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Dick Morris: Did Clinton OK surveillance?

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A new book by Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden’s journalistic confessor, charges that former United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice asked the National Security Agency to spy on U.N. diplomats from countries casting the swing votes on the Security Council on whether to toughen sanctions on Iran.

So did then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton approve the surveillance? Did she know about it?

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We need to know if the person who wants to be president of the United States approved and allowed the NSA to spy on U.N. diplomats.

In Greenwald’s book, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the U.S. Surveillance State, he charges that as the Security Council met in May 2010 to consider tougher sanctions against Iran, Rice asked the NSA for help “so that she could develop a strategy” to win over the votes of undecided diplomats. Greenwald bases his accusation on leaked agency document unveiled by Snowden.

The NSA obligingly moved ahead with the paperwork to get approval to spy on diplomats from four Council members: Bosnia, Gabon, Nigeria and Uganda. On May 26, 2010, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved the surveillance. What was the conceivable connection with terrorism that justified these taps?

But, the move worked. All four nations fell in line and voted for the sanctions.

Afterward, a grateful Rice wrote the NSA thanking it. She said that the intelligence helped her to know when diplomats from the other permanent Council members — Russia, China, the United Kingdom and France — “were telling the truth ... revealed their real position on sanctions ... gave us an upper hand in negotiations ... and provided information on various countries ‘red lines.’ ”

Unless she had blinders on, Clinton must have known of this surveillance and, most likely, would have been privy to the intercepts themselves. Whether she approved this kind of cloak-and-dagger diplomacy, which sows distrust of America all over the world, is a key question as her presidential candidacy looms.

Clinton had previously directly ordered spying on foreign diplomats in connection with the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change in December 2009. Again, documents from Snowden reveal that the NSA conducted surveillance on foreign delegations and monitored their communications, giving U.S. negotiators advance information about other nations’ positions at the meeting.

The NSA monitoring likely played a role in a dramatic moment at the conference when, according to reports in The New York Times, “Mr. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton burst into a meeting of the Chinese, Indian and Brazilian leaders, according to senior administration officials. Mr. Obama said he did not want them negotiating in secret. The intrusion led to new talks that cemented central terms of the deal, American officials said.”

Jairam Ramesh, then the Indian environment minister and an important player in the talks, asked why the U.S. spied on rival delegations: “Why the hell did they do this and at the end of this, what did they get out of Copenhagen? They got some outcome but certainly not the outcome they wanted. It was completely silly of them.”

Clinton called for spying on other diplomats as soon as she took office as secretary of State. Documents unearthed by WikiLeaks show that she signed an order telling U.S. diplomats to spy on Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the U.N., and other top U.N. officials. She asked her people to get biometric information, such as DNA, fingerprints and iris scans, as well as passwords and personal encryption used in private and commercial networks for official communications. She also asked for Internet and intranet usernames, email addresses, website URLs useful for identification, credit card numbers, frequent flier account numbers and work schedules.

With this penchant for spying, we are entitled to know if Clinton was involved in the latest revelations to come from the never-ending Snowden disclosures.

Morris, who served as adviser to former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and former President Clinton, is the author of 16 books, including his latest, Screwed and Here Come the Black Helicopters. To get all of his and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by email, go to dickmorris.com.