Documents obtained by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden show that the NSA has secretly secured and recorded almost all calls made to, from, or between cellphones in the Bahamas. Traces, reported about The Interceptused access to legal screening obtained by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Allegations raised by the documents led the Bahamian government to request an explanation of the surveillance, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Bahamas Fred Mitchell tell them Nassau Guard. Mitchell said the government would issue a statement today after a cabinet meeting on the matter. At the time of this article, no statement has been posted yet on them Government of the Bahamas website.
The surveillance system, called Basecoat, was used as a test bed for the development of “fully adopted” surveillance technology in the broader system called Somalget. The systems developed and tested for Basecoat have also been deployed as Scalawag, Oilyrag, and Lollygag, collection systems set up in another unnamed country.
According to selection from the NSA “definition” of Special Source Operations code names, all Somalget programs use “Lawful Intercept (LI) auspices through DEA Access…Host countries are not aware of receiving NSA SIGINT using these systems.” The entire system received and processed “over 100 million call events per day” at the time the document was created.
Of another country could be Jamaica. The Jamaica Observer wrote that his reporters had seen secret memos of intelligence between the governments of Jamaica, the United States, and the United Kingdom giving law enforcement agencies from the US and the UK the authority to intercept phone calls on landlines and mobile phones “trying to get together. expertise in the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime.”
30 days delay
Another document published by The Intercept—the result of a 2012 memo written by an NSA employee in the agency’s International Crime and Narcotics (S2F) division—offers more information about the program. As Ars explained in our analysis of documents published in March on the Scalawag program, the program works much like the NSA’s Xkeyscore Internet traffic monitoring database. Somalget keeps an audio archive of “full capture” audio recordings of potential calls using multiple identifiers within each call’s metadata.
“It enables selection of audio content to be performed against archived data after the fact, in near real time, or up to 30 days later,” the NSA S2F official wrote. “This power is called ‘backward restoration.'”
An S2F official said the division “had great success” in using audio buffering. “These systems have led to real breakthroughs in target detection—and we want to alert other analysts to their potential,” the note reports. “SOMALGET’s access to Bahamian GSM communications has led to the discovery of foreign drug traffickers and foreign traffickers of special interest. This access—together with the use of methods that take advantage of the targets’ behavioral patterns—has allowed our S2F analysts to gain a solid understanding of the target’s activities even when these contacts occur before their discovery. “
The note suggests that Somalget’s ability could be increased to collect “abandoned” audio from “certain calls that may be of foreign intelligence value,” creating a “telephone collection process that can be viewed as comparable to XKEYSCORE.” That allows the same retrospective search of very large volumes of calls from targeted organizations or countries.
Plain old metadata
The latest round of declassified NSA documents also provide details on the NSA’s extensive, metadata-only collection of telephone calls worldwide under its Mystic system. Distribution system like Xkeyscore, Mystic is supported by General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems in Annapolis Junction, Maryland—just a few miles from the NSA headquarters at Fort Meade.
Mystic uses embedded surveillance programs “automatically installed on target networks, particularly for the collection and operation of wireless/mobile communications networks,” according to another document published by The Intercept. In other words, Mystic uses a backdoor in software installed ostensibly for commercial purposes—to allow phone companies to manage their call traffic and billing—to secure call metadata.
SSO “built-in” includes a directory for an active metadata collection system called Duskpallet, an “extension” of Mystic that pulls GSM phone call data from Kenya. Additional systems to collect GSM call data and SMS traffic for supporting counter narcotics operations in Mexico (called Easel Night) and anti-terrorism operations in the southern Philippines (called Venator) are planned to be online as well. . That might even work now.