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United States Cellphones Privacy

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

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

    by Rich0 ( 548339 ) on Monday May 19, 2014 @05:06PM (#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...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 19, 2014 @05:41PM (#47042039)

    It says EVERY cell call, *then* it clarifies that it's only international calls, which is certainly NOT every cell call. So, this might not be what you suspect and before you start a shooting war we need to think about this.

    Seems this is NOT an act of war, it's simply monitoring traffic coming over international trunks and that they simply have the ability to intercept the signaling, and both sides of the conversation. This requires no *in country* equipment or invasion of territory to do. This is NOT new information, we've know about this for years, even before Snowden did his document dump. Now if they set this tap up IN the Bahamas, you *might* have an argument, but I don't think that's what happened here.

    Did you even read the article? It clearly says that they are intercepting every cell call in the Bahamas and that it was based on exploiting legal access arranged with the Bahamas police for a specific case in order to install a blanket tap of all calls. If it was about tapping international cables, why would it only be picking up cell phones? The article also discusses broader programs which involve more countries and in many of those the scope of interception is more limited, but in the Bahamas it is everything - not just stuff that passes over international trunks.

    When U.S. drug agents need to tap a phone of a suspected drug kingpin in another country, they call up their counterparts and ask them set up an intercept. To facilitate those taps, many nations – including the Bahamas – have hired contractors who install and maintain so-called lawful intercept equipment on their telecommunications. With SOMALGET, it appears that the NSA has used the access those contractors developed to secretly mine the country’s entire phone system for “signals intelligence” –recording every mobile call in the country. “Host countries,” the document notes, “are not aware of NSA’s SIGINT collection.”

    In the Bahamas, the documents say, the NSA intercepts GSM data that is transmitted over what is known as the “A link”–or “A interface”–a core component of many mobile networks. The A link transfers data between two crucial parts of GSM networks – the base station subsystem, where phones in the field communicate with cell towers, and the network subsystem, which routes calls and text messages to the appropriate destination. “It’s where all of the telephone traffic goes,” says the former engineer.

  • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Monday May 19, 2014 @09:04PM (#47043155)

    Anyone at NSA who is participating in this is committing an act of war against a sovereign nation without any declaration of war.


    I'm not sure if you've noticed, but the united states does that like every other week. Noticed Ukraine lately? We started that. Everyone seems to forget there was a fucking US backed coup before Russia stepped in. It's not like they randomly decided to invade.

  • Re:and the answer is (Score:4, Informative)

    by JMJimmy ( 2036122 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @03:55AM (#47044571)

    First off, the incident took place prior to 2007 when the Army was supplying the many of aircraft for the DEA to use in the operations there. Prior to 2007 the DEA only had 3 Jayhawks and 1 other helicopter for it's OPBAT operations, everything else was supplied by the Army.

    This is the helicopter I saw: [] - in this configuration. Armaments were not equipped though. It's rather hard to mistake the thin/relatively small profile of an Apache compared to the Blackhawks.

    As to the nature of the mission, I cannot say exactly what they were doing that day, all I know is that they were flying below the tree line directly over the beach, facing in-land and strafing north. For all I know they were cruising for boobs. I suspect though, knowing the local geography/topography, that because of the density of the forest/jungle they were trying to see under the canopy as much as possible to identify grow ops that were not visible via satellite. This would be particularly effective in Eleuthera because the island is one long strip for the most part with very little change in elevation. Between the density of the bush and the number of poison wood trees, grows would likely need to be near a road - in the area where I was when I saw it there is only 1 road, right near the beach for about a 30km stretch []

  • Re:and the answer is (Score:4, Informative)

    by JMJimmy ( 2036122 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @04:39AM (#47044681)

    There are a mess of cables in the area, http://www.submarinecablemap.c... [] and I suppose they could but by "right by the bahamas" you're actually talking 1,000-2,000km of cable (depending on whether you went to Jamaica or directly to Caracas). The Bahamas largest project is around 3,500km which hooks up 20 islands and Haiti. Adding an extra 1/3rd to the length/cost just to avoid the US? Political/tourist implications aside, from a financial perspective it doesn't make sense. You have to remember that outside of Nassau/Freeport it's very much a 3rd world country - last I was there the entire island would lose power at least once every couple weeks.

I bet the human brain is a kludge. -- Marvin Minsky