NSA, privacy group, respond to cell phone recordings in Bahamas

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The NSA is said to be using an advanced surveillance system to record cell phone calls in the Bahamas.

“The SOMALGET documents are over a year old,” Nadia Kayyali, a member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF) activism team, told SCMagazine.com in a Tuesday email correspondence. “Since they specifically note that the Bahamas site is 'being used as a test bed for systems deployments, capabilities, and improvements,' it seems the logical conclusion is that SOMALGET technology is, or will be used, elsewhere.”

The SOMALGET surveillance efforts in the Bahamas appear to mostly be helping the NSA's drugs and crime unit locate “international narcotics traffickers and special-interest alien smugglers,” according to NSA documents sourced in the report.  

This particular point bothered Kayyali, who pointed out that the NSA typically touts how its advanced surveillance efforts are used to counter terrorism and protect national security.

“Incredibly pervasive technology is being focused on a country that we have traditionally had a good relationship with, and is being used as a weapon in the war on drugs,” Kayyali said. “When NSA defenders talk about intelligence gathering, they talk about keeping the country safe, but this is a clear example of why that justification should ring false.”

She added, “These revelations are likely to further damage the United States's reputation and relationship, not only with the named countries, but with other countries as well. The global community is increasingly concerned about U.S. surveillance, and until the President and Congress address NSA overreach, we will not repair those relationships.”

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