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United States Cellphones Privacy

The NSA Is Recording Every Cell Phone Call In the Bahamas 205

Posted by samzenpus
from the listen-up dept.
Advocatus Diaboli (1627651) writes "The National Security Agency is secretly intercepting, recording, and archiving the audio of virtually every cell phone conversation on the island nation of the Bahamas. 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 Administration 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."
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The NSA Is Recording Every Cell Phone Call In the Bahamas

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  • the question is (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fche (36607) on Monday May 19, 2014 @05:37PM (#47041559)

    .. what will the Bahama government/people do - will they sue the US for the presumable crime of breaking into their phone system?

    • Re:the question is (Score:5, Informative)

      by Rich0 (548339) on Monday May 19, 2014 @06:06PM (#47041813) Homepage

      .. what will the Bahama government/people do - will they sue the US for the presumable crime of breaking into their phone system?

      In what court would they do this? You can't sue the US government in a US court without the permission of the US government, and the US will just ignore the ruling of just about any other court.

      And yes, many (most?) other countries work the same way...

      • Considering how quite a bit of money is stowed in the general area, and not from the poor people of this planet, turning off access to those accounts from the US just might cause a few owners of senators to prod their whores.

        • Re:the question is (Score:4, Interesting)

          by swb (14022) on Monday May 19, 2014 @08:07PM (#47042625)

          That worked once in Cuba. After the Dominican Republic, Panama and Grenada the track record of that kind of strategy looks like poking the wrong end of the 82nd Airborne.

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          They could try the WTO as well. Restitution for unfair commercial gain and costs associated with finding and removing NSA spying equipment. Since the US will never pay up they would most likely be allowed to extract the money in other ways, such as ignoring US copyright and patents for a while.

        • Considering how quite a bit of money is stowed in the general area, and not from the poor people of this planet, turning off access to those accounts from the US just might cause a few owners of senators to prod their whores.

          I guess the Bahamas could do some discrete 'lobbying'; "hey mr US Senator you wouldn't want this secret bank account coming out would you, what with elections coming up and all that?"

    • the question is (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I love how your response is "what will THOSE people do" not "what will WE do", like the NSA is significantly more careful with our rights, or like us and them are separate groups. Obviously military intelligence is completely out of control and doing whatever they have the means to regardless of morality or law. I guess people like you are waiting for some kind of referendum to vote against NSA power. IT'S NOT COMING. The people we've allowed the wrong people to make decisions for us. If one doesn't see tha

    • by dbIII (701233)
      Not quite so stupid as it sounds since they are still a colony so the legal machinery doing the suing would be the UK government.
      I can't see that happening though because the British spooks probably already knew.
      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        Chances are the British spooks helped, and so could be sued themselves. It would be worth it just to bring attention to them.

    • .. what will the Bahama government/people do - will they sue the US for the presumable crime of breaking into their phone system?

      They could threaten to take away our rich people's money, or to help our rich people hide their money in offshore accounts so they don't have to pay taxes, or something along those lines.

  • Cayman Islands? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rogoshen1 (2922505) on Monday May 19, 2014 @05:40PM (#47041583)

    Had they done this with Cayman Islands they could have possible nabbed some real criminals, and probably made the world a better/safer place.

    • congress (Score:5, Funny)

      by p51d007 (656414) on Monday May 19, 2014 @05:46PM (#47041639)
      Oh no, can't have them monitor the Cayman islands...they would net about 90% of our congress, senate and 3/4 of the power brokers in DC...can't have that ya know ;)
    • Had they done this with Cayman Islands they could have possible nabbed some real criminals,

      Uh, you mean like themselves?

      Yea, funny how that never happened... natch.

    • by MRe_nl (306212)

      look up ARCOS-1

    • Had they done this with Cayman Islands they could have possible nabbed some real criminals, and probably made the world a better/safer place.

      Why exactly would have they gone after their own bosses? They know who butters their bread.

    • Re:Cayman Islands? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jahoda (2715225) on Monday May 19, 2014 @07:31PM (#47042329) Homepage
      1) It seems much more likely they do monitor the Cayman Islands in a similar fashion than them not monitoring them.

      2) What you say is indeed humorous, but what isn't funny is that we know that the purpose has never been to catch criminals, it is to catch people doing things contrary to the interests of the state, conduct corporate espionage, and/or gather useful blackmail-worthy information for use at a future time.
      • by swillden (191260)

        we know that the purpose has never been to catch criminals, it is to catch people doing things contrary to the interests of the state, conduct corporate espionage, and/or gather useful blackmail-worthy information for use at a future time.

        Cite?

        • The NSA spied specifically on foreign corporations and the leaders of human rights organizations.

          They didn't catch the Tsarnaev brothers.

          Do the math.

          • by swillden (191260)

            The NSA spied specifically on foreign corporations and the leaders of human rights organizations.

            They didn't catch the Tsarnaev brothers.

            Do the math.

            That doesn't follow. They spied on foreign corporations, organizations, heads of state, etc., but that's not all they spied on. And they didn't catch the Tsarnaev brothers, but that doesn't prove they weren't spying on people like that, just that they failed. But it doesn't prove Jahoda's claims that catching criminals (terrorists) isn't one of their purposes. At most it proves that they suck at it. Or that the goal is inherently infeasible(*).

            So, I repeat: Cite?

            (*) My take is that it is mostly infeasi

    • Had they done this with Cayman Islands they could have possible nabbed some real criminals, and probably made the world a better/safer place.

      The Bahamas host a lot of "Corporate America" themselves. This could could ignite a real stinkstorm.

  • by gmuslera (3436) on Monday May 19, 2014 @05:41PM (#47041589) Homepage Journal
    Surely there is a branch of al-quaeda there to have that kind of surveillance. When they will start to send the killer drones?
  • Favoritism. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Forbo (3035827) on Monday May 19, 2014 @05:41PM (#47041591)
    "The U.S. Department of Treasury estimated that in 2011 the Caribbean Banking Centers, which include Bahamas ...held almost $2 trillion dollars in United States debt." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    I bet there were some pretty juicy tidbits swept up in that massive dragnet. I certainly believe that tax evaders are a lot more of an actual threat to the US than the terrorism "boogeyman". So where are our prosecutions on this crap?

    The answer is that there never will be. All this mass-surveillance will never actually be used to our benefit, only as a means enforcing the status quo for the powers that be.
    • Re:Favoritism. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by rahvin112 (446269) on Monday May 19, 2014 @07:40PM (#47042401)

      The US has aggressively been targeting tax evaders since about 2008. They've collected billions in back taxes, penalties and interest. Most haven't gone to jail because they are using the government's amnesty program that grants amnesty from criminal charges and partial penalty relief (but still typically takes better than 50% of the value of the accounts often far more than the taxes and interest).

      The interesting bit is each year you don't come forward the amount of penalties they reduce goes down. If you took them up in 2008 you got a pretty decent deal, not so in 2014. With the steady decrease in what they will forgive they are setting the stage for genuine criminal prosecutions once the amnesty programs winds down in a few more years. IIRC the IRS has estimated they've discovered and taxed better than 50% of the hidden accounts and the people coming forward goes up each year because of the agreements the US is striking with other nations is revealing the tax cheats. Fact is you either come forward using the amnesty program and take your lumps or in a few years you could be looking at jail time.

  • No we didn't, that's a glitch.
  • The NSA's mandate...listening in on foreigners is why they were created back in the day.

    In other words, this is a non-issue. Almost as silly as an article that accused the FBI of arresting kidnappers in Pennsylvania....

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Except that getting caught at it is a major embarrassment and is going to destroy the relationships with Bahamas and most likely erode even further that of other countries. And given the breach of trust involved in this specific instance, is going to have a negative effect in the war against terror and drug cooperation. Not to mention that indiscriminate eavesdropping in an entire population is both overkill an unnecessary for gathering relevant intelligence of any kind.

      • Right... and the Germans have cut off trade relations after the revelations regarding NSA funny business with the Chancellor's personal cell phone.

        All the major players do it, and all the major players know the other Countries do it.

        Hell, Enemy of the State is a 1998 movie and the tinfoil hatters have been right about this one for years.

        Since the time of Kings, he who spies best, has the attention of the rest.

  • The National Security Agency is secretly intercepting, recording, and archiving the audio...

    The National Security Agency was secretly intercepting, recording, and archiving the audio...

    FTFY.

  • Is calling Eric and Barack.

  • by Triklyn (2455072) on Monday May 19, 2014 @06:22PM (#47041905)

    I'm still much less troubled about NSA surveillance than about what what a forced sale of the clippers means for privacy. And what Brendan Eich's ousting means for free speech. I wish Hitchens were still alive, just to see what his take would be on the current trend of popular suppression.

    It is certainly legal, and proper for popular opinion to move against unpopular ideas in the private arena, so long as government holds itself apart from this censure... but it does not feel good. it does not feel right.

    The NSA can wire-tap the crap out of me, because I don't think they'd do something so capricious as out me to the public. And the public doesn't work through proper channels. Judge, jury, executioner through mob rule.

    Orwell would weep, punishing people for what they think.

    • Nobody's opinions are sacred.

      Actions have consequences.

      Deal with it.

  • by mythosaz (572040) on Monday May 19, 2014 @06:23PM (#47041921)

    Based on the number of proportional font memos with a blacked out second country name, it shouldn't be too hard to narrow down the other country (in addition to the Bahamas) for which "full retrieval" was possible.

    I mean, it's not Laos, and it's not Nagorno-Karabakh, but with a known font, you could narrow it down pretty quickly based on the redacted images.

    Here:
    https://prod01-cdn00.cdn.first... [firstlook.org]
    And here:
    https://prod01-cdn02.cdn.first... [firstlook.org]

    • Identify the font, write out every country of the planet, take measurements.

      • by mythosaz (572040)

        How long does it take to cut-and-paste a list of countries in that font and see how many fit the width?

        Then repeat the process against the other documents in other fonts?

        Then compare the two lists? How many countries will be left?

        [Leading or trailing whitespace is a non-issue, since you know where the next word starts.]

  • And look where we are now. Insanity...
  • I don't know why it's taking people so long to realize this. The NSA records everything they can get their hands on. And thanks to the USS Jimmy Carter [wikipedia.org] they can get their hands on all terrestrial communications.

  • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Monday May 19, 2014 @07:57PM (#47042557)

    The Bahamas already knew about it?
    How else did the DEA have access?

  • I guess we have to accept that we can't trust The Powers That Be to respect our right to privacy. Fortunately there are options.

    I reckon more folks should be installing Open Whisper Systems RedPhone for encrypting their own calls. https://whispersystems.org/ [whispersystems.org]

    Then there's always the Blackphone handset for more serious business too. https://www.blackphone.ch/phone/ [blackphone.ch]

    I supposed if you were really paranoid you could run RedPhone on your Blackphone...

  • Not that I think Snowden is completely pulling stuff out of his ass, but..how do we know Snowden is NOT pulling stuff out of his ass?

    I'm asking in the spirit of diabloa advocatus. Snowden should get the same scrutiny as any other source. If he is as genuine as I think he is, he shouldn't be offended by this questioning of the source.
    • by dbIII (701233)

      but..how do we know Snowden is NOT pulling stuff out of his ass

      Investigate, charge and try the people he has accused of crimes. For some reason nothing like that is happening.

  • Recording and analyzing intimate private conversations en masse allows to know what people think, what are they hopes, fears, etc.

    I allows to evaluate effectiveness of different media, etc.

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