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Did the NSA even spy on the POPE? U.S. spies accused of intercepting phone calls during conclave as he was elected head of Catholic church

  • US security services ‘targeted Francis in  run up to and during conclave’
  • Claims NSA intercepted phone calls made  to and from priests’ residence
  • Other leading bishops and cardinals ‘also  being monitored by US spies’

By  Hannah Roberts

PUBLISHED: 14:58 EST, 30  October 2013 |  UPDATED: 17:42 EST, 30 October 2013

The US spied on both Popes Francis and  Benedict, it was claimed today.

American security services reportedly  targeted Francis in the run up to and during the conclave at which he was  elected head of the world’s 1.2billion Catholics.

As the cardinals gathered in Rome to choose  their leader in a secret ballot, it was said the National Security Agency  intercepted phone calls made to and from the priests’ residence occupied by the  then-Archbishop of Buenos Aires Jorge Maria Bergoglio.

Claims: American security services reportedly targeted Pope Francis (centre) in the run up to and during the conclave at which he was elected head of the world's 1.2billion Catholics 

Claims: American security services reportedly targeted  Pope Francis (centre) in the run up to and during the conclave at which he was  elected head of the world’s 1.2billion Catholics

 

Other leading bishops and cardinals were also  being monitored by US spies, weekly current affairs magazine Panorama claimed.

‘It is feared that the great ear of the  United States may have continued to intercept the conversations of prelates  until the end of the conclave, March 12, 2013,’ the magazine said.

Archbishop Bergoglio had been a person of  interest to the CIA since 2005, it claimed.

The latest revelations follow allegations by  American website Crytome that the US monitored 46million Italian telephone calls  last year.

Calls by former Pope Benedict, who resigned  in February this year, may have been among them – as voice traffic to and from  the Vatican was also intercepted, Panorama said.

Intercepted? Calls by former Pope Benedict, who resigned in February this year, may have been among monitored voice traffic, Panorama said 

Intercepted? Calls by former Pope Benedict, who resigned  in February this year, may have been among monitored voice traffic, Panorama  said

 

Conversations relating to the selection of  new President of the Vatican Bank were also said to have monitored.

US spies divided information from Vatican  targets into categories including Leadership intentions, Threats to financial  system, Foreign Policy Objectives and Human Rights, the magazine  claimed.

A secret-service cell made up of NSA and CIA  operatives continues to work out of the US embassy in Rome, the news weekly  said, citing 2010 documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward  Snowden.

As well as analysing voice and data traffic  from tapped mobile phones, the operatives follow money trails through contacts  who are database administrators, bankers and engineers with access to  high-security sites, it was reported.

The NSA has denied the  allegations.

‘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 spokeswoman Vanee Vines said in a  statement.

The Holy See said it had no knowledge of any  such activity.

Asked to comment on the report, Vatican  spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said: ‘We are not aware of anything on this  issue and in any case we have no concerns about it.’

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