NSA To Deny Bugging Diana's Phone

Britain's Princess of Wales arrives at the Hilton Hotel for the Help the Aged Golden Awards, 06 November. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read JOHNNY EGGITT/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images/Johnny Eggitt

The National Security Agency is working on a statement that will deny eavesdropping on Princess Diana, a U.S. intelligence official tells CBS News national security correspondent David Martin.

An official British report into the crash that killed Princess Diana concluded that a U.S. intelligence agency was bugging Diana's phone without the approval of its British counterpart on the night of her death, according to British newspaper reports.

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was filed with the NSA in 1998, asking for any files the agency had on her, the official tells Martin. The response acknowledged that the NSA had files on her. However, the NSA will say it had files on her not because she was being monitored, but because her name was mentioned by other people in conversations that were being monitored.

British newspaper reports say 39 classified transcripts held by an unspecified U.S. agency contain no new information about how the princess died.

CBS News correspondent Sheila MacVicar says it's long been rumored that Princess Diana's work as an anti-land mine campaigner brought her to the attention of the CIA, and it's been widely reported that British authorities were monitoring her closely.

Crispin Black, a former U.K. government intelligence analyst, told CBS News there are two possible motives for the U.S. government to have interest in monitoring Diana.

Photos: Remembering Diana
Why Would The U.S. Bug A Princess?
The first is a simple request from the British government to keep tabs on a former member of the royal family who was stripped of her official security detail, but who they still felt obligated to keep safe.

"Most likely we asked the Americans, 'Look, while she is traveling in America or while she is traveling in parts of the world where our electronic reach doesn't get to, could you keep an eye on her?' And if that is the case, that's interesting but not sinister," Black said.

On the other hand, he pointed out that the contacts in the world of international arms dealing, which Diana may have made in her campaign against land mines, or her research into a formerly legal weapon used by the Pentagon, could have been impetus for surveillance by U.S. agencies — with or without British consent.

Black said if the United States was, in fact, monitoring Diana's conversations without consent from a sister agency in Britain, it "will cause a bit of a spat, not a huge one, but perhaps discussions behind closed doors in Washington."

He added that the British government's response will be a bit more dramatic if it's discovered the U.S. was spying on Diana on U.K. soil.

It isn't know which U.S. agency carried out the alleged phone tapping in France, but Black said that across the American intelligence apparatus, "more than 1,000 pages" are held on the late princess.

But now, the reports of monitoring may become a diplomatic embarrassment, MacVicar reports. With both the British and the French likely to ask what the U.S. was doing and why, for conspiracists, it's given them one more reason to believe that Diana's death was not an accident.

  • Alfonso Serrano

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