By Travis Cartwright-Carroll
Nassau Guardian Staff Reporter
NASSAU, Bahamas -- The US National Security Agency (NSA) reported most on The Bahamas during the four-month period leading up to the May 7, 2012, general election when compared to other reporting periods outlined in confidential documents leaked by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden.
The information was gleaned from three Special Source Operations slides detailing NSA intelligence reporting.
As has been widely reported over the last week, the documents state that the NSA is recording and archiving every cell phone conversation in The Bahamas for up to 30 days.
The first slide details the period between January 22, 2012, and April 28, 2012.
During this period, The Bahamas was reported on the most out of eight other countries.
The documents do not reflect any reporting from The Bahamas prior to January 2012, but it is unclear whether this means the program did not operate in the island-nation ahead of that period.
The second slide covers the period December 2, 2012, through March 9, 2013. Reporting from The Bahamas only appears once, the week of December 2.
The final slide provided is for the period between February 3, 2013, and April 27, 2013.
In that slide, reports on The Bahamas are only listed between March 17, 2013, and April 27, 2013.
While the slides show heavy reporting in the four months leading up to the general election, the documents do not explain why the volume of reporting was greatest during that period when compared to the other periods outlined.
Government ministers have in recent days pointed to the reporting period, suggesting that the pre-election reporting may mean the previous Ingraham administration had knowledge of the program and was in an arrangement with the NSA to spy on Bahamians.
But former Minister of Foreign Affairs Brent Symonette and former Minister of National Security Tommy Turnquest have denied knowing of any spying.
The NSA documents state that the secret program is “under the lawful intercept auspices via DEA access”.
It adds, “Host countries are not aware of NSA’s... collection using these systems”.
As originally reported last week by The Intercept website, the documents show that the NSA is using a program called SOMALGET to collect and store “full-take audio” of every mobile call made in The Bahamas and storing it for up to 30 days.
According to the documents, SOMALGET is part of a larger program called MYSTIC.
Along with The Bahamas, code-named Basecoat, Mexico (Evening Easel), the Philippines (Venator), and Kenya (Duskpallet), among other countries, were also being reported on.
As the information contained in the three slides is vague, it is difficult to ascertain the purpose of the reporting and what information was being shared.
The documents state that they are “SIGINT reports per week from MYSTIC sites”.
According to the NSA’s website, “SIGINT provides a vital window for our nation (USA) into foreign adversaries' capabilities, actions, and intentions.”
Why The Bahamas?
Other than The Bahamas, Afghanistan is the only other country where every cell phone conversation is being recording and archived, according to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
The NSA documents state that SOMALGET access to Bahamian GSM communications has led to the discovery of international narcotics traffickers and special-interest alien smugglers.
Many have questioned why the NSA, an intelligence agency focused on terrorism, is interested in drug and human smugglers in The Bahamas.
Up to Monday, The Bahamas government was still awaiting a formal explanation from the United States on the allegations.
The leaked documents state that The Bahamas is a “test bed for system deployments, capabilities, and improvements”.
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian