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Deputy Pm: 'Fnm Govt Knew Of N.S.A. Spying'

Philip 'Brave' Davis

Philip 'Brave' Davis

By KYLE WALKINE

Tribune Staff Reporter

kwalkine@tribunemedia.net

DEPUTY Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis suggested yesterday that the former government “was aware of” an arrangement to accommodate alleged cell phone spying conducted by the United State’s National Security Agency (NSA) on the Bahamas.

However, Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr Hubert Minnis insisted that the Ingraham administration knew nothing about the reported spying. He called on the government to make public any information it has that implicates the former government.

Mr Davis said an investigation US officials conducted into the claims at the request of Bahamian officials has ended. He said the findings should be turned over to the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs this week.

Mr Davis said a meeting held last week with the Bahamas’ Ambassador to Washington Eugene Newry, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and US representatives proved to be fruitful in terms of revealing whether or not permission had been granted for the recording of Bahamian phone conversations. 

“That meeting did take place and a certain sharing of information was agreed upon,” Mr Davis told reporters on the sideline of a memorial for fallen US servicemen at Clifton Pier. 

“I have not gotten an explanation as yet. But what they have said is that this is a result of an arrangement that the government was aware of. But we’re still awaiting a full report on it.”

When pressed on the issue, Davis said, “With all the speculation out there, I just want the full and complete thing before I comment any further. We (the government) are waiting. We’ve agreed to abide by the undertakings and wait, first of all, to determine whether or not the allegations are true. But if true, based on when the arrangements took place, what was the purpose of it all?”

Mr Davis added that “whatever happened, happened prior to May 7, 2012”, the date of the general election.

After the claims of spying emerged, Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell said the Ingraham administration may have questions to answer about the reported surveillance.

Yesterday, Minnis responded to the claims.

“They (the PLP) are now the government,” he said. “So rather than accusing us of anything, they have access to the files. So all they need to do is review those files and they can show it to the public if they think there was any involvement with us.” 

The spying claims are contained in documents said to be leaked by Edward Snowden, a former employee of the NSA now living under asylum in Russia. 

According to the leaked documents, the NSA was using a system called SOMALGET to collect and store cell phone data for up to 30 days.

Documents which accompanied an article on Firstlook.org, which first posted the claims, reveal that the NSA used a programme called MYSTIC to carry out the phone snooping. The codename used for the Bahamas in the documents is Basecoat. 

On Friday, the whistleblower website WikiLeaks revealed that Afghanistan was another country whose phone calls were reportedly being recorded by the NSA. 

According to portions of the leaked documents, the NSA had prepared plans to expand their phone snooping access to other countries other than the Bahamas and Afghanistan. 

“With proper engineering and coordination, there is little reason this capability cannot expand to other accesses (besides_ and The Bahamas), provided compatible hardware and interfaces are developed and deployed,” noted a 2012 memo reportedly written by the NSA’s International Crime & Narcotics Division.

Some have questioned if BTC, the country’s sole mobile phone provider, knew of the reported spying.

When contacted for comment yesterday, BTC’s Senior VP of Brand and Communications Marlon Johnson again denied that the company was involved in accommodating the NSA. 

He said: “BTC operates consistent with the laws of The Bahamas with respect to data protection. We will not be partied to any illegal branch. There is a Data Protection Act and we abide within that.”

When asked if there is any possible way the NSA could have illegally tapped phone calls in The Bahamas, Mr Johnson said, “We don’t know what all mechanisms are out there. There is a process by which customers information is accessible. The law sets out the parameters for that and BTC operates consistent with it.”

BTC has over 300,000 active telephone accounts. 

Comments

Purcell 6 years, 6 months ago

As I said when this story broke both parties are involved and there is no way they could have pulled it off without active BTC cooperation no matter what they say. They lie because they think there is no evidence and they will not be caught. What they are ignorant about is that at this age it is nearly impossible to completely purge electronic evidence. Given an independent private digital forensic company the task of investigating this they would dig up dirt 100%. Of course it is in both parties' interest to bury this as soon and as deep as possible and so nothing will come off it.

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bahamian242 6 years, 6 months ago

Okay, now the PLP is the elected Government, so what you going to do about it?

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Cobalt 6 years, 6 months ago

What can they do? The US has been spying on everyone since the Cold War.

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Reality_Check 6 years, 6 months ago

This pathetic little poodle Davis, like lame brain Mitchell, fails to appreciate that every single contract the Bahamas has negotiated with the U.S. Government and any U.S. State Government, including their agencies and departments, over the past several years are now void ab initio as a result of the not unreasonable presumption that the interests of the Bahamas in the negotiations were prejudiced by information illegally obtained by the NSA and passed on (in the interest of the U.S.) to the U.S. connected party(ies) involved in the contracts signed with the Bahamas. This would include all of the contracts the Bahamas has signed with international lending agencies controlled for all intents and purposes by the U.S. Government, e.g. the IMF, the World Bank, the International Development Bank (IDB) and so on that the Bahamas contracted with to obtain loans!

It would have impossible for the Bahamas Government to protect its interests in any contractual negotiations with a U.S. connected enterprise (government or otherwise) over the past several years as a result of NSA's illegal spying activities. Yes, every single contract would be ruled void ab initio on a presumptive basis by any international court or tribunal and its high time the Bahamas asserted its rights in a meaningful manner by having the likes of Mitchell and Davis step aside as they will never have the ability to see the forest for the sake of trees.

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BeachBoy 6 years, 6 months ago

Instead of using this disclosure as a way to discuss citizen's privacy, a FOI law, and the role of surveillance in our personal lives (let's not forget the proliferation of CCTV cameras in Nassau's core), we again resort to petty politics.

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realfreethinker 6 years, 6 months ago

How dis-ingenuous of bwave. If the previous government knew I am sure that information was passed on during the turn over of the gov. I am sure the COP would have known and he is still in that post. They love to drop these little snide remarks hoping to distract. I will bet you wont see any report from the gov.

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sheeprunner12 6 years, 6 months ago

Perry, Brave, BJ, Fred, Brad and the rest of the PLP Old Guard ......................... please stop torturing ordinary, sensible Bahamians ............... ur old school tricks are pathetically outdated

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Cobalt 6 years, 6 months ago

Agreed. Once again... playing the blame game.

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ChefSmith 6 years, 6 months ago

One would be lead to understand that this article could strain relationship with the US. Please be reminded that we need the help to protect our borders. Why worry if we have nothing to hide. It is obvious that we have a very worried bunch. Sit tight , there is a lot of thing that may come out of this , i hope the folks we a ready for what is revealed !

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sheeprunner12 6 years, 6 months ago

The THREE largest challenges we have......... illegal human smuggling, drug smuggling and poaching .......... begin and end with the involvement of Americans (one way or another). They are complicit in our dilemma.......... we are just the piggies in the middle. So of course, we will be spied on by Americans ......... DUHHHHHHHH

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Kalypso 6 years, 6 months ago

Clearly, you have missed the point. This activity is "illegal."

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ProfessorTinker 6 years, 6 months ago

So if NSA was spying, what did they do with the information? Can it help us deter crime, or are they listening for the dirty talk.

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proudloudandfnm 6 years, 6 months ago

Hold on now. He don't know what is happening or how it is happening but he says the FNM is responsible.... um.....

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CuriousAbaconian 6 years, 6 months ago

Brave's probably shakin' in his boots, worrying about the potential dirt they may have on him and his cronies...

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sheeprunner12 6 years, 6 months ago

Now why did you have to go and say that!!!!!! ...... LOL

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TalRussell 6 years, 6 months ago

Comrades DPM "Brave" and opposition leader Minnis and his bunch of "self-anointed red co-leaders" need to stop with their silly political spy games. Both Comrades done know the US government ain't in the business of asking any foreign government for permission to have listened-in on virtually EVERY type mobile devices conversation talked on Bahamaland's land, air or at sea, including his, the PM's and Minnis and red company. Them listening-on on doctors, taxi drivers, pilots, particularly them lawyers, accountants, drug dealers, MP's, senators, policeman's, civil servants, judges, consultants to government, business owners-big and small, bankers and financial advisers.

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KM 6 years, 6 months ago

This and previous government so like to place blame. My thing is they are now in power what are they going to do about it?

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henny 6 years, 6 months ago

I totally agree with TalRussell on this one. Anyone with any sense would know that any spying would be done with those known or suspected for doing any wrongdoings. Not the whole of the Bahamas. I think Brave and the rest should have gotten their facts straight before stirring up controversy with the public and needs to let it rest.

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