U.N. says nations are barred from spying on it

The German magazine Der Spiegel reported Sunday that documents it obtained from American leaker Edward Snowden show the NSA secretly monitored the U.N.’s internal video conferencing system by decrypting it last year. In three weeks, Der Spiegel said, the NSA increased the number of decrypted communications at the U.N. from 12 to 458.

Der Spiegel also reported that the NSA installed bugs in the European Union’s office building in Washington and infiltrated the EU’s computer network.

U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said Monday that the United Nations will “reach out” to U.S. officials about the reports of eavesdropping, as it has in the past when such allegations have been raised.

Haq added that “the inviolability of diplomatic missions, including the United Nations and other international organizations, whose functions are protected by the relevant international conventions like the Vienna Convention, has been well-established international law.”

The 1961 Vienna Convention regulates diplomatic issues and status among nations and international organizations. Among other things, it says a host country cannot search diplomatic premises or seize its documents or property. It also says the host government must permit and protect free communication between the diplomats of the mission and their home country.

However, wiretapping and eavesdropping have been rampant for decades, most dramatically between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

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