Jewish Journal


October 30, 2013

Was NSA spying on the Vatican for info on papal election?


Since the Edward Snowden surveillance document dump began in June, every few weeks seems to bring some horrifying new detail about the scope of the National Security Agency's surveillance programs.

Privacy and constitutional scholars -- not to mention most Americans -- have been appalled by the breadth of the NSA data collections and surveillance. I've been particularly stunned, based on the potential diplomatic consequences, by the NSA's efforts to snoop on foreign leaders. (Here and here and here and here.) Which brings us to today's news.

No, not this "Google Cloud Exploitation" doodle (complete with a smiley face). I'm talking about the report from Panorama magazine, referenced here by the Los Angeles Times:

Without citing sources, Panorama magazine said the NSA intercepted calls in and out of the Rome residence where cardinals stayed before the papal conclave. Among them was Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who was on the verge of being elected pope.

“There is the suspicion that the conversations of the future pope could have been monitored,” the magazine said.

Responding to 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."

It's significant that this story does not come from the leaked Snowden documents. There is no corroboration. And, of course, an NSA spokeswoman vigorously denied the claim.

But NSA officials -- starting at the top -- have shown a really propensity for being loose with the truth. Even under oath before Congress. More importantly, does it really matter at this point what the NSA did and didn't do? Many if not most people seem ready to believe the worst -- and I don't think anyone is giving it the benefit of the doubt.

Except maybe Pope Francis the Liberal.

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