News Release

Scandal on Pre-War U.N. Spying by U.S. Now Mushrooming in Mexico and Chile


Statements from Mexican and Chilean government officials in recent days are bringing renewed interest to the subject of U.S. spying at the United Nations in early 2003 prior to the Iraq war.

The story first broke in March 2003 when the Observer newspaper in London published a U.S. National Security Agency memo describing a “surge” in U.N. spying aimed at winning authorization for war ­ targeted “against” delegations from swing countries on the Security Council. Former British intelligence employee Katharine Gun, who leaked the memo, now faces two years in prison.

* According to last Sunday’s edition of the Observer (2/15/04), surveillance played a role in derailing a compromise U.N. resolution in the weeks before the Iraq war. Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, Mexico’s U.N. ambassador at the time, has charged that the U.S. spied on a private meeting of six swing countries on the Security Council aimed at a compromise. Zinser told the Observer: “The meeting was in the evening. They [U.S. diplomats] call us in the morning before the meeting of the Security Council and they say: ‘We appreciate you trying to find ideas, but this is not a good idea.'”


* An Associated Press dispatch from Mexico City (2/12/04) quoted Zinser as saying: “They are violating the U.N. headquarters covenant.”

* The Chicago Tribune reported (2/13/04): “Mexico’s new U.N. ambassador, Enrique Berruga, told a radio station Thursday that any confirmed spying ‘would be a serious break with a series of rules of the game in the world of multilateral diplomacy.'”

* Mexico’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Wednesday (2/11/04) saying it had sent a message to the U.S. and Britain in December 2003 inquiring about the spying claims.

* A day earlier (2/10/04), a Chilean diplomat stated that when technicians checked the phones at Chile’s U.N. office in the wake of the Observer’s first story in March 2003, they found that most had been bugged. (The Observer had reported on March 9, 2003, a week after its original story, that exposure of the NSA spying memo prompted several conversations between Chilean President Ricardo Lagos and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and between the foreign secretaries of the two countries.)

Background information is available at:

The following are available for interviews:

Paul is executive director of the Global Policy Forum, which monitors the United Nations.
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For further information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Jeff Cohen,; Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020,