Italy demands to know if NSA massively tapped its citizens

(ANSA) - Rome, October 23 - Italian Interior Minister and Deputy Premier Angelino Alfano on Wednesday told journalists that Italian citizens need to know the truth about the extent of US spying activities conducted on them.

"We have a duty of (providing) clarity to Italian citizens - we must obtain the whole truth and tell the whole truth," without regard for anyone, Alfano said.

Alfano spoke after Italy's privacy watchdog and intelligence supervisory committee on Tuesday asked the Italian executive to clarify to what extent Italian citizens were being spied upon by the US.

After France's Le Monde newspaper reported that the US intelligence agency NSA tapped millions of French phone conversations, the Italian privacy authority - Guarantor for the Protection of Personal Data - and the Italian parliament intelligence supervisory committee Copasir asked cabinet to clarify whether and to what degree the NSA is tapping Italian communications.

Italian Intelligence Undersecretary Marco Minniti is expected on Wednesday to testify to the parliament security committee on the matter.

A security committee 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 Italian intelligence is aware of this, a high-ranking Left Freedom Ecology (SEL) politician, Claudio Fava, said on Tuesday.

The president of Copasir, Giacomo Stucchi, who participated in the trip, denied the Italian government knew of NSA's Prism program or its reach into 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 NSA headquarters, they told us that they gathered information on traffic data, but none in Italy. In other words the governments of Prodi, Berlusconi and, for a few months, Letta, and thus not even (Italian) intelligence services were made aware of what they were doing," explained Stucchi.

"It was said that there are filters and devices to avoid (indiscriminate tapping)," in cases of allied countries, continued Stucchi.

"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," Stucchi concluded.

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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