This pressure, however, wasn’t limited to financial transactions: the United States was developing intelligence on the other participants in the conferences.
Seeking negotiating chips, the U.S. State Department sent a secret cable on July 31, 2009, seeking human intelligence from UN diplomats across a range of issues, including climate change. The request originated with the CIA. As well as countries’ negotiating positions for Copenhagen, diplomats were asked to provide evidence of UN environmental “treaty circumvention” and deals between nations.
At the same time, foreign powers — most probably at least including the People’s Republic of China — used sophisticated social engineering and cyberwar methods to get leverage in the upcoming negotiations.
On June 19, 2009, the State Department sent a cable detailing a “spear phishing” attack on the office of the U.S. climate change envoy … while talks with China on emissions took place in Beijing.
“Spear phishing” is an attack in which a carefully customized email message to a particular person, including personal information and promising something sure to be of interest to the recipient, is used to introduce a “Trojan horse” program, and while the cables don’t actually identify the suspects, it’s the same style of attack, and exactly the same exploit, that the Chinese used on Google.
The Guardian article is an amusing exercise in cognitive dissonance. The CIA wanted to collect intelligence on the other participants: CIA, ooh, bad! But it was to push through the global warming treaty. Wait. Global warming treaty, oooh, good! The Guardian writers clearly had some trouble deciding what they really thought.
By the time the Copenhagen conference came around, domestic political considerations inside the Obama administration had far outweighed whatever scientific basis originally drove the negotiations. On the other side of the table, pious public mouthing of global-warming dogma was replaced by straight-out monetary transactions: if you want our agreement, come up with the most cash. And China, South Africa, Brazil, and India were working the process with both politics and less savory means, to make sure they had the leverage to get what they wanted.
The lesson of the WikiLeaks climate cables turns out to be very much like the lesson of the Climategate files last year. The most surprising aspect of this story is how thoroughly the cables confirm the dark suspicions of climate skeptics.