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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Emptywheel Twitterverse
emptywheel We can only aspire at this point. RT @bmaz: @SchuetteOnDuty Someday, your state too can be as enlightened as Arizona.
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bmaz @McBlondeLand @OscarPistorius @reevasteenkamp That's going to work out to about 10 months in prison, the rest on house arrest.
7mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @emptywheel @MonaHol @SchuetteOnDuty Someday, your state too can be as enlightened as Arizona.
8mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @amk44139 No. They already posted. No decision.
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emptywheel @MonaHol It's like @SchuetteOnDuty WANTS Michiagnders to be backassward troglodytes or something.
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emptywheel Hey @SchuetteOnDuty! These states are not ones MI should be happy company with. http://t.co/gy8mRPrlT3
28mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @4Dgifts And then the corporate sector peed its collective pants and they put it in an Agency w/o the expertise, right? @csoghoian
32mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Aw cmon, 6th Circuit, you're telling me WY got marriage equality before MI?
34mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @csoghoian Maybe FTC should be in charge of cybersecurity then? Or too much expertise?
52mreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV With SharkNado 3 set in DC, I'm pretty sure the highlight will be a shark repossessing its heart that was stolen for Cheney's transplant.
53mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @stephenlemons @yvonnewingett @charrisazrep @GovBrewer Yes, it really is a great article. And a telling and despicable move by Brewer
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emptywheel @ashk4n Congrats! But the WaPo will miss your great contribution.
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