communications around the world -- and circulated to both senior agents
in his organization and to a friendly foreign intelligence agency."

The Observer added: "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 U.N.
headquarters in New York -- the so-called 'Middle Six' delegations whose
votes are being fought over by the pro-war party, led by the U.S. and
Britain, and the party arguing for more time for U.N. inspections, led
by France, China and Russia."

The NSA memo, dated Jan. 31, outlines the wide scope of the
surveillance activities, seeking any information useful to push a war
resolution through the Security Council -- "the whole gamut of
information that could give U.S. policymakers an edge in obtaining
results favorable to U.S. goals or to head off surprises."

Three days after the memo came to light, the Times of London
printed an article noting that the Bush administration "finds itself
isolated" in its zeal for war on Iraq. "In the most recent setback," the
newspaper reported, "a memorandum by the U.S. National Security Agency,
leaked to the Observer, revealed that American spies were ordered to
eavesdrop on the conversations of the six undecided countries on the
United Nations Security Council."

The London Times article called it an "embarrassing disclosure."
And the embarrassment was nearly worldwide. From Russia to France to
Chile to Japan to Australia, the story was big mainstream news. But not
in the United States.

Several days after the "embarrassing disclosure," not a word about
it had appeared in America's supposed paper of record. The New York
Times -- the single most influential media outlet in the United
States -- still had not printed anything about the story. How could that
be?

"Well, it's not that we haven't been interested," New York Times
deputy foreign editor Alison Smale said on the evening of March 5,
nearly 96 hours after the Observer broke the story. "We could get no
confirmation or comment" on the memo from U.S. officials.

The Times opted not to relay the Observer's account, Smale told me.
"We would normally expect to do our own intelligence reporting." She
added: "We are still definitely looking into it. It's not that we're
not."

Belated coverage would be better than none at all. But readers
should be suspicious of the failure of the New York Times to cover this
story during the crucial first days after it broke. At some moments in
history, when war and peace hang in the balance, journalism delayed is
journalism denied.

Overall, the sparse U.S. coverage that did take place seemed eager
to downplay the significance of the Observer's revelations. On March 4,
the Washington Post ran a back-page 514-word article headlined "Spying
Report No Shock to U.N.," while the Los Angeles Times published a longer
piece that began by emphasizing that U.S. spy activities at the United
Nations are "long-standing."

The U.S. media treatment has contrasted sharply with coverage on
other continents. "While some have taken a ho-hum attitude in the U.S.,
many around the world are furious," says Ed Vulliamy, one of the
Observer reporters who wrote the March 2 article. "Still, almost all
governments are extremely reluctant to speak up against the espionage.
This further illustrates their vulnerability to the U.S. government."

To Daniel Ellsberg, the leaking of the NSA memo was a hopeful sign.
"Truth-telling like this can stop a war," he said. Time is short for
insiders at intelligence agencies "to tell the truth and save many many
lives." But major news outlets must stop dodging the information that
emerges.

_______________________________

Norman Solomon is co-author of the new book "Target Iraq: What the News
Media Didn't Tell You," published by Context Books
(www.contextbooks.com/newF.html).





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