Italian telephone and computer communications have been under surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA), Italy’s parliamentary intelligence committee has confirmed.
A delegation of Italian lawmakers from the parliament’s COPASIR intelligence service monitoring committee, which went to Washington on an official visit to inquire about US overseas surveillance programs, found that millions of Italians have been among those spied on by the NSA, Italian media reported Tuesday.
According to the report, after meetings with US intelligence agency directors and congressional committee chairs, the Italian legislators confirmed that large-scale spying on Italians is “a fact of life.”
Moreover, the report added that the surveillance activities have extended to “a monitoring network that started years ago and is still active,” of which the Italian government and spy agencies might have been well aware of.
Leading members of COPASIR, the report added, are now seeking clarification about the massive spying operation from the government in Rome, which has reportedly justified the American surveillance moves in the country as an anti-terrorism bid.
According to the Italian press reports, however, committee member Claudio Fava, from Left Ecology Freedom (SEL) party, was “openly perplexed” as he reacted to the government’s justification of the US spying efforts in Italy.
“It’s a data trawling system based on various sensors. US intelligence experts explained that their main concern was to comply with American data protection laws and intervene to safeguard national security. Whether this conflicts with other countries’ laws is of no concern to them but it should be to us,” Fava was quoted as saying.
The Italian MPs are due to grill the Junior Minister for Intelligence Services Marco Minniti on the issue during a Wednesday visit to COPASIR offices in Palazzo San Macuto.
Documents obtained by various international media outlets from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden have revealed that the Italian embassy in Washington was among the foreign diplomatic missions targeted by US spying operations.
Local media, meanwhile, report that just before the NSA scandal emerged, collaboration between Italian and American intelligence services was “at its peak,” and included the sharing of communications through the SIGINT interception system.
Such cooperation, the press reports added, appeared to have been justified by the ongoing allied wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The development comes as Mexican President Peno Nieto ordered a major probe into reports that the US spying agency has intercepted his and former President Felipe Calderon’s emails.
The latest NSA scandal further coincides with reports that the huge spy agency also monitors millions of phone calls in France, prompting strong reactions by the country’s top authorities.
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