Diplomatic bag

A diplomatic bag, also known as a diplomatic pouch, is a container with certain legal protections used for carrying official correspondence or other items between a diplomatic mission and its home government or other diplomatic, consular, or otherwise official entities.[1] The physical concept of a "diplomatic bag" is flexible and therefore can take many forms (e.g., a cardboard box, briefcase, duffel bag, large suitcase, crate or even a shipping container).[1] Additionally, a diplomatic bag usually has some form of lock and/or tamper-evident seal attached to it in order to deter interference by unauthorized third parties. The most important point is that as long as it is externally marked to show its status, the "bag" has diplomatic immunity from search or seizure,[2] as codified in article 27 of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.[3] It may only contain articles intended for official use.[3] It is often escorted by a diplomatic courier, who is similarly immune from arrest and detention.[2][3]


In discussions of cryptography, the diplomatic bag is conventionally used as an example of the ultimate secure channel used to exchange keys, codebooks, and other necessarily secret materials. Like Alice and Bob, it is an example of a metasyntactic variable when used this way.

In contemporary practice, diplomatic bags are indeed used for exactly this purpose. An illustration is the strenuous protest made by German diplomats in Poland in the late 1920s when a cypher machine being shipped to the German Embassy in Warsaw  a commercial version of the famous Enigma machine  was mistakenly not marked as protected baggage and was opened, under protest, by Polish Customs. It was released to them, supposedly without much apology (and with still more protest), on the following Monday, but had perhaps been subjected to inspection by Polish cryptography personnel over the weekend.

Noteworthy shipments

See also


  1. 1 2 Boczek, Boleslaw Adam (2005). International Law: A Dictionary. Scarecrow Press. pp. 51–52. ISBN 0-8108-5078-8.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Diplomatic bag: The inside story". BBC News. March 10, 2000. Retrieved 2008-10-05.
  3. 1 2 3 "Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961" (PDF). United Nations. Retrieved 2008-10-05., p. 8
  4. 1 2 3 Javaid Rehman. Islamic State Practices, International Law and the Threat from Terrorism. Hart Publishing. Retrieved 2008-10-05.
  5. "Argentina's 1982 attempt on Gibraltar". Gibraltar Chronicle. December 28, 2012. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
  6. Rayner, Gordon (2009-10-16). "Yvonne Fletcher, Libya and betrayal of justice: timeline". The Daily Telegraph. London.
    Rayner, Gordon; Hope, Christopher (2009-10-16). "WPc Yvonne Fletcher: 'We have guns and there will be fighting'". The Daily Telegraph. London.
    "1984: Libyan embassy siege ends". BBC News. 1984-04-27.
  7. "Space Station Toilet Parts Set for Liftoff".
  8. Associated Press, Cocaine seized at UN in New York, 26 January 2012
  9. http://www.starpoly.com/comunicado/
  10. "UK protest at Gibraltar diplomatic bag opening". BBC News. 2013-11-26.
  11. Fiona Govan (27 November 2013). "Spain dismisses Gibraltar diplomatic bag incident". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  12. http://www.rtve.es/noticias/20131126/reino-unido-protesta-ante-espana-apertura-valija-diplomatica-gibraltar/802621.shtml (Spanish)
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