The United Nations on Monday issued a harsh response to a WikiLeaks revelation that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered staff to spy on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other organization officials, saying that the UN would take up the issue with "our US counterparts on various levels".
"The UN by its very nature is a transparent organization that makes a great deal of information about its activities available to the public and member states," Farhan Haq, acting deputy spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, told British newspaper The Telegraph.
"We don't have any judgment on the authenticity of the document," he added, "but I do want to read a little passage from 1946 convention on the privileges and immunities of the United Nations."
The passage says any UN properties or assets "shall be immune from search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation or any other form of interference" by member governments.
The White House expressed its discontent with the biggest leak in history earlier Monday. "The stealing of classified information is a crime," Spokesman Robert Gibbs told journalists, noting that President Obama was "not pleased".
Secret cables – leaked by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks and published in newspapers including the New York Times and The Guardian in Britain – reveal that US State Department personnel are asked to glean highly personal information from UN officials and key players from countries around the world.
The cables alluding to work usually associated with the Central Intelligence Agency and other spy bodies were sent to embassies in Africa, the Middle East, eastern Europe, Latin America and the US mission to the United Nations.
For example, a classified directive sent to US diplomats under US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's name in July last year sought technical details about the communications systems used by top UN officials, The Guardian said.
These included passwords and personal encryption keys used in private and commercial networks for official communications, it reported.
The New York Times said that one cable signed by Clinton sought "biographic and biometric information on ranking North Korean diplomats" from US diplomats at the US mission to the United Nations in New York.
The Guardian said the directive also sought intelligence on Ban Ki-moon's "management and decision-making style and his influence on the secretariat."
AFP contributed to this report
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