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Home English Letta quizzes Kerry on US spy claims

Letta quizzes Kerry on US spy claims


(By Paul Virgo)
Rome, October 23 - Premier Enrico Letta quizzed
United States Secretary of State John Kerry about reports
Italians were among millions of people to have their phone
conversations tapped by the US National Security Agency (NSA) in
a meeting in Rome on Wednesday, government sources said.
The issue was raised at the meeting after Le Monde
newspaper reported that the NSA tapped calls of foreign
nationals, including French and Italians.
This prompted the French government to summon the US
ambassador to Paris on Tuesday and Italy's privacy watchdog and
intelligence supervisory committee to ask Letta's executive to
clarify to what extent Italian citizens were being spied upon.
The Office of the US Director of National Intelligence
(DNI) issued a statement that said the Le Monde report contained
"inaccurate and misleading information regarding U.S. foreign
intelligence activities".
But concerns remain and Letta raised them at a meeting
scheduled for talks on the Middle East.
Letta brought up the "need to verify the veracity of the
reports" on any "eventual violations of privacy", the government
sources said.
The sources added that Kerry was cooperative and that the
US had agreed to "review" the issue.
During the conversation, which lasted over an hour, Kerry
told Letta that the US wanted to "find the right balance between
protection of security and the privacy of our citizens", US
embassy sources said.
Interior Minister and Deputy Premier Angelino Alfano,
meanwhile, told journalists that Rome would not be shy about
getting to the bottom of the affair.
"We have a duty to (provide) clarity to Italian citizens -
we must obtain the whole truth and tell the whole truth, without
regard for anyone," Alfano said.
A politician for the left-wing SEL party, Claudio Fava,
said on Tuesday that a security delegation was told during a
trip to the US three weeks ago that Italian communications, like
many in France, have been monitored by Americans and that the
Italian intelligence services were aware of this.
But Marco Minniti, the undersecretary with the intelligence
brief, denied this.
"I feel I can exclude the possibility that the (Italian
intelligence) services knew," Minniti told parliament's
intelligence supervisory committee Copasir on Wednesday.
Copasir chief Giacomo Stucchi, who went on the trip too,
has also denied the Italian government knew of any NSA
monitoring of Italian communications.
"In every encounter, we had the confirmation that the
(Italian) government did not know about the Prism program. Thus
to say that our intelligence services knew, when the government
did not, is not correct," Stucchi said.
"In the NSA headquarters, they told us that they gathered
information on traffic data, but none in Italy.
"It was said that there are filters and devices to avoid
(indiscriminate tapping in cases of allied countries).
"We ask the (Italian) government to clarify if,
effectively, the information transmitted (to the Italian
delegation) is true with respect to our fellow citizens. This
doubt is more than legitimate".
When the first news reports based on documents leaked by
ex-NSA consultant Edward Snowden broke in June, Copasir called
in the director of the Italian security intelligence agency DIS,
Gianpiero Massolo, to explain what he knew about US spying on
Italy and Italians.
Massolo denied that any sensitive Italian data was being
passed to US intelligence and dismissed the notion that Italian
embassies in the US were being spied on.

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