It is starting to look like the book of spying etiquette will have to be rewritten after failing to deal with a very embarrassing situation in the UN.
According to documents seen by Germany's Der Spiegel, the US National Security Agency (NSA) cracked the encryption protecting the United Nations' internal videoconferencing system and when it got there it discovered China was already there and listening in.
What does one say? Do you politely ask to leave the room or continue on and pretend you haven't seen each other?
Apparently the spooks hacked the UN, which has its headquarters in New York, in the summer of 2012. Within three weeks of initially gaining access to the UN system, the NSA had increased the number of such decrypted communications from 12 to 458.
The US spooks found that there had been "hundreds of data breaches since 2004" to a Chinese military unit in Shanghai.
Chinese authorities rejected the claims, following the etiquette laid down in Spying for Dummies (seventh edition) which says that if you are ever caught deny everything. The US however follows the advice of Jane's book of Spying for Girls which says that if you are ever caught, try to arrest the person who catches you and have them shot.
Der Spiegel's report is a follow up from a story about the NSA spying on the EU.
It also exposed a "Special Collection Service," which is jointly staffed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and NSA. The system exists in over 80 embassies and consulates around the world, often without the knowledge of the host country.
All this was revealed by Edward Snowden, an American citizen and former NSA contractor.