According to leaked documents provided by Edward Snowden, you can't make a phone call in the Bahamas without the NSA listening. The Intercept reports that the agency "is secretly intercepting, recording, and archiving [for one month] the audio of virtually every cell phone conversation on the island nation of the Bahamas." Every. Single. One.
Just in case you were wondering, it's not just the citizens of the Bahamas who are being recorded. As former Gawker editor John Cook highlighted on Twitter, several prominent American citizens Bill Gates and Oprah keep houses there. So in effect, the NSA is probably spying on their cell phone calls, too.
While appalling, this news is not altogether surprising. Just six weeks ago, The Los Angeles Times reported that the NSA is recording every single call, text, and email in Iraq. This sort of makes sense given the NSA's stated mission of protecting national security and the fact that we were at war with Iraq just a few years ago. But why on Earth are our spies so interested in the Bahamas?
The short answer is drugs. At least it seems that way, since the NSA found its way into the Bahamas' cellular network through the DEA. As such, the leaked Snowden documents say that the program (codename: SOMALGET) targets "international narcotics traffickers and special-interest alien smugglers." Those documents also reveal that SOMALGET is being used in another unnamed country—possibly Iraq—while the NSA's broader program to scrape metadata from every single cell phone in a country, MYSTIC, also goes after Kenya, Mexico, and the Philippines.
So this is all very weird and unsettling news. Unfortunately, most Americans probably aren't even surprised at this point. The past year has provided a steady stream of infuriating reports about the NSA's bad behavior, everything from impersonating Facebook to using destructive computer viruses against the American people. It's no longer a question of whether the NSA's surveillance methods are out of bounds. At this point, we're left to wonder just how far it can still go. [The Intercept]
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