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Bahamas Wants 'Satisfactory Answers' from United States on Spying Allegations

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Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

CMC – The Bahamas says it hopes to get “some satisfactory answers” from the United States later this week to reports that Washington had been spying and collecting the audio of mobile phone calls of Bahamians.

Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell, in a statement prior to his departure for Paraguay to attend the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), said the conference “will be the occasion for us to brief colleague ministers on the most recent developments here in The Bahamas with regard to the recent allegations of the recording of Bahamian mobile phone calls by the United States.
“There is to be a meeting between the two sides on this matter and it is my hope that some satisfactory answers will be obtained at that meeting,” he said.

Mitchell said that the Minustry of Foreign Affairs here is gathering “all the pertinent information that we can about the history of this matter and the facts as we know it.

“Following the OAS meeting and my return to the country, it is my expectation that I will be in position to brief Parliament by the time I am to speak on the Budget debate.”

Mitchell said he had also taken note of the position of the main opposition Free National Movement (FNM) on the issue and that the Perry Christie government “takes the matter seriously and will endavour to represent the best interests of Bahamians in this matter.

“We were elected on the theme Believe in Bahamians. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs accepts that as our mandate and marching orders,” he said.

Last month, Nassau described as “startling” reports that the United States had been spying and collecting the audio of mobile phone calls of Bahamians.

Mitchell said that the Bahamas had contacted the US Foreign Office for an explanation and that the representative of the United States Government’s interest in The Bahamas had been summoned to the foreign ministry to give an explanation.

Mitchell said that he had been givemn prior warning by US Chargé d’Affairs John Dinkelman, of the possibility of a story being released, based on the leaks of the former US Government employee Edward Snowden and that they would involve The Bahamas and the use of monitoring apparatus in The Bahamas.

“The Snowden allegations are believed to relate to a period in and around 2011,” Mitchell said, quoting from the article that indicated the “surveillance is part of a top-secret system — code-named SOMALGET — that was implemented without the knowledge or consent of the Bahamian Government.

“Instead, the agency appears to have used access legally obtained, in cooperation with the US Drug Enforcement Administration, to open a backdoor to the country’s cellular telephone network, enabling it to covertly record and store the ‘full-take audio’ of every mobile call made to, from and within The Bahamas and to replay those calls for up to a month,” the article noted.

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