Obama ordered diplomats to spy on Canada

BRIAN LILLEY, Parliamentary Bureau
First posted: Sunday, November 28, 2010 04:28 PM EST

OTTAWA - The Obama administration ordered diplomats to spy on foreign governments and dignitaries - including here in Canada - as a way to provide key biographical data to the Central Intelligence Agency.

The July 2009 directive to embassies around the world, including the one in Ottawa, asked diplomats to go beyond collecting the usual information of name, title and phone number. Diplomats were also asked to pass along "Internet and intranet 'handles,' Internet e-mail addresses, web site identification-URLs, credit card account numbers, frequent flyer account numbers, work schedules and other relevant biographical information."

The directive was one of thousands of diplomatic cables made public Sunday by WikiLeaks and media partners the New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel.

In addition to that very personal information, the directive also asked American diplomats to gather the views of their hosts or other dignitaries on a whole range of issues from hot security topics such as Darfur, Afghanistan and North Korea to issues such as climate change policy ahead of the Copenhagen negotiations that took place late last year.

The news that President Barack Obama and his secretary of state Hillary Clinton wanted diplomats to spy on their Canadian hosts could strain the relationship between the U.S. embassy and Parliament Hill, especially in the short term.

"Long-standing relations such as those with Canada and the U.K. will no doubt weather the storm. Relationships that are troubled, such as those with Turkey and Russia, could see some resettling," said James Jay Carafano, a foreign policy expert with Washington's Heritage Foundation.

Carafano told QMI Agency that if there is credible evidence that Turkish officials gave material support to al-Qaida or that the U.S. was secretly negotiating side deals on missile defence with Russia, the White House will have some explaining to do.

The order for American diplomats to spy on their hosts was sent to 32 embassies around the world and several American missions at United Nations sites. The other countries on the receiving end of the spy list include allies such as Britain, France and Israel and countries with less friendly relations such as Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia.