Embarrassing for the Obama administration if true:
The National Security Agency spied on the future Pope Francis before and during the Vatican conclave at which he was chosen to succeed Benedict XVI, it was claimed on Wednesday.
The American spy agency monitored telephone calls made to and from the residence in Rome where the then Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio stayed during the conclave, the secret election at which cardinals chose him as pontiff on March 13.
The claims were made by Panorama, an Italian weekly news 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 information gleaned was then reportedly divided into four categories — “leadership intentions”, “threats to financial system”, “foreign policy objectives” and “human rights”.
At that time, Benedict XVI was Pope, suggesting that the Vatican may also have been monitored during the last few weeks of his papacy.
Of course, the NSA categorically denied the allegations:
The U.S. National Security Agency has forcefully denied reports in an Italian magazine that the Vatican has been a target of its spying activities.
“Assertions that the NSA has targeted the Vatican, published in Italy’s Panorama magazine, are not true,” an NSA spokesperson told the
Los Angeles Times.
Color me skeptical. I understand why the NSA targets world leaders (Angela Merkel, most controversially) but why Archbishop Bergoglio? He wasn’t even pontiff when the spying reportedly began, and furthermore, his name was hardly at the top of the list to succeed Pope Benedict. In any case, if the report is true, we can all rest assured that Pope Francis wasn’t the only person targeted -- that is, he wasn’t singled out. Plus, the Vatican isn’t too concerned about the allegations so perhaps we shouldn’t be, either. At the end of the day, my friends, does this seem like a man who’s engaged in nefarious and subversive activities? I didn’t think so.