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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 5/20/14

SOMALGET: NSA Recording all Cell Phone Calls in the Bahamas

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In a new story on the authoritarian American Stasi that is the NSA it is now out that the agency is actually recording the content of telephone calls - in the Bahamas. The story that was published on Monday at First Look Media's The Intercept and was written by Ryan Devereaux, Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras. It is entitled "Data Pirates of the Caribbean: The NSA Is Recording Every Cell Phone Call in the Bahamas" and reveals that the NSA is indeed doing more than just "data collection".

The story is of particular interest in that it is a key piece of the puzzle being that the Bahamas are a haven for offshore banking and others including myself have long speculated that some of the more secret aspects of NSA surveillance programs include money laundering. This is speculative on my part but it fits the pattern and is far more likely than not one of the real functions of the NSA instead of the massive hoax needed to keep the money flowing in and ensure public compliance. I eagerly await that really big story that Greenwald in his GQ interview promises: "There's a story that from the beginning I thought would be our biggest, and I'm saving that. The last one is the one where the sky is all covered in spectacular multicolored hues. This will be the finale, a big missing piece". The buildup continues and when it is published let us hope that it does the trick to mobilize Americans against the out of control NSA.

The program used in the Bahamas is named SOMALGET - a part of the already revealed MYSTIC that is described in a story published by the Washington Post story entitled "NSA surveillance program reaches 'into the past' to retrieve, replay phone calls" - according to The Intercept "was implemented without the knowledge or consent of the Bahamian government" by being essentially piggy-backed on top of an existing DEA program. I excerpt the following from The Intercept:

SOMALGET is part of a broader NSA program called MYSTIC, which The Intercept has learned is being used to secretly monitor the telecommunications systems of the Bahamas and several other countries, including Mexico, the Philippines, and Kenya. But while MYSTIC scrapes mobile networks for so-called "metadata" -- information that reveals the time, source, and destination of calls -- SOMALGET is a cutting-edge tool that enables the NSA to vacuum up and store the actual content of every conversation in an entire country.

All told, the NSA is using MYSTIC to gather personal data on mobile calls placed in countries with a combined population of more than 250 million people. And according to classified documents, the agency is seeking funding to export the sweeping surveillance capability elsewhere.

This blows the official US Government fairy tale of not recording content out of the water and once again catches President Barack Obama in a lie or at the very least a prevarication reminiscent of Slick Willie. Obama is ever the artful dodger while he continues to defend the "modest encroachments on privacy" by his NSA goons while the corrupt surveillance state stooges in Congress seek to exploit public lethargy to ensure that any "reforms" will be cosmetic changes at best. The government may not be "listening" to calls per se but the dragnet surveillance will provide it or it's foreign and private industry partners with the ability to do exactly that. The big lie is that it has always been about "metadata" but that is deceptive in that the metadata is the necessary indexing system to get at the actual content. As former NSA official turned whistleblower Thomas Drake explained in an interview with Rob Kall of OpEd News:

But they're desperate to use the meta data, somehow they're justified in collecting it without any warrants by the way, except the equivalent of a general order which is a violation to the constitution, the very thing we had in part a revolution over against the crown two hundred and forty years ago, here the meta data itself is somehow justified because oh it's not worse than that, meaning we need that because that's the only way we can figure out where the needles are except you're copying everything.

So it's not just meta data. But they're restricting even the conversation, even the president only talked when you really look at it, he only talked about mass collection of phone data and remember they said they don't have location information of subscriber, take a look at the Verizon order that was disclosed by Snowden through reporters and journalists. Meta data on a phone record by definition includes location and subscriber information.

That's the nature of meta data. This idea that they don't have it, oh maybe it's under that program they don't obtain it well they must obtain it by some other. That's like taking the white pages and cutting out the address and obviously there's a subscriber who has a location and a name. That's why you have look up tables.

That gargantuan NSA facility in Utah is not about just the collection and storage of metadata - it is too big for that alone so while its real function continues to be denied - particularly by amoral members of Congress like Senator Dianne Feinstein, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, they are lying.

The Intercept story is a fascinating and ominous read and an obvious move from the existence and capability of already revealed NSA and affiliate programs as are published in Greenwald's new book "No Place to Hide" as well as available for download separate from the book in that new ground is being broken here as to the actual big picture. I excerpt the following:

If the U.S. government wanted to make a case for surveillance in the Bahamas, it could point to the country's status as a leading haven for tax cheats, corporate shell games, and a wide array of black-market traffickers. The State Department considers the Bahamas both a "major drug-transit country" and a "major money laundering country" (a designation it shares with more than 60 other nations, including the U.S.). According to the International Monetary Fund, as of 2011 the Bahamas was home to 271 banks and trust companies with active licenses. At the time, the Bahamian banks held $595 billion in U.S. assets.

But the NSA documents don't reflect a concerted focus on the money launderers and powerful financial institutions -- including numerous Western banks -- that underpin the black market for narcotics in the Bahamas. Instead, an internal NSA presentation from 2013 recounts with pride how analysts used SOMALGET to locate an individual who "arranged Mexico-to-United States marijuana shipments" through the U.S. Postal Service.


The presentation doesn't say whether the NSA shared the information with the DEA. But the drug agency's Special Operations Divison has come under fire for improperly using classified information obtained by the NSA to launch criminal investigations -- and then creating false narratives to mislead courts about how the investigations began. The tactic -- known as parallel construction -- was first reported by Reuters last year, and is now under investigation by the Justice Department's inspector general.

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Donn Marten is a free lance writer and consultant who resides in West Central Florida.

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