US dirty tricks to win vote on Iraq war
March 1, 2003 5:16 PM   Subscribe

US dirty tricks to win vote on Iraq war well. this is nice.... and what do you suppose they would do with their "intel" ?
posted by specialk420 (52 comments total)
OT: Not to say that this is a faked memo... but what is to stop someone from claiming they have a leaked memo when they don't? Of course the NSA is going to deny it, so what proof does one have that it is a valid memo?

Just wondering...

(Frankly I don't put it past the NSA to bug these diplomats, as surely they would do they same to us.)
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 5:26 PM on March 1, 2003

More unbaised reporting from the British press. The headline could have been "US intelligence agencies seek to learn diplomats' positions ahead of vote."

If you think diplomats aren't the target of spying then you are completely naive. Remember that nice Moscow embassy the US had to abandon because of the quantity of bugs?

Any intelligence agency that isn't spying on the diplomatic machinations of other govenments isn't doing its job.
posted by ednopantz at 5:43 PM on March 1, 2003

Any MeFites brave enough to call Mr. Koza back (his extension was 6727 when the Guardian wrote the story)
and get the scoop :) ? I don't know what the NSA switchboard number is, but their "aquisition liason office" number is (443) 479-0303 according to the NSA website FAQ. Perhaps they can point you towards the switchboard.
posted by gsteff at 5:59 PM on March 1, 2003

This smells like a hoax... somehow I find it hard to believe that someone high-placed in the NSA would be issuing this sort of memo in such a conversational tone, with no codewords or anything of the sort. I mean, the line "minus US and GBR of course" pretty much killed the idea that this might be a real NSA comm.

Hope the Guardian didn't have to pay too much for the "evidence"...
posted by clevershark at 6:10 PM on March 1, 2003

If this is real, and if the leak is identified, does he or she have any legal protection under the Whistleblower Protection Act? Or is he just screwed?
posted by homunculus at 6:14 PM on March 1, 2003

I just went back and read the memo. Where is the "dirty tricks" campaign the article talks about? The author says he wants info on all USNC members, as well as any other chatter related to the UNSC from all other sources:

the whole gamut of information that could give US policymakers an edge in obtaining results favourable to US goals or to head off surprises

That's a pretty normal part of diplomacy: know what other actors think and what they want. It helps you get what you want.

I also love the way the reporter seems shocked to discover that when he calls an intellience agency to ask about their spying efforts, they aren't exactly helpful.

The Guardian is getting as bad as the Independent!

I imagine an editor saying: We need something shocking about how awful the Americans are. All we have is this story about routine intelligence gathering. Can we punch it up a bit with details of the routine journalistic practice of telephoning people and make it our lead story?
posted by ednopantz at 6:16 PM on March 1, 2003

The language in the memo utilizes British spellings, including 'favourable', 'recognise' and 'emphasise'. Smells like a fraud to me.
posted by flagrante_delicto at 6:19 PM on March 1, 2003

The Guardian is getting as bad as the Independent!

Speaking of the Independent, I'm reminded of this article:

"Tony Blair and George Bush are encountering an unexpected obstacle in their campaign for war against Iraq – their own intelligence agencies."
posted by homunculus at 6:21 PM on March 1, 2003

that report (homunculus's link) is consistent with this, assuming this was also leaked to damage the govt position.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:39 PM on March 1, 2003

Yeah, I don't see why this is a story. Every nation is the world is spying on each other at all times. By dirty tricks, I'd imagine they mean things like paying off diplomats to lie to their governments, threatening voting parties to vote a certain way or else, that sorta thing.

What's described in the email is the spy tactics that every nation on the planet uses - France, Germany, Russia and China inclusive. Are you sure this is the Guardian and not the Mirror?
posted by Kevs at 6:44 PM on March 1, 2003

The Guardian is getting as bad as the Independent!

and what we should read instead for accurate, high-quality reporting, The New York Sun? The Washington Times? Or we should stick to Talk Radio, Rush and Liddy galore?
posted by matteo at 6:44 PM on March 1, 2003

matteo: The Onion.
posted by Plunge at 7:06 PM on March 1, 2003

homunculus beat me to it: the broadsheets have been getting a boatload of leaks from the British spooks, and that sourcing is certainly suggested by the line in the email saying '(minus US and GBR of course)', and the story noting that the email had been circulated to 'a friendly foreign intelligence agency asking for its input.' Spying on delegations is business as usual, were it not for the fact that there are obviously a few people in Vauxhall who aren't amused with their political masters.

The language in the memo utilizes British spellings

That's just standard subbing practice, flagrante_delicto. (The Graun's style guide talks about house use of -ise and using American spellings only for US place names (See 'Pearl Harbor'.)

what is to stop someone from claiming they have a leaked memo when they don't?

Mainly the repercussions on those doing the leaking. Inventing leaks or publishing dubious material is the perfect way for newspapers to ruin reputations with sources and vice versa. That doesn't discount it being carefully-timed counterintelligence, designed to embarrass the Obs, of course.
posted by riviera at 7:15 PM on March 1, 2003

On further inspection two more discrepancies stand out...

1- the date is in European (d/m/y), not American (m/d/y), format.
2- no one in the US uses GBR as an abbreviation for Great Britain. We use either UK or GB.

It's clear that this memo didn't come from an american source, but a european one... probably British. I wouldn't be surprised if the memo were later found to have originated in the Guardian's own network.
posted by clevershark at 7:22 PM on March 1, 2003

whose votes are being fought over by the pro-war party, led by the US and Britain,

In any event, doesn't this suggest the UK is in on it too?
posted by Bag Man at 7:41 PM on March 1, 2003

I wouldn't be surprised if the memo were later found to have originated in the Guardian's own network.

Not enough spelling errors to have come from the Grauniad.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 7:47 PM on March 1, 2003

Riviera, the implication from the article is that the memo is a perfect copy. Is it really standard practice in print media to change spellings when providing copies of documents? I wasn't able to find anything in the style book on this.
posted by flagrante_delicto at 8:06 PM on March 1, 2003

It certainly isn't if you announce it as being "the text of the memo".

Something tells me that heads will be rolling at the Guardian over this one.
posted by clevershark at 8:47 PM on March 1, 2003

I wasn't able to find anything in the style book on this.

The style guide will tell you how certain words are spelled, what abbreviations to use, how to properly format datelines, etc. The memo appeared in the Guardian. As far as the Guardian's copy desk is concerned, it should therefore follow the Guardian's house style. It's that simple; that's what copy desks and style guides are for.

The fact that the text of the memo matches the Guardian's house style simply means that it was copyedited just like everything else the Guardian publishes, and nothing more.
posted by mattpfeff at 9:00 PM on March 1, 2003

1- the date is in European (d/m/y), not American (m/d/y), format.

I suspect that this memo reached the Brits via email. Now, when Americans receive email from a country that uses the day-month-year format, does it appear in their email programs as month-first? Because the emails I get from the US certainly appear with the European datestamp.

2- no one in the US uses GBR as an abbreviation for Great Britain. We use either UK or GB.

No-one in the UK does either, apart from the athletics team. So to suggest that this points to a British source is equally off the mark.

And for fuck's sake, it's the Observer, not the Guardian. The editorial stances are different: the Obs is pro-war via the UN, the Graun is anti-war full stop. They're different staffs, on different floors, working for different papers with the same publisher. Hence the same style guide. But if you can find one Observer staff writer who also writes for the Guardian, then I'll buy you a pint at the Eagle on Farringdon Road.
posted by riviera at 9:23 PM on March 1, 2003

I remain suspicious. If the Guardian really copyedited the text to conform to their style manual, surely they would not have referred to Great Britain as GBR or the Security Council as UNSC. The manual does not allow either.
posted by flagrante_delicto at 9:25 PM on March 1, 2003

It's still being published electronically by "The Guardian Unlimited"... clearly this is not a web site independent from the Guardian organization.
posted by clevershark at 9:39 PM on March 1, 2003

Aside from which, if you are presenting a document as "evidence" of something, it's completely unprofessional to edit it as you see fit. Especially as there does not seem to be much consistency as to the guidelines used to edit the document.

Another thing... "Great Britain" is not a permanent member of the security council. "The United Kingdom" is. You'd think that the guy in charge of so-called "black ops" would have noticed that... I have checked that with the UN site just now. Perhaps the memo was indeed not written in the UK after all (a British person is unlikely to have made that particular mistake).
posted by clevershark at 9:46 PM on March 1, 2003

>and what do you suppose they would do with their "intel" ?

If the US is using intel CPUs, Saddam has nothing to worry about.
posted by shepd at 10:38 PM on March 1, 2003


ok, but what's on Saddam's iPod?
posted by matteo at 11:14 PM on March 1, 2003

One wonders why, if the document were an obvious fake created within the halls of the Observer, they would publish the full text of the memo at all.
posted by rafeco at 11:16 PM on March 1, 2003

How could you all be foolish enough to let Steve derail this thread? The memo in all likely hood is real, and let's be honest folks, this falls right into line with Bush's tactics. Not believing that Bush did this, is like not believing Clinton was sticking his dick into ugly interns.
posted by jbou at 11:48 PM on March 1, 2003

...smells like a hoax...

Smells like wishful thinking.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:07 AM on March 2, 2003

I dunno gang, I'm anti-war, think Bush is a trained monkey, and wouldn't put anything past our intel ops...and this one smells like a hoax to me too.

The spelling differences; 'recognise', 'emphasise', 'favourable', etc., aside...from a purely linguistic standpoint, it doesn't read like an American wrote it. It does, however, read like something that is written to attempt to sound American. (Think of those times when your parents tried to be 'cool and with it', and you rolled your eyes because they just weren't getting it right. Same premise.)

Second, it's not the sort of memo that goes around the government, circulated from the top level, anyway. Not enough acronyms, buzzwords, abbreviations and garbled nonsense. ;)

Third, as someone mentioned, it's far too casual...phrases like "whatever" seem hardly likely in an intelligence directive.

That being said, I think it's probably understood by every diplomat, secretary, and office boy at the UN that they're being 'bugged' by at least one country. I mean...duh.
posted by dejah420 at 12:57 AM on March 2, 2003

Smells like wishful thinking.

posted by HTuttle at 1:00 AM on March 2, 2003

No, that's teen spirit, silly.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:35 AM on March 2, 2003

That being said, I think it's probably understood by every diplomat, secretary, and office boy at the UN that they're being 'bugged' by at least one country. I mean...duh.

This is outrageous period. I want the quasi-democratic comingling of nations to be fair and ethical. If we hold it to be self-evident that UN representatives work on our behalf, from whichever nation we may reside, then I want fairness. If that's not what we're getting then it's quite the fuck fucked up.

I don't care how right one side may feel itself to be (This includes mine), the truth must always be present in order for democracy to thrive. Lies told in partisan truth-containers are worthless insofar as democratic ideals go. We should not stand for the fact that our representatives lie, cheat and lie some more in order to steal.

It should not be an issue that this story could be a hoax. If things were decent in this day and age, the fear of a hoax would be moot.

Instead "we" (I don't) just trudge on to one warning escalation after another and being skeptical of anything printed in the papers of our so-called democracies only when and if the story ever cuts to the heart of a matter.

Who doesn't agree, something's at least a little fucked up with that?
posted by crasspastor at 2:59 AM on March 2, 2003

posted by lampshade at 6:52 AM on March 2, 2003

Goverments use signal intelligence all they can in situations like this. Wouldn't you?

Calling it 'dirty tricks' is even kind of extreme. We're talking about a little high tech sniffing, not planting cocain and hookers.
posted by Leonard at 7:39 AM on March 2, 2003

I mean, the line "minus US and GBR of course" pretty much killed the idea that this might be a real NSA comm.

Indeed! What is your basis for comparison?
posted by holycola at 9:20 AM on March 2, 2003

What we're saying is, that there may be well be that sort of operations going on... however, it's sheer stupidity to think that it wouldn't have started until now.

And, frankly, it has nothing to do with this piece of convoluted crap that parades itself as "evidence".
posted by clevershark at 9:20 AM on March 2, 2003

"Dirty tricks" sounds like an exaggeration to me as well. I'm sure it will give the diplomats something to snort and hoohaw about. The question is, how will the White House react?

Maybe Ari will say something like "It's not true, but if it what?" So we'll end up with a equivocated denial. Which is as good as admitting it as far as public opinion goes.

Has everyone noticed how little attention this is getting in the American press? It's like a big black hole, conspicuous by its absence. Drudge is the only one touching it. The media blackout is more interesting than the memo.
posted by norm29 at 11:05 AM on March 2, 2003

I think the media blackout has more to do with the memo being a hoax in the first place...
posted by clevershark at 11:24 AM on March 2, 2003


"There seems to be some confusion over the Anglicised (or Anglicized) spelling in our reproduction of the email online and on the front of the newspaper. This was done for editorial reasons to standardise (standardize) spelling throughout the newspaper. Following the many queries from the United States we would like to make it cleart that the original document had American spelling and this will be corrected on the online version of the email".
posted by homunculus at 12:55 PM on March 2, 2003

It's still being published electronically by "The Guardian Unlimited"... clearly this is not a web site independent from the Guardian organization.

Was anyone 'clearly' trying to make that argument? I don't think so. It's just the facts: two newspapers, published on different days of the week, owned by the same charitable trust, with separate staff and independent editorial lines. The Times and Sunday Times work the same way; even the bloody Sun and News of the World.

The distinction here is important because the Observer stuck its neck out a month ago and said that there was a case for war with UN authorisation, alienating lots of its readers. Meaning that it would be pretty bizarre for this story to be something concocted in the editor's office in order to smear the US in front of the UN, particularly when the editorial in the same edition argues that 'As the world struggles to evaluate whether and when action might be taken against Iraq, the Security Council's responsibility is to enforce its settled will that Iraq disarm. If a majority votes for a resolution which authorises military action, it must be accepted that assent is given.' I'm just assuming that Roger Alton isn't deliberately trying to undermine himself.
posted by riviera at 1:00 PM on March 2, 2003

If Frank Koza works for the NSA, he probably works at Fort Meade, MD.

I found a Frank Koza who lives in Columbia, MD, just 12.2 miles away from NSA headquarters.

Frank Koza
11808 Blue February Way
Columbia, MD
(410) 964-3814
posted by insomnia_lj at 1:34 PM on March 2, 2003

By the way, does anyone else find it amusing that the NSA headquarters is located at the intersection of Savage & Canine? ;->
posted by insomnia_lj at 1:40 PM on March 2, 2003

So they're "clarifying" that they've edited the "evidence" as they saw fit... and weren't even consistent about it (GBR? UNSC?).

Yeah, that explains everything. I think someone's trying to cover his own ass in a major way.
posted by clevershark at 4:41 PM on March 2, 2003

riviera -- if they're trying to insinuate that whatever Security Council resolution is obtained through blackmail, which is something quite clear in the subtext of this so-called "memo", then what does that say about the Observer's "yes to war with UNSC approval" message?
posted by clevershark at 4:43 PM on March 2, 2003

The people obsessing on "Britticisms, therefore hoax" are acting like idiots. The Observer knows perfectly well what American spelling usage is, and if they were trying to fabricate a memo and pass it off as a US leak they would make certain to get those things right.

The contents of the memo are completely plausible and hardly even interesting. OF COURSE the NSA listens to every worldwide phone call and message it possibly can, and OF COURSE this means targeting extra resources at whatever the hot spot du jour happens to be. Did anybody seriously imagine that these guys do something else with their work day?

If war is diplomacy by other means, then intelligence is as necessary for effective diplomacy as it is for effective military strategy. The NSA is collecting it.
posted by anser at 7:51 PM on March 2, 2003

Meanwhile, Senator Graham is a bit upset with the CIA and the FBI.
posted by homunculus at 10:19 PM on March 2, 2003

If I had to choose to believe either the Bush administrations "credible evidence" or the Guardian's "leaked information," I would definitely choose the latter.

That doesn't mean that I believe this isn't a hoax, but it's some perspective.
posted by zekinskia at 10:00 AM on March 3, 2003

Off topic, but somewhat related: Why criminalizing Crypto is wrong.
posted by homunculus at 10:08 AM on March 3, 2003

Mefi community, I am disappointed in you. I'm out of town for the weekend and hear about this secondhand when I can't get to a computer. When I finally get online I go to Google News and find the official stories (almost all British) and the scant coverage here writing it off as a hoax. So I immediately think "I'm sure Metafilter will have a thread on this, and those guys will have gotten it all sorted out like they did John Poindexter." Instead there's still a lot of back-and-forth - is it a hoax or not, is it OK to spy on diplomats or not? insomnia_lj posted an address, but has anybody followed up? And hey, don't look at me - I'm waiting for the less "responsible" among you to bite the bullet!

I'm sure you're all getting plenty out of this open-minded discussion, but dammit, I don't want to have to wait six months to get the definitive answer on! I want the truth, and I want it now!
posted by soyjoy at 10:23 AM on March 3, 2003

The Washington Post says none of this is news to actual diplomats at the U.N....
UNITED NATIONS, March 3 -- Security Council diplomats today shrugged off a British newspaper report that the super-secretive National Security Agency had ordered an eavesdropping "surge" on their telephones to determine their voting positions on a resolution that would pave the way for a U.S.-led war against Iraq.

"The fact is, this sort of thing goes with the territory," Pakistan's U.N. ambassador, Munir Akram, said in an interview. "You'd have to be very naive to be surprised."
posted by mattpfeff at 1:10 PM on March 4, 2003

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