30 October 2013, 17:52

Nothing is sacred to US: NSA snoops on Pope

Benedict XVI

Benedict XVI

Benedict XVI

The US National Security Agency (NSA) was monitoring conversations of the head of the Roman Catholic Church, reported Italian weekly Panorama. Calls to and from the Vatican were among 46 million traced in Italy between December 10, 2012 and January 8, 2013.

According to the report, Benedict XVI's calls may have been among those traced by NSA. Benedict XVI served as Pope from 2005 to 2013.

Monitoring may have continued up to the conclave that elected Pope Francis, said the newspaper.

Head of the Supervising Council over the Vatican Bank "The Institute for the Works of Religion" and acting Director General of this institution Ernst von Freyberg is named another "object" of the surveillance.

Vatican hasn’t commented on the Panorama’s report yet.

In connection with numerous reports about spying over European leaders and institutions on the part of the NSA, Prime Minister of Italy Enrico Letta has convened a meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee on Security on October 31. Letta is also to appear before the Parliamentary Committee for the Security of the Republic in order to comment on the situation.

US mass surveillance of European Union citizens is genuine concern - European MP

British Member of European Parliament of Labour Party, Claude Moraes, a member of the delegation, told reporters that "this mass surveillance of European Union citizens is genuine concern." He also said he and his fellow delegates were unsatisfied with the responses from US officials on the issue.

"They’re giving us answers, but not the answers we want," Mr. Moraes said.

Spain, which is, reportedly, one of the latest targets of the NSA snooping activities, has urged the United States to give details of any eavesdropping.

One the latest allegations published by El Mundo newspaper is that the NSA tracked 60 million Spanish telephone calls in a month.

Spain’s Minister for European Affairs, Inigo Mendez de Vigo, described such practices as "inappropriate and unacceptable."

Additionally, the NSA has tracked more than 46 phone calls in Italy. That’s according to the US website Cryptome.

That prompted Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta to question US Secretary of State John Kerry about the alleged snooping.

Despite all that, Italian intelligence agency failed to confirm the information.

Cryptome also revealed information that during the same month the NSA monitored 360 million phone calls in Germany, 70 million in France, and near two million in the Netherlands.

Meanwhile, Senator Diane Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been quoted as saying that she was "totally opposed" to the National Security Agency’s intelligence gathering on leaders of US allies.

Senator Feinstein pledged that her committee will undertake a major review into all intelligence collection programs.

White House says US intelligence gathering may require 'additional constraints'

Washington has acknowledged the need for additional constraints on US intelligence gathering. Spokesman Jay Carney has said an ongoing White House intelligence policy review would take into consideration 'privacy concerns'.

President Barack Obama has full confidence in the director of the National Security Agency, General Keith Alexander, and other NSA officials, said White House spokesman Jay Carney. He added that there should be a balance between the need to gather intelligence and the need for privacy.

"We recognize there needs to be additional constraints on how we gather and use intelligence," Carney said.

A White House review of US surveillance capabilities is well under way and should be completed by the end of the year, Carney said.

Read futher: United States of Espionage: timeline of NSA's blatant spy programs

Voice of Russia, TASS

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