"US diplomats ‘obtained’ a confidential letter on Iraq policy from the EU’s two top foreign policy chiefs to the President of the Council of Ministers, a leaked US embassy cable reveals.
The letter, written by Javier Solana and Chris Patten, described highly-sensitive details of a controversial EU decision to participate in the rebuilding of Iraq.
American officials spoke of ‘obtaining’ the letter 24 hours after it had been sent to Brian Cowen, then President of the Council of Ministers, the EU’s highest governmental body.
The apparent leaking of the letter, discovered in a Belfast Telegraph assessment of a fresh tranche of the WikiLeaks cables, will raise questions about US snooping on friendly powers including the nations of the European Union.
The cable, originating with from the American embassy in Brussels and with the identification number 17718, quotes extensively from the confidential letter.
It is one of several instances uncovered in the Ireland cables of unusual US diplomatic information-gathering activities.
In the private letter, sent to Mr Cowen ahead of a key meeting of EU foreign ministers to be staged four days later, Mr Solana and Mr Patten call on the EU to send election observers, train police, help draft a constitution for Iraq and create an EU office in Baghdad.
The Solana/Patten letter was written in June 2004, 14 months after the invasion of Iraq. The Iraq insurgency was gathering pace and the Americans had suffered setbacks including the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the failure of the search for weapons of mass destruction.
The confidential cable refers to the public announcement of a recommended EU strategy on Iraq, but states that more detail on the strategy is contained in the Solana/Patten letter.
It says: ‘On June 9, the European Commission released a three-phase medium term strategy for progressive engagement with Iraq before, during and after elections.
‘In a joint cover letter transmitting the strategy to EU Council President Irish FM Cowen, Commissioner Chris Patten and EU High Rep Javier Solana elaborate an ambitious program to build close EU-Iraq ties.
‘The cover letter, obtained by embassy The Hague (ref A), has not been made public.
‘The letter and strategy will be considered for endorsement by EU Foreign Ministers, who meet June 14-15 in Brussels.’
The cable hails the proposed EU strategy as ‘a political declaration of intent to progressively deepen EU engagement with Iraq’.
The Ireland cables inspected by the Belfast Telegraph show other instances of US officials obtaining information by less than diplomatic means, fromthe EU and other internaional bodies. These include:
•Obtaining leaked documents describing sensitive internal meetings of a range of EU and international bodies.
•The provision of ‘read outs’ from reports of confidential deliberations of EU meetings, including the sensitive Political and Security Committee
•The use of well-placed individuals to provide key information on subjects relating to US foreign policy or commercial goals or the internal domestic politics of countries. People and information is regularly marked 'protect' or 'strictly protect' in cables." LINK