Tags: united | nations | security

Security Scandal Causes Shakeup at U.N.

Tuesday, 24 Jun 2008 04:08 PM

By Stewart Stogel

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UNITED NATIONS – Rumors of an impending scandal inside the United Nations’ security operations surfaced Tuesday when Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accepted the resignation of Under Secretary-General for Safety and Security Sir David Veness.

Veness, a 30-year veteran of Scotland Yard, has come under pressure since U.N. offices in Algiers were targeted by terrorists last December using a car bomb.

That attack, the worst ever on a U.N. facility, left more than 35 dead. It also left many inside the U.N. wondering about security within the world organization. Staffers vividly remember the 2003 attack on the U.N.'s Baghdad headquarters that killed 22.

The U.N.'s Staff Union, with a membership of more than 6,000 at its U.S. headquarters in New York City, has repeatedly complained about a lack of adequate measures to protect staff serving overseas.

Those charges were echoed when the results of an investigation ordered by Ban to review such allegations were publicly released Tuesday, shortly after the announcement of Veness's resignation.

Veness's departure also raises new questions about the official in charge of security at the U.N. campus in New York, Chief Bruno Henn.

Henn, a German who has served as chief since 2004, has come under repeated criticism by U.S. and NYC authorities.

"We do not know all we should about what is going on inside U.N. Security," groused one U.S. diplomat.

Around the United Nations, Henn is jokingly referred to as the "invisible man" because he is rarely seen. He also is rarely accountable, say US diplomats.

That is echoed by senior officials inside New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, who tell Newsmax they are "frustrated" by City Hall's lack of access to Henn on issues of importance.

Those same officials reveal that the U.N.'s security plans for its NYC headquarters’ reconstruction "are a disgrace."

The Capital Master Plan (CMP), a six-year, $2 billion project designed to renovate the 45-acre headquarters first built in the 1950s, began only a month ago and reportedly is already more than $250 million over budget.

"It is impossible" for the CMP to be completed within the announced budget and time frame, NYC officials tell Newsmax.

While Henn's U.N. performance leaves much to be desired, his pre-U.N. employment also is raising eyebrows, according to U.S. and city officials.

Henn has refused to "clarify" the 2005 announcement of his promotion to U.N. chief of security, in which U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric states "Chief" Henn previously worked for the "German Police Service."

Officials at Germany's U.N. mission told Newsmax there is no German Police Service; it never existed.

The apparent obfuscation is the subject of talk within the UN's diplomatic community.

When confronted with perceived irregularities in Henn's announcement, spokesman Farhan Haq told Newsmax the U.N. "was satisfied" with the information contained within the original statement.

Repeated requests to interview Henn were denied by the U.N., and e-mails sent directly to Henn have been ignored.

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