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Italy calls in US envoy over NSA tapping of Berlusconi’s phone calls

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
John R. Phillips, the US ambassador to Italy

Italy has summoned the US ambassador to Rome in the wake of reports that the US National Security Agency (NSA) tapped the telephones of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his aides.

In a brief statement published on Tuesday, Italy’s Foreign Ministry said John R. Phillips was called in "for clarification on the media reports that allege … Berlusconi and some of his close associates were subjected to wiretapping in 2011.”

The move came after the Italian newspaper La Repubblica and the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported the scale of the NSA espionage activities on world leaders, citing new classified documents by the online whistleblower WikiLeaks.

Berlusconi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon were among those spied on.

WikiLeaks documents released details of a 2011 meeting between Berluscon, Merkel and then French President Nicolas Sarkozy, during which the former Italian prime minister came under pressure to slash public debt and boost the country’s banking sector.

The meeting was tense and unfriendly, according to a Berlusconi advisor, reportedly the probable target through whom the NSA obtained information.

Furthermore, another WikiLeaks document indicated that the NSA listened in on talks between Berlusconi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

During the conversations, the Israeli premier called on Berlusconi to help improve Washington-Tel Aviv ties which were stained due to the regime’s plans for illegal settlements in East al-Quds (Jerusalem).

The revelations by the WikiLeaks add to previous information released in 2013 by American intelligence contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, who showed how the NSA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had been eavesdropping on millions of American and European phone records and the Internet data.

Since WikiLeaks was founded in 2006 by Julian Assange, some 500,000 secret military files on US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq along with 250,000 diplomatic cables have been released.

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