Cell Phone Tapping Claims Denied
By Jones Bahamas:
The article titled, “Data Pirates of the Caribbean: The NSA is recording every call in The Bahamas,” appears on the online site, The Intercept.
In the article, it is alleged that these calls are being secretly intercepted, recorded and archived by the National Security Agency (NSA) as a part of a top-secret system which is codenamed “SOMALGET.”
The report which cites documents provided by US contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, further alleges that the programme was implemented without the consent or knowledge of the Bahamian government.
“Instead, the agency appears to have used access legally obtained in cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to open a backdoor to the country’s cellular telephone network, enabling it to covertly record and store the “full-take audio” of every mobile call made to, from and within The Bahamas – and to replay those calls for up to a month,” the report claimed.
According to the publication, SOMALGET, is a part of a broader NSA programme called MYSTIC, which in addition to monitoring telecommunications systems in this country, the report alleges, may also be secretly monitoring the systems of other countries such as Mexico, the Philippines and Kenya.
In fact, the report claims that MYSTIC is being used to collect data on cellular phones from a combined population of as many as 250 million people across a number of countries and it seeks to expand its access.
The report noted, “By targeting The Bahamas’ entire mobile network, the NSA is intentionally collecting and retaining intelligence on millions of people who have not been accused of any crime or terrorist activity.”
Further the report states that, “SOMALGET has been deployed in The Bahamas to locate “international narcotics traffickers and special-interest alien smugglers” – traditional law-enforcement concerns, but a far cry from derailing terror plots or intercepting weapons of mass destruction.”
But the publication also references a 2013 crime and safety report published by the U.S State Department which concludes that Americans face little to no threat of Bahamian terrorism, “war or civil unrest.”
According to the publication, THE NSA has been using MYSTIC to gather cell phone metadata in five countries since 2013 and it claims it was intercepting voice data in two of those countries.
“Documents show that the NSA has been generating intelligence reports from MYSTIC surveillance in The Bahamas, Mexico, Kenya, the Philippines, and one other country, which the publication did not name claiming this was in response “to specific, credible concerns that doing so could lead to increased violence.”
“The more expansive full-take recording capability,” it alleges, “has been deployed in both The Bahamas and the unnamed country.”
While the report noted that the NSA refused to comment on the programme, the agency did deny claims that its foreign intelligence collection was “arbitrary and unconstrained,” adding that it adheres to procedures that “protect the privacy of U.S. persons whose communications are incidentally collected.”
The Bahama Journal reached out to local national security officials for comment on this report but those calls went unanswered up to press time.
May 21, 2014
The Bahama Journal