US spies for genuine security reasons: Official

Washington, Feb 25 (IANS/AKI) The US does not eavesdrop on citizens of foreign countries “unless there is a specific and validated national security purpose”, a government official responded to reports alleging Washington had spied on Italy’s former premier Silvio Berlusconi from 2008 to 2011.

“As we have said previously, we do not conduct any foreign intelligence surveillance activities unless there is a specific and validated national security purpose,” US State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said.

“Indeed… we will not monitor the communications of heads of state and government of our close friends,” Toner added.

His comments came after Italy daily La Republica and weekly L’Espresso publicised leaked documents suggesting the US National Security Agency intercepted sensitive Italian diplomatic cables, including one about a 2011 meeting between Berlusconi, the then French president Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The diplomatic cable reveals a “critical private meeting” between the three regarding the Italian financial system and debt crisis during which Berlusconi “was told the Italian banking system was ready to ‘pop like a cork’,” WikiLeaks said.

In a statement, WikiLeaks said the NSA also stole sensitive Italian diplomatic cables detailing how Berlusconi promised in 2010 to help the Jewish State mend ties with the US President Barack Obama amid a diplomatic crisis triggered by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to build 1,600 houses in East Jerusalem.

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