File:Coat of arms of the Vatican City.svg

Were cardinals in Rome conspiring to launch a terrorist attack on the United States? Probably not. Nonetheless a new report alleges that the NSA was spying on the future Pope Francis before and during the papal conclave. Who becomes pope is now, apparently, a matter of US national security.

The National Security Agency spied on the future Pope Francis before and during the Vatican conclave at which he was chosen to succeed Benedict XVI, it was claimed on Wednesday.The American spy agency monitored telephone calls made to and from the residence in Rome where the then Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio stayed during the conclave, the secret election at which cardinals chose him as pontiff on March 13.

There probably won’t be a penalty for hacking Google and Yahoo, but what will General Alexander tell Saint Peter about his wicked greed for information on the pope? Mea culpa?

The NSA surveillance on the Vatican reportedly started even before the conclave for a new pope began. The previous pope, Benedict XVI, was also a target for surveillance.

At that time, Benedict XVI was Pope, suggesting that the Vatican may also have been monitored during the last few weeks of his papacy… The monitoring of communications, including emails, continued after Benedict’s resignation in February and encompassed the election of Pope Francis.

So can we finally dispense with the lie that everything the NSA does is a matter of national security? Much of what US intelligence agencies do is pure politics, corporate espionage, or general curiosity. The NSA does not need to spy on the pope to protect “the homeland.”

The National Security State was created after World War II to fight international communism, a threat that ended over 20 years ago. It was argued that suspending some rights in favor of security during the Cold War was justifiable given the threat of nuclear war, but that rationale is totally devoid of any credibility today. The intelligence agencies and the rest of the national security apparatus have been given so much power they now effectively run American foreign policy regardless of what elected representatives do or say.

It is time to revisit even having some of these agencies.