The United Nations said Monday it plans to contact telecom giant AT&T about a report that it allowed the U.S. National Security Agency to wiretap all Internet communications at U.N. headquarters.
Vannina Maestracci, a U.N. spokeswoman, said U.S. officials had previously given the United Nations assurances “that they are not ... monitoring our communications” when similar allegations arose.
She was responding to a report in The New York Times which said AT&T provided technical assistance in carrying out a secret U.S. court order permitting the wiretapping of all Internet communications at the New York headquarters of the United Nations, which is a customer of the telecom company.
While NSA spying on U.N. diplomats had been previously reported, the newspaper said Saturday that neither the court order nor AT&T’s involvement had been disclosed.
“The inviolability of the United Nations is well established under international law, and we expect member states to act accordingly and to respect and protect that inviolability,” Maestracci said.
But she said “surveillance at the United Nations is not something that’s new, unfortunately.”
It is widely believed by those who work at the United Nations that numerous countries — not only the United States — gather intelligence in many different ways because U.N. headquarters is a gathering place for diplomats from the 193 member states, plus thousands of U.N. officials and representatives of non-governmental organization and the media.
Maestracci, when pressed on steps to ensure that communications remain private, said the United Nations has security and safety measures in place.
“Right now, we’re looking how best to respond to this latest report,” she said.