WASHINGTON — The United States has ordered its diplomats to play a larger intelligence role by performing espionage work like obtaining the credit card and frequent flyer numbers of foreign dignitaries, according to leaked US documents published Sunday.
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 UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's "management and decision-making style and his influence on the secretariat."
Washington also asked for credit card numbers, email addresses, phone, fax and pager numbers and even frequent-flyer account numbers for UN officials, the British daily added...