Just how powerful is the National Security Agency? That seemed to be the underlying question in a comment Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) made Thursday as he pondered whether the NSA was tapping President Barack Obama’s phone in light of revelations that the agency has spied on numerous world leaders and possibly even the Pope.
Paul posed the question during an interview with Bloomberg.
“My question is, are they tapping the president’s phone, also?” Paul asked. “He’s got a cellphone … I mean, think about it.”
While the Senator admitted that his comment was of a facetious nature, he noted that the NSA surveillance guidelines are “so expansive and without limit and nonspecific that they apply to all cellphones.”
“So conceivably, the NSA could be spying on the president’s phone,” Paul surmised.
Paul introduced a Senate resolution Thursday requesting the Obama Administration to address a recent report in the Italian Panorama magazine which indicated that the NSA monitored 46 million Italian phone calls between December 2012 and January 2013. Some of the calls were reportedly made to and from the residence where papal candidates were staying prior to the conclave.
Paul’s resolution is aimed at “expressing the sense of the United States Senate that President Obama should issue a statement regarding spying on His Holiness, Pope Francis.”
The NSA denies eavesdropping on the, saying in a statement to the Los Angeles Times, “The National Security Agency does not target the Vatican,” and, “assertions that NSA has targeted the Vatican, published in Italy’s Panorama magazine, are not true.”
Paul, however, said in rebuttal to the denial, “The NSA also says collecting bulk data on Americans is not spying. So you have to parse their words.”