The Bahamas: Where Every Cell Phone Call Is Recorded

The NSA is storing entire conversations, according to new Snowden documents
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2014 3:55 PM CDT
The Bahamas: Where Every Cell Phone Call Is Recorded

Been to the Bahamas lately? Then your cell phone calls were apparently recorded by the NSA and stored for up to a month. According to Edward Snowden-leaked documents obtained by The Intercept, the NSA has been recording all of the Bahamas' cell calls—without the Bahamanian government knowing it—with a secret system called SOMALGET, which stores actual conversations, not just metadata. Seems the agency is using access legally obtained by the DEA to sneak into the country's cell phone network. "It’s surprising, the short-sightedness of the government," said a New York University fellow and former FBI agent.

"Exploiting a lawful mechanism to such a degree" could force the NSA to "lose that justifiable access" and hurt America's "long-term national security interests," he warned. The NSA refused to comment, but a 2012 memo praised the "great success" the agency's drugs and crime unit has had with the program. Either way, SOMALGET is part of a wider NSA program called MYSTIC, which is vacuuming up metadata in the Bahamas and several other countries, including Kenya, the Philippines, and Mexico. In other data-collection news, Florida police have purchased a device that enables them to track users' cell-phone locations and possibly download data like text messages and emails, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. (More Edward Snowden stories.)

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