Monday, July 01, 2013

Joining the Ranks of Outlaw Regimes

The revelation that the U.S. has been spying on European diplomatic personnel is a big fucking deal. Michael Hayden, former NSA and CIA director claimed it would be a lesser fucking deal because:
'No. 1: The United States does conduct espionage,' Mr. Hayden said. 'No. 2: Our Fourth Amendment, which protects Americans’ privacy, is not an international treaty. And No. 3: Any European who wants to go out and rend their garments with regard to international espionage should look first and find out what their own governments are doing."
But what about No. 4: Hayden is missing the entire point.

Of course, the U.S. conducts espionage and of course all of the spied-upon Europeans do too. And we know that the Fourth Amendment is not an international treaty. But you know what is an international treaty? The Vienna Convention.

Article 22 of that document (pdf) requires that all diplomatic missions be "inviolable" and that their premises, including "their furnishings and other property thereon" (i.e. that would cover their computers and telephones) be immune from any searches from any other signatory governments. Article 24 requires that "The archives and documents of the mission shall be inviolable at any time and wherever they may be." Article 27 further states that "The official correspondence of the mission shall be inviolable. Official correspondence means all correspondence relating to the mission and its functions." Article 30, Paragraph 2, extends those confidentiality protections to the private residence of diplomatic agents, and insures the privacy of "His papers, correspondence and, except as provided in paragraph 3 of article 31, his property, shall likewise enjoy inviolability" (Article 31, Paragraph 3 refers to circumstances in which diplomatic immunity would not apply in a criminal case).

The Vienna Convention was ratified by the U.S. in 1961. Under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution that makes the Vienna Convention the "supreme law of the land."

The U.S. (justifiably) threw a fit when Iran stormed its embassy in 1979 and when the Soviet Union was caught bugging the U.S. Embassy during the cold war. The Europeans have every reason to get on their high horse now.