Bahamas startled by reports of US spying

Bahamanian Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell has said that he is startled by reports that the US spied on The Bahamas, a member of Caricom.

Reports about the spying on The Bahamas’ mobile phone network emanated from the leaks by former US government employee Edward Snowden and Mitchell became aware of it on May 19th. In a statement on May 20th, Mitchell said that on 19th May, at a     routine lunch with US Charge d’Affaires John Dinkelman, the US official raised the possibility of a story being released based on the leaks of Snowden and that they would involve The Bahamas and the use of monitoring apparatus in the northern Caribbean archipelago. Mitchell said that this was a more specific warning than two others that had been earlier given by senior personnel at the US Embassy in Nassau including one by Dinkelman.

The Bahamas Informa-tion Services said that the story became widely available on May 19th and was written by amongst others, Glenn Greenwald, the Brazil-based US journalist who had authored previous works from documents leaked by Snowden. The Snowden allegations are believed to relate to a period in and around 2011

The news report on the Bahamian spying said:

“According to documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the surveillance is part of a top-secret system – code-named SOMALGET – that was implemented without the knowledge or consent of the Bahamian government. Instead, the agency appears to have used access legally obtained in cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administra-tion 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.”

Mitchell said that the news that there is spying and the gathering of the audio of mobile phone calls of Bahamians by agencies of another country was clearly startling.

“The facts must be determined. Otherwise, the behaviour described would be clearly illegal and on the face of it an abuse of powers. It would also represent a great moral failing on the part of its perpetrators, in addition to illegality which challenges the founding principles of the rule of law. It would also be an invasion of the privacy of the individual, a cherished democratic value and a legal right. Some explanation is required formally to confirm or deny the truth and authenticity of these allegations”, Mitchell said.

 

Following the news reports, the Bahamian mission head in Washington DC contacted the US Foreign Office for an explanation.  Bahamaian Ambassador Eugene Newry was to meet with the US Foreign Office this week. The head of the United States Government’s mission in The Bahamas was also summoned by Mitchell for an explanation.

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