Snowden Docs: NSA Is Taping Every Cell Phone Call Made in Bahamas
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In this clip, Ryan Devereaux, a staff reporter with The Intercept, tells Democracy Now! that the National Security Agency is snooping on every single cell phone call made in the Bahamas, according to documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden under a classified program called SOMALGET. “[It] essentially house those calls for up to 30 days,” says Devereaux, “allowing U.S. analysts to go back and retrieve the communications of people who they weren’t targeting. The idea is that they are able to listen in on conversations that they weren’t looking for in the first place. In the case of the Bahamas, where the most realistic reason why the NSA might have an interest in things going on in the Bahamas is drug issues, smuggling issues.
“So what the NSA has been able to do here in the Bahamas,” he continues, “is basically collect everything that’s there, be able to basically resurrect conversations at will. And they’re using this as a test bed, basically. That is the exact phrase that the NSA uses in the documents. The Bahamas is being used as a test bed and for implementation of these systems elsewhere.” Watch the clip to learn more about the latest development in the NSA'S surveillance program.
The following is video of an interview with Devereaux, with an accompanying transcript:
AARON MATÉ: A new report reveals the National Security Agency is recording every single phone call made in the Bahamas, even though the U.S. has said the Caribbean nation poses little to no threat to Americans. The story is based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden that describe a classified program called SOMALGET, which was put in place by the NSA without the knowledge or consent of the Bahamian government. Instead, the website The Intercept reports the agency seems to have obtained access through the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. One NSA document says "the overt purpose" for recording calls in the Bahamas is, quote, "for legitimate commercial service." But the same document adds, quote, "Our covert mission is the provision of SIGINT," or signals intelligence.
AMY GOODMAN: Documents released by Snowden show the system is part of a broader program known as MYSTIC, which also monitors the telephone communications in Mexico, the Philippines, Kenya, as well as one other country which The Intercept says it’s not naming in response to specific credible concerns that doing so could lead to increased violence.
For more, we’re joined by the story’s lead author, Ryan Devereaux, a staff reporter with The Intercept. His new story with Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras is "Data Pirates of the Caribbean: The NSA Is Recording Every Cell Phone Call in the Bahamas."
Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Ryan. So, talk about your findings. Summarize them, step by step.
RYAN DEVEREAUX: Right. So, as you mentioned, our story details an NSA program called MYSTIC, first detailed in a Washington Post story. MYSTIC was developed by the NSA in 2009. It’s variously sponsored through a number of subprograms which are controlled by the NSA’s Commercial Solutions Center. This is the NSA wing that works with the NSA’s secret corporate partners. As you know, the NSA wouldn’t be able to function if it wasn’t for the corporate partners that it relies on to gain access to communications networks in various countries. It’s also co-sponsored by the CIA, Central Intelligence Agency, and the Drug Enforcement Administration, the DEA. So, as you mentioned, this program has gained access in Mexico, Kenya, the Philippines, the Bahamas, and one other country that The Intercept is not naming at this time.