The National Security Agency, responsible for electronic eavesdropping for the US, has been forced to deny reports that it spied on the Vatican, and released a statement saying an Italian media report that it had done so was "not true."
In a statement, the NSA said:
"TheNational Security Agency does not target the Vatican. Assertions that NSA hastargeted the Vatican, published in Italy's Panorama magazine, are not true."
The Holy See said it had no knowledge of any such activity.
The director of the National Security Agency (NSA) has denied claims that the US collected phone records from European citizens.
General Keith Alexander told a House of Representatives intelligence committee that the reports were "false" and swept up as part of a Nato program to protect the alliance's member states and military operations.
He disputed that the programme directly targeted European citizens, but did not offer specifics.
The testimony follows weeks of allegations that the US spied on foreign leaders, diplomats and citizens of its closest allies.
US President Barack Obama said he is the "final user" of all intelligence gathered by the National Security Agency (NSA), but declined to comment on allegations that he knew the agency had spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
President Obama said the White House gives the NSA "policy direction", but that "their capacities continue to develop and expand."
"The national security operations generally have one purpose and that is to make sure that the American people are safe," he said.
The President made the comments during an interview with Fusion, a cable network jointly owned by ABC and Univision.
Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the US Senate Intelligence Committee, said she is "totally opposed" to the NSA collecting intelligence on its allies and said that oversight of such surveillance needs to be strengthened,
Her comments follow reports that the US has spied on German chancellor Angela Merkel for years and monitored millions of Spanish phone calls.
Ms Feinstein said: "Unless the United States is engaged in hostilities against a country or there is an emergency need for this type of surveillance, I do not believe the United States should be collecting phone calls or emails of friendly presidents and prime ministers."