The NSA is denying reports that it tapped the phones of top Vatican officials and cardinals—including then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio—before and during the conclave that would elect the Argentinian prelate pope.
The allegations against the NSA appear in tomorrow’s edition of the Italian newsweekly Panorama.
A spokesman for the agency dismissed claims made by Panorama, an Italian weekly magazine, which said that the NSA monitored the telephone calls of many bishops and cardinals at the Vatican in the lead-up to the conclave, which was held amid tight security in the Sistine Chapel.
“The National Security Agency does not target the Vatican. Assertions that NSA has targeted the Vatican, published in Italy’s Panorama magazine, are not true,” agency spokesman Vanee Vines said in a statement.
The allegations from Panorama follow a report on Cryptome, a website that gathers intelligence on surveillance and national security, which claimed the US intercepted 46 million telephone calls in Italy between Dec 10 2012 and Jan 8 January 2013.
The monitoring of communications, including emails, continued after Benedict’s resignation in February and encompassed the election of Pope Francis.
“It is feared that the great American ear continued to tap prelates’ conversations up to the eve of the conclave,” the weekly magazine said.
It added that there were “suspicions that the conversations of the future Pope may have been monitored”, but provided no hard evidence or quoted sources for the claim.
When asked about the Panorama report, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, SJ said, “We have heard nothing of this and in any case we have no concerns about it.”