Rome Italian authorities, fearing a possible terrorist attack on the Winter Olympics in Turin, are conducting surveillance on "numerous" people through telephone wiretaps and other intelligence operations, an Italian security official said Tuesday.
Luigi Rinella, the Italian police's liaison with the U.S. government, said those under surveillance included suspected Islamic militants, but he stressed that anti-globalization protesters and anarchists also could make trouble during the Feb. 10-26 Games.
"Clearly at this moment, the sensibility is to groups that we call Islamic terrorist that are connected to al-Qaida," he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Washington.
Rinella said the surveillance involved telephone wiretaps and other forms of interceptions. But he noted that such activities also were used in drug-trafficking intelligence-gathering operations, and not just anti-terrorism operations.
He denied a statement attributed to him in a report by USA Today that at least 700 people were being monitored.
"I confirm that we monitor - that each nation investigates on numerous targets of interest - numerous," he said. "What I can't confirm is the number because we don't have numbers to give."
USA Today National Editor David Lindsey said the paper stood by its report of 700 monitored. He said his reporter and Rinella had two or three conversations, "and that's the number he (Rinella) was comfortable with."
Earlier this month, Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu told parliament the Turin Olympics could be a target for terrorists, but he stressed there were no "clear signals" of any imminent attacks being planned.
Pisanu cited messages posted on Web sites with links to al-Qaida that have threatened attacks against Italy because it has troops in Iraq.
He said police had devised a broad security plan for the Games, providing for 9,000 police officers, a central control room connected to 21 onsite operational centers, and a central national information room connected to police and intelligence services of numerous countries.