A new report by the Italian weekly news magazine Panorama claims that the NSA monitored the telephone calls of many Catholic cardinals and bishops during the March 2013 conclave. The magazine also stated that the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the residence where many cardinals including Jorge Bergoglio stayed in the days leading up to the Conclave, may have been under electronic surveillance.
The report followed the claim by Cryptome, a website that gathers intelligence on surveillance and national security, that the U.S. had intercepted 46 million telephone calls in Italy between December 10, 2012 and January 8, 2013. That would have covered the end of Pope Benedict’s papacy, and it’s believed the espionage continued to include the confidential conversations leading up to the Conclave at which the new Pope was elected.
The information gleaned from this illegal and unwarranted spying was then divided into four categories: “leadership intentions”, “threats to financial system”, “foreign policy objectives” and “human rights”. The NSA, according to Panorama, may have also monitored calls regarding the appointment of Ernst Von Freyburg as president of the Vatican’s Institute for Religious Works (IOR).
Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., director of the Holy See Press Office, seemed unconcerned. He released a statement today, which was read by Press Office co-director Fr. Ciro Benedettini. In the statement, Father Lombardi said:
“My response regarding the article on Panorama on the alleged wiretapping is that we don’t know anything about this matter and in any case, we have no worries about it.”
One rests well when one speaks only the truth.
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UPDATE: The NSA has contested the report by Panorama, and today NSA spokesperson Valerie Vines released a statement saying,
“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.”