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NSA Denies Spying On Princess Diana

America's super secret eavesdropping agency said Tuesday it had never targeted Princess Diana's telephone conversations for monitoring.

The statement by the National Security Agency comes amid media reports in London about secret recordings of Diana's telephone communications that apparently surfaced during the British investigation into her 1997 death in a Paris car crash.

CBS News national security correspondent David Martin first reported Monday that the NSA was crafting an official denial of the phone tapping reports.

Diana, 36, her friend Dodi Fayed, 42, and the driver of their car died in the Aug. 31, 1997 crash. An investigation later concluded that the driver, Henri Paul, had been drinking and was driving at a high speed.

An official British report into the crash, to be published Thursday, is expected to find her death was an accident, the London Observer reported over the weekend.

The newspaper also reported that U.S. authorities had bugged Diana's phone without the approval of their British counterparts on the night of her death. It said U.S. officials assured British officials the secretly recorded conversations shed no new light on her death.

In a statement Tuesday, the National Security Agency said it had 39 classified documents containing references to Diana but had never targeted her for monitoring. Those documents were previously released in response to a Freedom of Information Request in 1998, the agency noted.

"As NSA has made clear in the past, the 39 NSA-originated and NSA-controlled documents referenced in a response to a Freedom of Information Act request in 1998 only contained references to the princess and she was never the communicant," said agency spokesman Don Weber. "NSA did not target Princess Diana's communications. Furthermore, NSA has cooperated with the investigations into this tragic incident to the full extent of the law."


Photos: Remembering Diana
Why Would The U.S. Bug A Princess?
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.

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.

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, CBS News correspondent Sheila MacVicar reports, with both the British and the French likely to ask what the U.S. was doing and why.

For conspiracy theorists, it's given them one more reason to believe that Diana's death was not an accident.

The National Security Agency runs one of the world's largest international intelligence gathering centers in northern England, MacVicar reports, and its function is to rake in millions of electronic transmissions from cell phones, e-mails and all manner of satellite communications ever day from across the globe.

MacVicar added that the last call Diana was known to have made was from the private dining room of a London restaurant.

It seems just one more incredible story about the death of the princess. In nine years since she died with her boyfriend, conspiracy theorists have had a field day. The report, by Lord Stevens, a former police commissioner, is designed to get at the truth.

The official French investigation found that Diana and Fayed died after their driver, Henri Paul, drunk at the wheel, lost control of their car.

Martyn Gregory, author of "Diana: The Last Days," has written extensively about the deaths.

"One thing about the Internet is that it's an evidence-free environment and what Lord Stevens has done, I believe, is to be led by the evidence and that has informed his decisions," Gregory tells MacVicar.

"It was Henry Paul's blood — yes, he was drunk," says Gregory. "I think that Lord Stevens will find that he was going far too fast and that he wasn't qualified to drive the car. So if you put those three elements together, that's the key reason for the crash."

Meanwhile, Diana's sons, Princes William and Harry, were 15 and 13 when she died. They announced Tuesday that they were organizing a memorial service and a separate, star-studded pop concert in 2007 to honor their mother on her birthday, July 1.

"The evening is all about our mother—the main purpose is to celebrate and to have fun and to remember her in a fun way," Prince William said. "We've got some brilliant people coming, and we really want to thank everyone who is taking part."

MacVicar reports that the English National Ballet will perform in honor of a princess who loved to dance, as will Diana's good friend Sir Elton John.

"This is going to be their bid to try to focus attention away from the cold fact or inquires that actually can be quite hurtful for people who have lost their loved one, their parent," royal correspondent Robert Johnson said.

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