UN says nations are barred from spying on it

By Peter James Spielmann

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Aug. 26 2013 9:39 a.m. MDT

In this Sept. 13, 2005 file photo, the flags of member nations fly outside the General Assembly building at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Adam Rountree, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations did not directly comment Monday on reports that the U.S. hacked U.N. and European Union internal communications, saying only that international treaties protect its offices and all diplomatic missions from interference, spying and eavesdropping.

The German magazine Der Spiegel reported Sunday that documents it obtained from American leaker Edward Snowden show the National Security Agency secretly monitored the U.N.'s internal video conferencing system by decrypting it last year. In three weeks, Der Spiegel said, the NSA increased the number of decrypted communications at the U.N. from 12 to 458.

Der Spiegel also reported that the NSA installed bugs in the European Union's office building in downtown Washington and infiltrated the EU's computer network.

U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said Monday that "the inviolability of diplomatic missions, including the United Nations and other international organizations, whose functions are protected by the relevant international conventions like the Vienna Convention, has been well-established international law."

Haq added, "Therefore, member-states are expected to act accordingly to protect the inviolability of diplomatic missions."

The 1961 Vienna Convention regulates diplomatic issues and status among nations and international organizations. Among other things, it says a host country cannot search diplomatic premises or seize its documents or property. It also says the host government must permit and protect free communication between the diplomats of the mission and their home country.

However, wiretapping and eavesdropping have been rampant for decades, most dramatically between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

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