The U.S. is covertly recording the conversations of “virtually every cellphone conversation” taking place in the Bahamas and storing them for up to 30 days, according to new documents supplied by Edward Snowden.
The classified program, dubbed SOMALGET, was put in place by the National Security Agency without any knowledge or consent from the Bahamian government, according to top-secret documents published by The Intercept on Monday. SOMALGET is part of a broader program known as MYSTIC, which reportedly also monitors the telephone communications of several other countries, such as Mexico, the Philippines, and Kenya, for a grand total of 250 million people.
As The Intercept notes, the Bahamas are not viewed as a national security threat to the U.S. government. The State Department last year called it a “stable democracy that shares democratic principles, personal freedoms, and the rule of law with the United States.” It concluded the Bahamas posed “little to no threat” to Americans in terms of “terrorism, war, or civil unrest.”
The Intercept continues:
The program raises profound questions about the nature and extent of American surveillance abroad. The U.S. intelligence community routinely justifies its massive spying efforts by citing the threats to national security posed by global terrorism and unpredictable rival nations like Russia and Iran. But the NSA documents indicate that SOMALGET has been deployed in the Bahamas to locate “international narcotics traffickers and special-interest alien smugglers” ““ traditional law-enforcement concerns, but a far cry from derailing terror plots or intercepting weapons of mass destruction.
It remains unclear exactly how the NSA is able to run SOMALGET, but a memo suggests the data is collected via “lawful intercepts” made through the Drug Enforcement Administration’s “legal wiretaps of foreign phone networks.” That exploitation has apparently led to a back door to the nation’s cell-phone network.
Earlier this year, The Washington Post reported that the NSA had developed the ability to record and archive every phone call taking place in an unidentified country. That program — MYSTIC — is the same one being used in the Bahamas, but the country mentioned by The Post remains unknown.
The bulk phone-tapping program collects the actual contents of calls, as opposed to metadata — such as the numbers and time stamps of a call — that the NSA collects domestically. But almost 5 million Americans visit the Bahamas every year, and many own homes there, including Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, Bill Gates, and Oprah Winfrey.
The Intercept — journalist Glenn Greenwald’s national security channel for First Look Media — reported that the NSA was breaking into “potentially millions of computers worldwide” and posing as a fake version of Facebook to infect computers with malware. It has joined The Guardian and The Washington Post in recent months as a publisher of the leaked Snowden files. On a book tour last week, Greenwald repeatedly promised more big government-surveillance revelations in the near future.
The NSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”