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In July 2009, Mr. Martinelli sent a BlackBerry message to Ambassador Barbara J. Stephenson saying, “I need your help with tapping phones,” according to a secret diplomatic cable from Ms. Stephenson to the State Department that was released by WikiLeaks last week.

The ambassador passed on the message to her deputy and to the head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration operation in Panama, where the United States is helping fight the drug war. However, the U.S. officials quickly learned that Mr. Martinelli had more than suspected drug smugglers in mind for wiretaps.

The ambassador said she later told the Panamanian president that the United States “will not be party to any effort to expand wiretaps to domestic political targets.”

“Martinelli’s near-obsession with wiretaps betrays a simplistic and naive attitude toward the criminal investigative process,” the ambassador said.

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