Green Room

Did the US snoop on the Vatican before the conclave?

posted at 11:38 am on October 30, 2013 by

I’d caution people about taking the Italian magazine Panorama too seriously, but if this is true, then Barack Obama may have bigger problems than Angela Merkel’s sense of outrage:

US secret services allegedly eavesdropped on cardinals before the conclave in March to elect a new pope, Italian weekly magazine Panorama claimed Wednesday.

“The National Security Agency wiretapped the pope,” the magazine said, accusing the United States of listening in to telephone calls to and from the Vatican, including the accommodation housing cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio before he was elected Pope Francis.

The allegations follow a report on surveillance website Cryptome which said the United States intercepted 46 million telephone calls in Italy in December 2012 and early January 2013.

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

Fr. Federico Lombardi dismissed the report this morning, telling the media that the Vatican isn’t “worried about it.”  That’s probably due to the rather fantastical and apparently unverified claim, but it’s also because they’re probably mystified as to why the US would be interested in their discussions.  My skepticism level is … high.

If it is true (and that is a mighty big if), that would be a question Americans should ask.  Perhaps the intel community has too many resources available to it for its own good if they’re spending them listening to the cardinals rather than looking for terrorists and national-security threats.

Update: We’ve found the mole!


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They probably snooped during the conclave.

gh on October 30, 2013 at 11:43 AM

I don’t see anything wrong here. Obama just wanted to be the first to know when we have a pro-gay marriage, pro-abortion pope.

blammm on October 30, 2013 at 11:49 AM

I don’t think it’s a stretch to think they listened in to see who was in the lead, so to speak, for being named next Pope…why in the world is this so unbelievable with the tyrants we have in power now?!

ellifint on October 30, 2013 at 11:52 AM

Well, if it is true, then it is impressive that U.S. intelligence was able to correctly predict the next pope considering that Bergoglio wasn’t on many lists this time around. Perhaps they can put these skills to use on something that actually affects U.S. security.

It seems like this is pure speculation on the part of the Italian magazine based on the fact that the U.S. was tapping other phones and the fact that there are some Wikileaks cables from the 2005 Conclave that mention Bergoglio.

Illinidiva on October 30, 2013 at 11:56 AM

Update: We’ve found the mole!


mankai on October 30, 2013 at 1:01 PM

NSA surveillance programs leaked

Vatican says it has no knowledge of US eavesdropping, after Italian magazine says NSA spied on phone calls – @Reuters

10 mins ago from by editor

VATICAN CITY | Wed Oct 30, 2013 12:46pm EDT

canopfor on October 30, 2013 at 1:02 PM

I hope they did.

thebrokenrattle on October 30, 2013 at 1:05 PM

The ‘mole’ is lucky he did this with Pope Francis, because according to most of the comments on the story (from several sites I’ve seen), if he’d done it with that tyrant Benedict, the then Pope would have probably ripped the child’s little heart out and eaten it on stage. Grr…

Ah, well, they really do my Beloved Benedict a favor, though they surely don’t intend to. Blessed are you when they revile you…
/irritation at fawners of Pope Francis at the expense of Benedict.

As to the spying on the conclave…I’m with Fr. Lombardi.

pannw on October 30, 2013 at 1:10 PM

If it is true (and that is a mighty big if), that would be a question Americans should ask. Perhaps the intel community has too many resources available to it for its own good if they’re spending them listening to the cardinals rather than looking for terrorists and national-security threats.

That’s the problem in a nutshell, Ed. Do I think this was specifically ordered by the Administration? No. But you have this huge all-powerful apparatus that is staffed by thousands of Mannings and Snowdens who have no oversight. They do it because they can.

Mr. Bingley on October 30, 2013 at 1:22 PM

Okay, I can see spying on Merkel and world leaders because what they do actually affects us. But why does the US government care who becomes Pope? He’s relevant to millions of Catholics, many of whom in the US don’t listen to the Vatican too much, and who vote for both parties. The Vatican is not relevant to international affairs very much these days.

Waggoner on October 30, 2013 at 2:23 PM

Waggoner on October 30, 2013 at 2:23 PM

Gorbachev would probably like to argue with you about your statement about the Vatican’s relevance in foreign affairs. The Vatican doesn’t have an army, but the pope can wield great moral authority if he chooses (the so-called “soft power”). Forbes actually ranked Pope Francis as the fourth most powerful leader in the world, in front of Angela Merkel (#5). The sexual abuse scandal has sapped away some of the Church’s moral credibility, but Pope Francis has restored enough that he can probably get more involved in world affairs. In fact, Francis’ new #2 guy, Pietro Parolin, is an experienced diplomat, so it seems that Francis is well aware of the power he wields and intends to use it.

Illinidiva on October 30, 2013 at 2:48 PM

It would be a shorter list to make if they just identified anyone who they did NOT snoop on.

dentarthurdent on October 30, 2013 at 2:54 PM

Ed, you’re skeptical about the NSA spying on the cardinals?
You must be one of those low-information, not-paying-attention types. How did you miss DHS’ list of potential terrorists, which includes evangelical Christians and Roman Catholics?

Skptk on November 4, 2013 at 12:13 PM

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