NSA Spies on Pope
by Stephen Lendman
NSA spies on world leaders, so why not? Even the Holy See isn’t spy proof. It’s not off limits.
Pope Francis is monitored. Most likely Benedict XVI. Perhaps John Paul II through at least some of his papacy. NSA spies globally. No one’s safe from its intrusive eye.
On October 30, the Italian publication Panorama headlined “Esclusiva Panorama: Datagate, anche il Papa Ã¨ stato intercettato (Exclusive Panorama: Datagate, even the Pope was intercepted).
Reuters covered the story. On October 30, it headlined “Italian magazine says US spies listened to pope, Vatican says unaware.”
Internal Vatican communications are monitored. So are phone calls from the Domus Sanctae Marthae. It’s Pope Francis’ current home. It’s where cardinals reside during papal conclaves.
NSA’s interest was monitoring “leadership intentions,” financial system threats, “foreign policy objectives,” and “human rights.” Vatican Bank president Ernst von Freyberg’s calls were intercepted.
Francis was monitored when he was Buenos Aires archbishop. Doing so suggests all high-ranking prelates are watched globally.
US embassies virtually everywhere are infested with spies. They operate covertly as diplomatic staff. Snowden-released documents revealed Rome has an elite spying unit. So do other major European capitals.
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.”
Whether or not Vatican officials knew is one thing. For sure, no one wants to be spied on.
NSA head Keith Alexander repeatedly lies. Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper is an admitted perjurer. Take everything they both say with a grain of salt.
On October 30, NSA spokesperson Vanee Vines likely lied saying:
“The National Security Agency does not target the Vatican. Assertions that NSA has (done so), published by Italy’s Panorama magazine, are not true.”
Allegations followed the Cryptome digital library web site reporting NSA collecting 124.8 billion phone calls monthly. It said 46 million were intercepted in Italy from December 2012 through early January 2013 alone.
Panorama said the “National Security Agency wiretapped the popeâ€¦(T)he great American ear” never sleeps. Calls to and from the Vatican are monitored. Big Brother intercepts prelate conversations routinely.
For sure following Pope Benedict’s February 28 resignation through the papal conclave convened to elect his successor. Conversations of future Pope Francis were likely monitored.
The former Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio was a person of interest since at least 2005. He was considered a potential future papal candidate.
Sistine chapel discussions relating to electing new popes are especially kept secret. A special system scrambles cell phone calls. Anyone caught breaking the sacred trust faces excommunication.
NSA reportedly intercepted communications relating to the 2012 Vatileaks scandal. It exposed high-level corruption. Documents were leaked to Italian journalists.
Paolo Gabriele became a person of interest. He was Benedict XVI’s personal secretary. He leaked his confidential letters and memos.
They revealed papal finances, bribes, other corruption, and abuse of power. Gabriele was hung out to dry. He was arrested, tried and convicted.
He got 18 months in prison. He was ordered to pay legal expenses. On December 22, 2012, Benedict pardoned him.
Michael Parenti’s “God and His Demons” makes compelling reading. He confronted the religious right, saying:
“The god of the Holy Bible – so much adored in the United States and elsewhere – is ferociously vindictive, neurotically jealous, intolerant, vainglorious, punitive, wrathful, sexist, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, sadistic and homicidal.”
“As they say, it’s all in the Bible. Beware of those who act in the name of such a god.”
“Were we to encounter these vicious traits in an ordinary man, we would judge him to be in need of lifelong incarceration at a maximum-security facility.”
“At the very least, we would not prattle on about how he works his wonders in mysterious ways. In fact, ‘biblical Jesus qualifies quite well as founder and forerunner of an intolerant Christianity.”
“That ‘old-time religion’ is still very much with us and having a considerable impact on US political life.”
Parenti was unforgiving. He challenged iconic religious figures. He exposed their dark sides. He included Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, and Tibetan Buddhism.
John Paul II “remained up to his ears in counter-revolutionary politics in Latin America and elsewhere,” he said.
He “directed no critical attacks against right-wing dictatorships.” He called them “bulwarks against communist revolution.”
He intervened on behalf of Chilean despot Augusto Pinochet. At the time, he was under house arrest in London.
Parenti’s book was written before Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis. He was very much involved in Argentina’s dirty war.
Prelates denouncing human rights abuses anywhere is considered taboo. Dirty war survivors accused Bergoglio of complicity with what demanded condemnation.
Vatican policy isn’t pretty. Francis wasn’t elected to change things. Washington wants policy everywhere kept in lockstep with US policy.
NSA spying relates to discovering potential outliers. US policy makers can then act before harm is done.
Snowden documents revealed spying on millions of Italian citizens. It was thought perhaps popes and Vatican officials were off-limits. It bears repeating. NSA spies on world leaders.
Vatican city is a sovereign city-state. Popes have head of state status. They have diplomatic immunity like presidents and prime ministers.
So do Vatican officials, papal nuncios, cardinals and other high-ranking Holy See Diplomatic Service prelates. They’re more than religious figures.
They’re politically involved. They’re well connected. What they say and think matters. They influence great numbers of parishioners.
Separately, Snowden documents revealed NSA secretly intercepted Google and Yahoo communication links connecting their global data centers.
Doing so lets the agency keep track of hundreds of millions of user accounts. NSA’s main tool is called MUSCULAR. It operates jointly with Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).
From undisclosed interception points, both agencies copy fiber-optic cable flows. Doing so complements NSA’s PRISM.
It has front-door access to Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, YouTube, and other major online companies.
NSA can search histories, emails, file transfers and live chats. They’re gotten directly from US provider servers. Doing so facilitates mass surveillance. NSA now has front and back-door access. It takes full advantage.
An NSA statement lied, saying:
it “focus(es) on discovering and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence targets only.”
It “applies Attorney General-approved processes to protect the privacy of U.S. persons – minimizing the likelihood of their information in our targeting, collection, processing, exploitation, retention, and dissemination.”
NSA’s mandate is “get it all.” Everyone and everything are fair game. Congressional oversight is virtually nonexistent. Obama’s in lockstep with NSA policy.
On December 4, 1981, Executive Order 12333, explained NSA/Central Security Service (CSS) responsibilities and purposes.
It’s to provide “(t)imely and accurate information about the activities, capabilities, plans, and intentions of foreign powers, organizations, and persons and their agents, is essential to the national security of the United States.”
“All reasonable and lawful means must be used to ensure that the United States will receive the best intelligence available.” Head of operations is charged with:
- “Collect(ing, including through clandestine means), process, analyze, produce, and disseminate signals intelligence information and data for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes to support national and departmental missions;
- Acting(ing) as the National Manager for National Security Systems as established in law and policy, and in this capacity be responsible to the Secretary of Defense and to the Director, National Intelligence; (and)
- Prescrib(ing) security regulations covering operating practices, including the transmission, handling, and distribution of signals intelligence and communications security material within and among the elements under control of the Director of the National Security Agency, and exercise the necessary supervisory control to ensure compliance with the regulations.”
On July 31, 2008, EO 12333 was amended to:
- “Align (it) with the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004;
- Implement additional recommendations of the 9/11 and WMD Commissions; (and)
- Further integrate the Intelligence Community and clarify and strengthen the role of DNI as the head of the Community; Maintain or strengthen privacy and civil liberties protections.”
By law, NSA’s mission is limited to monitoring, collecting and analyzing foreign communications. Its dual missions include:
- the Signals Intelligence Directorate (SID). It relates to foreign intelligence gathering, and
- the Information Assurance Directorate (IAD). It protects US information systems.
Rule of law principles are systematically spurned. It’s more true now than ever. It’s far worse than most people imagine.
Anything goes reflects policy. NSA is a power unto itself. It does whatever it wants covertly. It does it globally. Obama continues what his predecessors began.
NSA’s been around for decades. On June 1, 1952, Harry Truman authorized it. On November 4, 1952, it was established. Its earlier incarnation was a shadow of today’s capabilities. Virtually nothing escapes its intrusive eye.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.
It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.