By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE government still has not received a formal report from the United States regarding the National Security Agency’s reported surveillance of mobile phone calls in the country, Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell said yesterday.
However, the minister added that he is not concerned about the lack of response so far from US government officials. While not divulging details, Mr Mitchell said regardless of whether the US responds, the Christie administration will address the issue.
Yesterday Mr Mitchell said: “I had lunch with the US charge d’affaires on Friday and he indicated that the matter is still being addressed. He was not authorised to say anything further.
“The Bahamas government is doing its own work. Regardless of what’s the issue we are going to address it.”
On June 11, Mr Mitchell told the House of Assembly that John Kerry, the US secretary of state, had stepped in to oversee the investigation of reports that the NSA is intercepting and recording all cell phone conversations in the Bahamas, with the ability to store them for up to 30 days.
At the time, Mr Mitchell told parliamentarians that the US had promised to have a report handed over the next week. However, the report has not yet been presented.
The lack of a response to the spy claims by the US prompted FNM Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Hubert Chipman to criticise Mr Mitchell’s handling of the issue, suggesting that the minister hasn’t been aggressive enough in pursuing answers.
Mr Mitchell also downplayed comments made last week by Ambassador William Brownfield, assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law.
The ambassador told The Tribune that if monitoring took place in this country, it would have had the appropriate judicial authority.
Mr Brownfield said: “To the best of my knowledge any and all collection of intelligence or data or information by those law enforcement institutions of the US are done pursuant to law, under court order, with appropriate judicial authority for any and all such activities.”
In response to his statements, Mr Mitchell said: “His statement was carefully confined to a specific set of issues and it does not answer the issue which has arisen in the Bahamas.”
The spy claims emerged last month in an article posted on Firstlook.org.
The authors claimed that the NSA is “secretly intercepting, recording and archiving” the audio of every cell phone conversation in the Bahamas.
The information is reportedly contained in one of many documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
BTC’s Senior VP of Brand and Communications Marlon Johnson has repeatedly denied that the company, the country’s sole mobile phone provider, was involved in accommodating the NSA.
Tommy Turnquest, former national security minister, and Brent Symonette former minister of foreign affairs have also denied any knowledge of the claims.
However, in an interview last month, Deputy Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis suggested that the former government “was aware of” an arrangement to accommodate the alleged cell phone spying.