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Context of 'Mid-February 2003-March 2003: US Puts Pressure on UN Security Council Members States over Iraq'

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Officials in the Bush administration debate whether or not they will seek a second UN resolution prior to invading Iraq. The debate centers on the issue of whether or not France and “other reluctant allies” will give in to US demands. The New York Times reports on January 17 that officials plan “to confront France, Germany and other skeptics of military action against Iraq by demanding that they agree publicly that Iraq had defied the United Nations Security Council.” Some officials believe that these nations can eventually be won over using a variety of incentives, including promises of contracts in post-Saddam Iraq. Other officials, however, believe that France will never submit to the US request, and are of the opinion that the US should “not bother to seek a second resolution condemning Iraq and authorizing the use of force.” [New York Times, 1/23/2003] Though the existence of this debate is a matter of the public record by mid-January, what is not known at this time is that some of those involved are probably obtaining their information from a “dirty-tricks” surveillance campaign that the intelligence services of the US, Britain, and possibly Australian, are conducting on the UN delegates of other UN Security Council members states (see January 31, 2003).

Entity Tags: United Nations Security Council, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Frank Koza, chief of staff in the “Regional Targets” section of the National Security Agency, issues a secret memo to senior NSA officials that orders staff to conduct aggressive, covert surveillance against several United Nations Security Council members. This surveillance, which has the potential to wreak havoc on US relations with its fellow nations, is reportedly ordered by George W. Bush and his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice. Koza, whose section spies on countries considered strategically important to US interests, is trying to compile information on certain Security Council members in order to help the United States to win an upcoming UN resolution vote on whether to support military action against Iraq (see February 24, 2003.
Targeted Nations Include 'Middle Six' - The targeted members are the delegations from Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Mexico, Guinea, and Pakistan, who together make up the so-called “Middle Six.” These six nations are officially “on the fence,” and their votes are being aggressively courted by both the pro-war faction, led by the US and Britain, and the anti-war faction, led by France, Russia and China (see Mid-February 2003-March 2003. [Observer, 3/2/2003] Bulgaria is another nation targeted, and that operation will apparently be successful, because within days Bulgaria joined the US in supporting the Iraq war resolution. Mexico, another fence-straddler, is not targeted, but that may be because, in journalist Martin Bright’s words, “the Americans had other means of twisting the arms of the Mexicans.” (Bright is one of the authors of the original news report.) The surveillance program will backfire with at least one country, Chile, who has its own history of being victimized by US “dirty tricks” and CIA-led coups. Chile is almost certain to oppose the US resolution. [Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 3/6/2003] It is also likely, some experts believe, that China is an ultimate target of the spy operation, since the junior translater who will leak the Koza memo in February, Katharine Gun, is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and is unlikely to have seen the memo unless she would have been involved in translating it into that language. [AlterNet, 2/18/2004]
Operation Ruined US Chances of Winning Vote - Later assessment shows that many experts believe the spying operation scuttled any chance the US had of winning the UN vote, as well as the last-ditch attempt by the UN to find a compromise that would avert a US-British invasion of Iraq. [Observer, 2/15/2004]
Chile 'Surprised' to be Targeted - Chile’s ambassador to Britain, Mariano Fernandez, will say after learning of the NSA surveillance, “We cannot understand why the United States was spying on Chile. We were very surprised. Relations have been good with America since the time of George Bush, Sr.” [Observer, 3/9/2003]
Mexico Suspected Spying - Mexico’s UN representative, Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, will tell the Observer a year later that he and other UN delegates believed at the time that they were being spied upon by the US during their meetings. “The surprising thing was the very rapid flow of information to the US quarters,” he will recall. “It was very obvious to the countries involved in the discussion on Iraq that we were being observed and that our communications were probably being tapped. The information was being gathered to benefit the United States.” [Observer, 2/15/2004]
Memo Comes Before Powell's UN Presentation - The memo comes just five days before Colin Powell’s extraordinary presentation to the UN to build a case for war against Iraq (see [complete_timeline_of_the_2003_invasion_of_iraq_442]]), and is evidence of the US’s plans to do everything possible to influence the UN to vote to authorize war with that nation. The memo says the eavesdropping push “will probably peak” after Powell’s speech. [Baltimore Sun, 3/4/2003]
NSA Wants Details of Voting Plans, More - The NSA wants information about how these countries’ delegations “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 favorable to US goals or to head off surprises.” [Observer, 3/2/2003] Bright will tell other reporters on March 9, “It’s quite clear what they were going for was not only the voting patterns and the voting plans and the negotiations with other interested parties such as the French or the Chinese, it wasn’t just the bare bones, it was also the office telephone communications and email communications and also what are described as ‘domestic coms’, which is the home telephones of people working within the UN. This can only mean that they were looking for personal information. That is, information which could be used against those delagates. It’s even clear from the memo that this was an aggressive operation. It wasn’t simply a neutral surveillance operation.” According to Bright’s sources, the orders for the program came “from a level at least as high as Condoleezza Rice, who is the President’s National Security Adviser.” [Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 3/6/2003]
'Surge' of Covert Intelligence Gathering - Koza advises his fellow NSA officials that the agency is “mounting a surge” aimed at gaining covert information that will help the US in its negotiations. This information will be used for the US’s so-called Quick Response Capability (QRC), “against” the six delegations. In the memo, Koza writes that the staff should also monitor “existing non-UN Security Council Member UN-related and domestic comms [office and home telephones] for anything useful related to Security Council deliberations,” suggesting that not only are the delegates to be monitored in their UN offices, but at their homes as well. Koza’s memo is copied to senior officials at an unnamed foreign intelligence agency (later revealed to be Britain). Koza addresses those officials: “We’d appreciate your support in getting the word to your analysts who might have similar more indirect access to valuable information from accesses in your product lines [intelligence sources].…I suspect that you’ll be hearing more along these lines in formal channels.” The surveillance is part of a comprehensive attempt by the US to influence other nations to vote to authorize a war against Iraq; these US attempts include proffers of economic and military aid, and threats that existing aid packages will be withdrawn. A European intelligence source says, The Americans are being very purposeful about this.” [National Security Agency, 1/31/2003; Observer, 3/2/2003; Observer, 2/8/2004]
US Media Ignores Operation - While the European and other regional media have produced intensive coverage of the news of the NSA’s wiretapping of the UN, the American media virtually ignores the story until 2004, when Gun’s court case is scheduled to commence (see February 26, 2004). Bright, in an interview with an Australian news outlet, says on March 6 that “[i]t’s as well not to get too paranoid about these things and too conspiratorial,” he was scheduled for interviews by three major US television news outlets, NBC, Fox News, and CNN, who all “appeared very excited about the story to the extent of sending cars to my house to get me into the studio, and at the last minute, were told by their American desks to drop the story. I think they’ve got some questions to answer too.” [Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 3/6/2003] Most US print media outlets fail to cover the story, either. The New York Times, the self-described newspaper of record for the US, do not cover the story whatsoever. The Times’s deputy foreign editor, Alison Smale, says on March 5, “Well, it’s not that we haven’t been interested, [but] we could get no confirmation or comment” on the memo from US officials. “We would normally expect to do our own intelligence reporting.” The Washington Post publishes a single story about the operation, focusing on the idea that surveillance at the UN is business as usual. The Los Angeles Times fixes on claims by unnamed “former top intelligence officials” believe Koza’s memo is a forgery. (When the memo is proven to be authentic, both the Post and the Los Angeles Times refuse to print anything further on the story.) Author Norman Solomon writes, “In contrast to the courage of the lone woman who leaked the NSA memo—and in contrast to the journalistic vigor of the Observer team that exposed it—the most powerful US news outlets gave the revelation the media equivalent of a yawn. Top officials of the Bush administration, no doubt relieved at the lack of US media concern about the NSA’s illicit spying, must have been very encouraged.” [ZNet, 12/28/2005]
UN to Launch Inquiry - The United Nations will launch its own inquiry into the NSA surveillance operation (see March 9, 2003).

Entity Tags: United Nations Security Council, Washington Post, NBC, New York Times, Martin Bright, Condoleezza Rice, George W. Bush, Alison Smale, Britain Mariano Fernández, Los Angeles Times, CNN, Fox News, Colin Powell, National Security Agency, Frank Koza

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

The British join the US (see Mid-February 2003-March 2003) in a campaign to pressure UN Security Council members to commit to voting in favor of a second UN resolution. “[E]normous pressure was brought to bear,” British cabinet member Claire Short will later tell the BBC, who cites as an example the efforts of Valerie Amos. According to Short, Amos “went round Africa with people from our intelligence services trying to press them” to support a second resolution. “I had to make sure that we didn’t promise a misuse of aid in a way that would be illegal,” she added. [BBC, 2/26/2004 Sources: Claire Short, Valerie Anne Amos]

Entity Tags: Valerie Anne Amos, Claire Short

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

The Bush administration quietly sends US diplomats to meet with the top officials of several UN Security Council member states in an attempt to influence their vote on any future resolutions on Iraq. A US diplomat tells the Associated Press, “The order from the White House was to use ‘all diplomatic means necessary,’ and that really means everything.”
Mexico - Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman and Kim Holmes, the assistant secretary of state for international organizations, are sent to Mexico City, where they encounter stiff resistance. The American diplomats reportedly warn Mexican officials, “Any country that doesn’t go along with us will be paying a very heavy price.” Henry Kissinger also makes a trip to Mexico warning its officials that the Bush administration would be “very unhappy” if Mexico opposes the US at the UN. Towards the end of the month, US Ambassador Tony Garza says that Congress might attempt to punish Mexico economically if it fails to support the US position at the UN. [Associated Press, 2/24/2003; Washington Post, 3/1/2003 Sources: Unnamed Mexican diplomat] A Mexican diplomat describes the pressure as “very intense” and adds that “the warnings are real” and having an impact on Mexican President Vincent Fox. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar also visits Mexico, but fails to get its support for a second resolution. [Associated Press, 2/24/2003 Sources: Unnamed Mexican diplomat] Mexico proves to be one of the most difficult countries to win over to the US side because there is “little the Bush administration [can] use to scare or entice Mexico now since it does not receive US aid and the one thing it had wanted most—legalizing the status of undocumented Mexicans in the United States—was taken off the table more than one year ago.” Additionally, the Mexican congress, its news media, and 75% of the Mexican population are strongly opposed to an invasion of Iraq. Even more threatening to US hopes for a second resolution is a pact between Mexico and Chile. The two governments agreed that each will abstain if the US, Britain, France, Russia and China fail to come to an agreement. Commenting on the deal, a Chilean diplomat tells the Associated Press, “We’re just not going to be used or bought off by either side.” But James R. Jones, a former US ambassador to Mexico, predicts that Fox will likely capitulate to Mexican business interests, which are dependent on a close relationship with the US. “If Mexico is not going to be good neighbors politically, it’s going to hurt them economically,” he says. [Associated Press, 2/24/2003; Associated Press, 2/26/2003; Washington Post, 3/1/2003]
Angola, Guinea and Cameroon - On February 24, US Assistant Secretary of State Walter Kansteiner meets with Angola’s President Jose Eduardo dos Santos in Luanda. Speaking of Angola’s relationship with the US, Angolan Ambassador Ismael Gaspar Martins tells the Associated Press, “For a long time now, we have been asking for help to rebuild our country after years of war,” and adds, “No one is tying the request to support on Iraq but it is all happening at the same time.” A US diplomat tells the news service, “In Africa, the message is simple: time is running out and we think they should support us.” [Associated Press, 2/24/2003] A major issue for Guinea and Cameroon is the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which gives African exporters preferential access to American markets. The act stipulates that beneficiaries must not “engage in activities that undermine US national security or foreign policy interests.” Angola is not currently eligible for the benefits provided under AGOA because of political corruption and its poor human rights record. But the US is considering overlooking these abuses in exchange for supporting its policy on Iraq. [London Times, 3/8/2003]

Entity Tags: Walter Kansteiner, US Congress, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Kim Holmes, Henry A. Kissinger, James R. Jones, Jose Maria Aznar, Marc Grossman

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

The United States, Britain and Spain submit a draft to the UN Security Council for a second resolution declaring Iraq in “further material breach” of previous UN resolutions. The draft claims that the declaration Iraq submitted to the UN Security Council on December 7, 2002 (see December 7, 2002) contained “false statements and omissions” and that Iraq “has failed to comply with, and cooperate fully in the implementation of” UN Resolution 1441 (see November 8, 2002). Meanwhile France, Russia and Germany field an alternative plan aimed at achieving peaceful disarmament with more rigorous inspections over a period of five months. China expresses support for the alternative plan despite efforts by Secretary of State Colin Powell to convince its government to support the more aggressive proposal. [Fox News, 2/24/2003; United Nations, 2/24/2003] At this point, it seems that only Bulgaria will support the American-British-Spanish resolution. Eleven of the fifteen council members have indicated that they favor allowing the inspectors to continue their work. Fox News suggests that the US may be able to convince some countries—like Angola, Guinea and Cameroon—to support the resolution since “there is the possibility that supporting the resolution may reap financial benefits from the United States.” [Fox News, 2/24/2003]

Entity Tags: Colin Powell

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

The Observer breaks the Koza memo (see January 31, 2003) story. Neither the US State Department nor the White House denies the authenticity of the leaked memo. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer tells reporters, “As a matter of long-standing policy, the administration never comments on anything involving any people involved in intelligence.” And Patrick Weadon, speaking for the NSA, says, “At this point, we’re not issuing a statement.” [Sydney Morning Herald, 3/4/2003; Washington Post, 3/4/2003; Baltimore Sun, 3/4/2003] The intended victims of the operation are deeply angered by the memo. President Ricardo Lagos demands an immediate explanation from the US and Chile’s ambassador to Britain Mariano Fernandez explains to The Observer, “We cannot understand why the United States was spying on Chile. We were very surprised. Relations have been good with America since the time of George Bush Senior.” [Observer, 3/9/2003] Martin Bright, one of the reporters who helped break the story, later tells the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the exposed operation has “caused an enormous diplomatic rift between the Chileans and the Americans and the UK.” He says he believes that the leaked memo is partially responsible for Chile’s increasingly defiant stance at the UN. The UN quickly begins a top-level investigation of the spy operation. [Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 3/6/2003; Observer, 3/9/2003] The Observer notes that the leaked memo could make it more difficult for the US to obtain UN authorization to wage war on Iraq. [Observer, 3/2/2003] The US media networks largely ignore the story. Though NBC, CNN, and Fox News Channel all arrange for interviews with Martin Bright soon after the story is broken, all three quickly cancel. In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Bright explains, “It happened with NBC, Fox TV and CNN, who appeared very excited about the story to the extent of sending cars to my house to get me into the studio, and at the last minute, were told by their American desks to drop the story.” [Salon, 3/3/2003; Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 3/6/2003]

Entity Tags: Ricardo Lagos, Patrick Weadon, Ari Fleischer, Britain Mariano Fernández

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

The United Nations launches an investigation into the electronic and physical surveillance of a number of its Security Council delegates by the National Security Agency (see January 31, 2003). The NSA operation, revealed the week before, was apparently leaked to Britain’s Observer by Katharine Gun, who works at Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and has been arrested on suspicion of breaking Britain’s Official Secrets Act (see February 2003). The NSA also solicited the assistance of an intelligence agency of an unnamed “friendly foreign government”; it is believed to be Britain. The leak is touted as “more timely and potentially more important than the Pentagon Papers” by celebrated whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. The leak of the NSA surveillance program has caused deep embarrassment for the Bush administration, which is working to recruit supporters for a second UN resolution authorizing military force against Iraq (see February 24, 2003). The authorization for the NSA operation is believed to have come from National Security Adviser Rice, but US intelligence experts say that such a decision would have had to involve Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, CIA Director George Tenet, and NSA Director Michael Hayden. President Bush, by necessity, would have been informed of the proposed operation at one of his daily intelligence briefings. While such surveillance of foreign diplomats at the UN is legal under the US’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), it violates the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. According to international law expert Dr. John Quigley, the Vienna Convention stipulates: “The receiving state shall permit and protect free communication on the part of the mission for all official purposes…. The official correspondence of the mission shall be inviolable.” [Observer, 3/9/2003]

Entity Tags: United Nations Security Council, United Nations, National Security Agency, Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Michael Hayden, John Quigley, Condoleezza Rice, Katherine Gun, Donald Rumsfeld, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, George W. Bush, Government Communications Headquarters, George J. Tenet, Daniel Ellsberg

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Katharine Gun, who leaked an NSA memo to the British press in February 2003 that revealed the existence of an elaborate US plan to “bug” UN delegates (see January 31, 2003), is arrested and charged with violating the Official Secrets Act for giving a copy of the memo to the press. Gun was a translator for British intelligence, who worked at the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) before losing her job over the leak in June. Gun does not dispute leaking the memo, instead calling it “justified.” Any leaks she made exposed “serious illegality and wrongdoing on the part of the US Government,” she says, and were made to prevent “wide-scale death and casualties among ordinary Iraqi people and UK forces.” [BBC, 11/13/2003] Gun has had the support of a wide array of antiwar and civil rights activists, led in the US by actor Sean Penn and activist Jesse Jackson, who signed a statement shortly before her court appearance praising her as a whistleblower. [Observer, 1/18/2004] The British government decides to drop the charges against her. No official explanation for this is forthcoming, though it may have been precipitated by the defense’s intent to argue that Gun leaked to the media in order to save lives from being lost in a war, an argument that would cause political damage to the government. Liberty spokeswoman Shami Chakrabarti says the decision to charge Gun may itself have been politically motivated, perhaps to cow future whistleblowers, and observes, “One wonders whether disclosure in this criminal trial might have been a little too embarrassing.” Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrats’ foreign affairs spokesman, says the reason for dropping the charges might be to keep the Attorney General’s legal advice for war with Iraq a secret. Prosecutor Mark Ellison merely tells the court, “There is no longer sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction. It would not be appropriate to go into the reasons for this decision.” The only thing needed for a successful prosecution under the Official Secrets Act is for the prosecution to show that Gun is covered by the act, which she is, and that she revealed information covered by the Act, which she has admitted. Gun’s lawyer, James Webb, calls the prosecution’s excuse “rather lame.” [BBC, 11/13/2003; Evening Standard, 2/25/2004] Gun says that leaking the NSA memo was “necessary to prevent an illegal war in which thousands of Iraqi civilians and British soldiers would be killed or maimed.… I have only ever followed my conscience.” [ZNet, 12/28/2005] A month before the court proceedings, the New York Times’s Bob Herbert writes in defense of Gun, “We are not talking about a big-time criminal here. We are not talking about someone who would undermine the democratic principles that George W. Bush and Tony Blair babble about so incessantly, and self-righteously, even as they are trampling on them. Ms. Gun is someone who believes deeply in those principles and was willing to take a courageous step in support of her beliefs. She hoped that her actions would help save lives. She thought at the time that if the Security Council did not vote in favor of an invasion, the United States and Britain might not launch the war.” [New York Times, 1/19/2004] And just days before the court proceedings begin, liberal columnist Molly Ivins wrote, “…Gun may be sentenced to prison for doing precisely what we all hope every government employee will try to do: Prevent the government from committing an illegal and immoral act. Some dare call it patriotism.” [AlterNet, 2/18/2004]

Entity Tags: Katherine Gun, Jesse Jackson, Government Communications Headquarters, George W. Bush, Bob Herbert, James Webb, Tony Blair, United Nations, Sean Penn, Molly Ivins, National Security Agency, Walter Menzies Campbell, New York Times, Mark Ellison, Shami Chakrabarti, Liberty

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

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