NSA Collects All Phone Calls from One of World’s Most Secretive Tax Havens, But Doesn’t Track That

In its report on how the NSA collects every cell phone conversation that takes place in the Bahamas, The Intercept focuses on the use of such intercepts for drug investigations (indeed, one of the other countries targeted in the MYSTIC program is Mexico, which clearly has a DEA angle).

But one memo indicates that SOMALGET data is covertly acquired under the auspices of “lawful intercepts” made through Drug Enforcement Administration “accesses”– legal wiretaps of foreign phone networks that the DEA requests as part of international law enforcement cooperation.

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.

Perhaps the most telling part of the article, however, is that NSA/DEA don’t appear to be using this facility to track money launderers.

If the U.S. government wanted to make a case for surveillance in the Bahamas, it could point to the country’s status as a leading haven for tax cheats, corporate shell games, and a wide array of black-market traffickers. The State Department considers the Bahamas both a “major drug-transit country” and a “major money laundering country” (a designation it shares with more than 60 other nations, including the U.S.). According to the International Monetary Fund, as of 2011 the Bahamas was home to 271 banks and trust companies with active licenses. At the time, the Bahamian banks held $595 billion in U.S. assets.

They’re tracking pot, but not bothering to track the dollars that drive the pot.

So aside from the hubris of stealing off of the cell phone calls from Bahama, this is also a testament to the US’ misplaced priorities, its inability to understand how its coddling of tax havens serve to drive the drug trade.

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emptywheel RT @davidcnswanson: At this point Abu Ghraib or Gitmo videos would make US look good, I mean compared to all the cop videos. Release them p…
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bmaz @JamesWolcott Mr. Wolcott - going to NY in December. Pondering going to Hamilton. Yea or nay?
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emptywheel @SpyTalker Has KSA yet beheaded anyone for support of ISIL? Or is that just not done?
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JimWhiteGNV @LeslieMolony It was very polite about missing the garage and driveway. Minor damage to the crepe myrtle.
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bmaz RT @Whtapl: @bmaz http://t.co/sslNUhURY5 $4million each/$500million total
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JimWhiteGNV Yeah, that's going to take some time to clean up. http://t.co/U4dz6TUqyi
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emptywheel @attackerman @20committee Of those, 4 had mishandled classified information. So there are alleged leakers, privileged insiders, & Clintons
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emptywheel @attackerman @20committee To be fair they are VERY selective abt how they raid. Several potential sources in Sterling trial never searched.
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JimWhiteGNV RT @KingstonAReif: Sen Kaine to Sen Corker on anytime/anywhere inspections in Iraq: We bought those inspections w/Gulf War I. Dont want war…
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emptywheel This sounds impressive (it is!!) but I still wonder whether every millennial just used opportunity to send "A Fax" https://t.co/8kcIshTJzA
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emptywheel @nickmanes1 I just don't do it. was looking to Sunday Brunch as a new opportunity but a truck! @p2wy
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emptywheel @nickmanes1 But if they want the taco truck to drive around the neighborhood w/a jolly song like an ice cream truck, all the better @p2wy
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