It's Time to Curb U.N. -Based Spies

Report Homeland Security

It's Time to Curb U.N. -Based Spies

June 7, 1984 3 min read Download Report
Juliana Geran
Director, Center for Legal & Judicial Studies

(Archived document, may contain errors)

6/7/84 54


A major problem posed by the United Nations' presence on American territory is the cover it c an provide for espionage. About one-third of the U.N. Secretariat staff from 'the Soviet bloc, says the FBI, take advantage of the privilege, presumably-guaranteed by the Headquarters Agreement, to travel freely anywhere in the U.S. and conduct industrial and military espionage against the U.S.' The Headquarters Agreement was concluded on November 21, 1941, between the U.S. and the U.N. and governs U.N. Headquarters activities in the U.S. Travel in the U.S. by U.N. personnel need not be unlimited. The U.S. could enforce P.L. 357, en- acted in 1941 by the 80th Congress, which states in section 6 that "nothing in the [Headquarters] Agreement shall be construed as in any way diminishing, abridging or weakening the right of the U.S. to safe- guard its own secur i ty.*.. 11 Section 6 further states that the Headquarters Agreement in no way denies the U.S. the right "completely to control the entrance of aliens into any territory of the U.S. other than the headquarters district and its immediate vicinity." According to a confidential memorandum of February 6,1952 (made public in 1979), by the Assistant Secretary of State for U.N. Affairs, the legislative history of section 6, when read in conjunction with other sections of the Headquarters Agreement, indi- cates that

1) the U.S. may deny access to the headquarters to aliens for security reasons, and 2) the U.S. controls the entrance of aliens into the U.S. at large "completely," i.e., the U.S. may act in its own discretion in denying to aliens the right to enter the U .S. outside the headquarters district and its immediate vicinity.2

It seems that the U.S. has never enforced this law to restrict the travel of Soviet bloc personnel--or any other Secretariat staff--in the

1 Juliana Geran Pilon, "Moscow's U.N. Outpost," Heritage Foundation Backgrounder 2 No. 307, November 22, 1983, pp. 3-4. Cited in Foreign Relations of the United States 1952-1954, Volume III, United Nations Affairs (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1979), pp. 200-201.


U .S. The same confidential memorandum of February 6, 1952, noted that a meeting with the Secretary of State had decided that "no restrictions or travel regulations be imposed, at the present time, upon Soviet nationals having status under the Headquarters Agreement." This decision, appar- ently, has never been changed--or reviewed.

Not only can the U.S. restrict the travel of U.N. personnel, Wash- ington can bar the Secretariat from hiring staffers whom the U.S. be- lieves belong to a nation's intelligence agencies or secret police. one current case involves Gennadi Yevstafliev, Special Assistant to the U.N. Secretary-General, whom a former KGB officer, Stanislav Levchenko, has 4 identified as a seasoned KGB agent with extensive experience in Japan. The U. S . could enforce P.L. 357 and demand the expulsion of Yevstafliev from the Secretariat. State Department officials explain that informa- tion regarding this is classified. Still, there is strongreason to believe that the Reagan Administration remains reluc tant to invoke its legal right to protect the U.S. from Soviet espionage.

One reason for this reluctance is that the U.N., on at least one occasion, in a letter from U.N. Secretary-General Trygve Lie to the U.S. Representative to the U.N. on June 16, 1952, 5 has repudiated section 6 of P.L. 357. In a confidential memorandum to the U.S. Representative to the U.N. on June 22, 1953,6 U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold also outlined some of his problems wit 'h the Headquarters Agreement. The Secretary-Gene r al's argument that the U.N. did not agree to P.L. 357, however, was rejected by the State Department's Office of the Assistant Legal Adviser for U.N. Affairs, 7 who concluded on April 15, 1953, that indeed "if the practice over the last five years does no t constitute acceptance, the only conclusion possible is that there is no agreement between the U.S. and the U.N. regarding the headquarters. If the U.N. has not in fact accepted the reservations of the U.S. (including sec- tion 6 of P.L. 357), there has b een no meeting of the minds of the two parties and no agreement exists today.,,8

A principal reason for not enforcing the law in this connection, according to one administration official, is concern that the U.S. would be seen as a "bully," as antagonizing the U.N. Secretariat, and be even more ostracized at the U.N. than-it is now. Whether such reasons are sufficient in light of the considerable threat posed to the U.S. by the espionage activities of some U.N. employees is very much in question. It is tim e for the Congress to start demanding some answers. It is also time for the Administration and Congress to give the FBI the resources required to increase U.N.-related counter-espionage activities.

Juliana Geran Pilon, Ph.D. Senior Policy Analyst

3 Ibid., p. 199. 4 FI-1-on, op. cit., P. 13. 5 Foreign Relations, pp. 213-214. 6 Ibid., p. 293ff. 7 TE-id., p. 262ff. 8 Tb-id., p. 265.



Juliana Geran

Director, Center for Legal & Judicial Studies