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

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bmaz @kevinjonheller Yeah, good here. Just sent you a DM
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bmaz @kevinjonheller How are you doing?? Safely ensconced in your new digs in London?
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bmaz @WerlySportsLaw Heh, right. NFLPA was not totally stupid last time when they negotiated it away for other terms. The more things change....
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bmaz Some wild summer night thunder and rain tonight in the desert. Bring the rain.
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bmaz @JWGOP @AggieFootball Had lot better grip on ASU going into last yr. Can't tell if will be great or avg this yr. Hell of a first game though
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bmaz @JWGOP @AggieFootball Loser owes Mex and margaritas next time we are proximate.
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bmaz @JWGOP @dick_nixon Wait....where did this come from??
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bmaz @JWGOP @AggieFootball Gonna have a Devil of a time in the first game.
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bmaz RT @DrTab3: NFL: Nothing to see here. Hey, look over there...deflategate! https://t.co/daLTK95QA1
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bmaz The NFL is pretty much just a parody troll at this point, insulting the intelligence of all in its path. https://t.co/XNxeJhh28y
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emptywheel @Rick_Geissal Up to this point possible Hillary grossly underdelivered on "official" emails. But she didn't. She clearly overproduced
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