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6 Dec, 2013 17:39

NSA spied on Italian leaders ‘from US diplomatic missions in Rome, Milan’

NSA spied on Italian leaders ‘from US diplomatic missions in Rome, Milan’

Italian communications have been targeted through the US’s Special Collection Service sites in Rome and Milan, according to Italy’s l’Espresso. The same service allegedly tapped into German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone.

The new leak, revealed by Glenn Greenwald with l’Espresso, alleges that the National Security Agency subjected Italy’s leadership to surveillance, although not specifying which people within the country’s “leadership” were monitored, via US diplomatic missions in Rome and Milan. The spying went on from 1988 to at least 2010.

The NSA conducted snooping in Italy via its Special Collection Service, which came under scrutiny after the snooping scandal involving Chancellor Angela Merkel. The report on Friday reveals the service kept whole two sites running in Italy: one in Milan, the country’s main economic hub, and one in Rome (staffed with agents). Of all European nations, only Italy and Germany had two SCS sites working simultaneously, according to the leak.

“The NSA partners with the CIA in the SCS construct in which NSA employees under diplomatic covert conduct SIGINT collection,” reads the telling line in the newly published file. SIGNIT is the NSA’s Signal Intelligence service, which intercepts communications between people.

SCS is one of the most sensitive units in US intelligence. It has teams working in US embassies around the world, including in Berlin, Athens, Mexico City, New Delhi and Kiev, according to a recent Cryptome leak. In NSA revelations on Germany it was alleged that the US embassy in Berlin provided its roof for the service’s intercepting antennae.

According to the l’Espresso documents, the SCS “in 1988 had 88 sites, our peak.” Despite the number of sites being reduced following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the official end of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, by 2010 the SCS had up to 80 sites, two of which were the Rome and Milan sites in Italy. The document states that the SCS has always “opened or closed sites based on productivity.”

The new report provided appears to directly contradict official statements which have been dismissive of earlier spying allegations. In November, Italian PM Enrico Letta stated that “we are not aware that the security of the Italian government and embassies has been compromised.”

“There is no evidence that the United States is spying on Italian citizens,”
Italy’s Parliamentary Committee for the Intelligence and Security Services and for State Secret Control said in a statement in October.

The committee said at the time that bilateral agreements on cooperation in security precluded the possibility that either side would spy on each other.

But in October, Greenwald reported that the NSA’s many spying operations included those conducted “on European governments and including the Italian government.”

A few days later, it was exposed how 46 million Italian phone calls were monitored by the NSA, according to digital library host Cryptome – an expose which shortly followed the publication of the documents in L’Espresso which outlined how US intelligence services had monitored Italian telecoms networks, targeting both the government and companies in addition to suspected terrorists.