`Great American ear` eavesdropped on Pope, Vatican: Italian magazine

In the newest claim among the torrent of revelations on US spying saga, an Italian magazine reported that the National Security Agency "wiretapped on Pope".

By Supriya Jha | Updated: Oct 31, 2013, 16:56 PM IST

Zee Media Bureau/Supriya Jha

Rome: In the newest claim among the torrent of revelations on US spying saga, an Italian magazine reported that the National Security Agency "wiretapped on Pope" and also on the cardinals` conversations ahead of the papal conclave in March.

Referring to the US spying as the "great American ear", an Italian weekly magazine Panorama said that the US tapped millions of phone calls ringing in and out of Vatican, including that of cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, even before he was elected as the Pope Francis on March 13.

Reacting on the reports, the Vatican shrugged of the concerns denying being aware of any information regarding the topic.

"We are not aware of anything on this issue and in any case we have no concerns about it," reports quoted Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi as saying.

The magazine added that the US NSA had tracked over 46 million phone calls in Italy from December 10, 2012, to January 8, 2013.

Among those, "there are apparently also calls from and to the Vatican," Panorama said.

"It is feared that the great American ear continued to tap prelates` conversations up to the eve of the conclave," it said, adding that there were "suspicions that the conversations of the future pope may have been monitored".

The report goes on to say that Pope Francis "had been a person of interest" since 2005 for the US secret service even when he was cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

The tapped calls were categorised into four sections: "leadership intentions", "threats to financial systems", "foreign policy objectives" and "human rights," the report claimed.

The report from Italy is the latest in a flurry of sensational stories tumbling out of the Edward Snowden`s cupboard, who is in Russia on a political asylum and wanted in the US on charges of espionage.

Earlier, similar reports from France, Germany, Brazil, Spain and Mexico have stirred up the global outrage against American surveillance practices with many leaders seeking explanations from the US.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is known for her over indulgence in typing text messages, lodges a strong worded protest and also raised the issue at the recent EU summit at Brussles.

A German report said that her phone was being spied on since 2002 for a decade.

A team of German intelligence officials met the US spy officials in White House yesterday with a no-spy treaty top on their agenda.

Another report in France claimed that the US tapped over 70 million phone calls there.

The furore over the matter is gaining heat as the US spy chiefs testified before a Congressional hearing and defended the surveillance practices even as the US Senate intelligence committee has announced major review of the US spying operations.