Saturday, May 24, 2014

Data Pirates of the Caribbean: The NSA Is Recording Every Cell Phone Call in the Bahamas

Source: The Intercept

By Ryan Devereaux, Glenn Greenwald andLaura Poitras

The Intercept has confirmed that as of 2013, the NSA was actively using MYSTIC to gather cell-phone metadata in five countries, and was intercepting voice data in two of them. Documents show that the NSA has been generating intelligence reports from MYSTIC surveillance in the Bahamas, Mexico, Kenya, the Philippines, and one other country, whichThe Intercept is not naming in response to specific, credible concerns that doing so could lead to increased violence. The more expansive full-take recording capability has been deployed in both the Bahamas and the unnamed country.
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The Bahamas’ Listening Devices Act requires all wiretaps to be authorized in writing either by the minister of national security or the police commissioner in consultation with the attorney general. ... The office of the Bahamian data protection commissioner, which administers the act, said in a statement that it “was not aware of the matter you raise.”
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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.
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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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SOMALGET operates under Executive Order 12333, a Reagan-era rule establishing wide latitude for the NSA and other intelligence agencies to spy on other countries, as long as the attorney general is convinced the efforts are aimed at gathering foreign intelligence.

In 2000, the NSA assured Congress that all electronic surveillance performed under 12333 “must be conducted in a manner that minimizes the acquisition, retention, and dissemination of information about unconsenting U.S. persons.” In reality, many legal experts point out, the lack of judicial oversight or criminal penalties for violating the order render the guidelines meaningless.
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