The US National Security Agency (NSA) spied on cardinals ahead of a Vatican conclave in March to elect a new pope, a report says.
Italy’s weekly magazine Panorama reported on Wednesday that the US spy agency would listen in to phone calls to and from the Vatican. The NSA also wiretapped the pope, the report added.
The NSA intercepted calls included those of the Vatican accommodation housing cardinal, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, before he was elected Pope Francis.
“There are apparently also calls from and to the Vatican,” the Italian magazine said, adding, “It is feared that the great American ear continued to tap prelates’ conversations up to the eve of the conclave.”
The Panorama report comes after surveillance website Cryptome recently stated that the United States secret services intercepted more than 45 million phone calls in Italy in December 2012 and January 2013.
The report also states that cardinal Bergoglio of Argentina had been a person of interest to the US secret services “since 2005, according to Wikileaks.”
The magazine claimed that the eavesdropped conversations fell into four categories, “leadership intentions”, “threats to financial systems”, “foreign policy objectives” and “human rights.”
The allegations follow recent revelations indicating that the US spied on European Union citizens, governments and politicians, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Concerns over US spying activities rose after Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, leaked two top secret US government spying programs, under which the NSA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are eavesdropping on millions of American and European phone records and the Internet data from major Internet companies such as Facebook, Yahoo, Google, Apple, and Microsoft.