Tuesday, May 20, 2014

SOMALGET: NSA Recording all Cell Phone Calls in Bahamas


In a new story on the authoritarian American Stasi that is the NSA it is now out that the agency is actually recording the content of telephone calls - in the Bahamas. The story that was published on Monday at First Look Media's The Intercept and was written by Ryan Devereaux, Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras. It is entitled "Data Pirates of the Caribbean: The NSA Is Recording Every Cell Phone Call in the Bahamas" and reveals that the NSA is indeed doing more than just "data collection".

The story is of particular interest in that it is a key piece of the puzzle being that the Bahamas are a haven for offshore banking and others including myself have long speculated that some of the more secret aspects of NSA surveillance programs include money laundering. This is speculative on my part but it fits the pattern and pathology and is far more likely than not one of the real functions of the NSA instead of the massive hoax needed to keep the money flowing in and ensure public compliance. I eagerly await that really big story that Greenwald in his GQ interview promises: "There's a story that from the beginning I thought would be our biggest, and I'm saving that. The last one is the one where the sky is all covered in spectacular multicolored hues. This will be the finale, a big missing piece".The buildup continues and when it is published let us hope that it does the trick to mobilize Americans against the out of control NSA.

The program used in the Bahamas is named SOMALGET - a part of the already revealed MYSTIC that is described in a story published by the Washington Post story entitled "NSA surveillance program reaches 'into the past' to retrieve, replay phone calls" - according to The Intercept "was implemented without the knowledge or consent of the Bahamian government" by being essentially piggy-backed on top of an existing DEA program. I excerpt the following from The Intercept:

SOMALGET is part of a broader NSA program called MYSTIC, which The Intercept has learned is being used to secretly monitor the telecommunications systems of the Bahamas and several other countries, including Mexico, the Philippines, and Kenya. But while MYSTIC scrapes mobile networks for so-called "metadata" -- information that reveals the time, source, and destination of calls -- SOMALGET is a cutting-edge tool that enables the NSA to vacuum up and store the actual content of every conversation in an entire country.

All told, the NSA is using MYSTIC to gather personal data on mobile calls placed in countries with a combined population of more than 250 million people. And according to classified documents, the agency is seeking funding to export the sweeping surveillance capability elsewhere.

This blows the official US Government fairy tale of not recording content out of the water and once again catches Barack Obama in a lie or at the very least a prevarication reminiscent of Slick Willie. Obama is ever the artful dodger while he continues to defend the "modest encroachments on privacy" by his NSA goons while the corrupt surveillance state stooges in Congress seek to exploit public lethargy to ensure that any "reforms" will be cosmetic changes at best. The government may not be "listening" to calls per se but the dragnet surveillance will provide it or it's foreign and private industry partners with the ability to do exactly that. The big lie is that it has always been about "metadata" but that is deceptive in that the metadata is the necessary indexing system to get at the actual content. As former NSA official turned whistleblower Thomas Drake explainedin an interview with Rob Kall of OpEd News:

But they're desperate to use the meta data, somehow they're justified in collecting it without any warrants by the way, except the equivalent of a general order which is a violation to the constitution, the very thing we had in part a revolution over against the crown two hundred and forty years ago, here the meta data itself is somehow justified because oh it's not worse than that, meaning we need that because that's the only way we can figure out where the needles are except you're copying everything.

So it's not just meta data. But they're restricting even the conversation, even the president only talked when you really look at it, he only talked about mass collection of phone data and remember they said they don't have location information of subscriber, take a look at the Verizon order that was disclosed by Snowden through reporters and journalists. Meta data on a phone record by definition includes location and subscriber information.
That's the nature of meta data. This idea that they don't have it, oh maybe it's under that program they don't obtain it well they must obtain it by some other. That's like taking the white pages and cutting out the address and obviously there's a subscriber who has a location and a name.  That's why you have look up tables.

That gargantuan NSA facility in Utah is not about just the collection and storage of metadata - it is too big for that alone so while its real function continues to be denied - particularly by amoral members of Congress like Senator Dianne Feinstein, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, they are lying.

The Intercept story is a fascinating and ominous read and an obvious move from the existence and capability of already revealed NSA and affiliate programs as are published in Greenwald's new book "No Place to Hide"as well as available for download separate from the book in that new ground is being broken here as to the actual big picture. I excerpt the following:

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.

But the NSA documents don't reflect a concerted focus on the money launderers and powerful financial institutions -- including numerous Western banks -- that underpin the black market for narcotics in the Bahamas. Instead, an internal NSA presentation from 2013 recounts with pride how analysts used SOMALGET to locate an individual who "arranged Mexico-to-United States marijuana shipments" through the U.S. Postal Service.
AND
The presentation doesn't say whether the NSA shared the information with the DEA. But the drug agency's Special Operations Divison has come under fire for improperly using classified information obtained by the NSA to launch criminal investigations -- and then creating false narratives to mislead courts about how the investigations began. The tactic -- known as parallel construction -- was first reported by Reuters last year, and is now under investigation by the Justice Department's inspector general.

So: Beyond a desire to bust island pot dealers, why would the NSA choose to apply a powerful collection tool such as SOMALGET against the Bahamas, which poses virtually no threat to the United States?

The answer may lie in a document that characterizes the Bahamas operation as a "test bed for system deployments, capabilities, and improvements" to SOMALGET. The country's small population -- fewer than 400,000 residents -- provides a manageable sample to try out the surveillance system's features. Since SOMALGET is also operational in one other country, the Bahamas may be used as a sort of guinea pig to beta-test improvements and alterations without impacting the system's operations elsewhere.

The use of Bahamas as a beta-test environment "guinea pig" for a rollout (or tweaking of an existing system) on a larger scale - the entire United States - makes sense in that the stopping "terrorism" justification for the NSA programs has always been hogwash. Former government contractor turned NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden hit the target in an open letter to the Brazilian people per The Guardian:

"These programs were never about terrorism: they're about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They're about power."

That is the power to crush dissent and to enable criminality through subterfuge, to get the US taxpayer to fund their own enslavement and to use the data gleaned through mass unconstitutional surveillance conducted without probable cause through either blackmail or parallel construction or worse to silence critics once and forever. Another former NSA official turned whistleblower William Binney hits it dead on in an interview that he did with Nick Gillespie for Reason magazine:

Binney: That's the reason I've been coming out publicly-because where I see it going is toward a totalitarian state. I mean you've got the NSA doing all this collection of material on all of its citizens. That's what the SS, the Gestapo, the Stasi, the KGB, and the NKVD did. These are the people I worked for for 30 years.

Reason: A common feature in East Germany or in the Soviet Union was that you'd look out the window and you'd see your neighbor being hustled out and then nobody ever talked about them again. Is that really happening in the U.S., or is it likely to?

Binney: Well, they're using that data that the NSA is collecting to arrest people right now, through the Drug Enforcement Agency and the FBI. They're already doing that. And they don't have a warrant so they have to do a parallel construction to go out and find other material that would substitute for that.

Reason: Wait. So you're saying then that the DEA uses data that they gather from an intelligence agency-

Binney: From NSA.

Reason:-and then they can't say "we got this tip from NSA so we're arresting you," but they know that this person is doing this, that, and the other thing so then they go out and track them?
Binney: Actually, they go out and arrest them. In the article at Reuters they said, "We were told simply to go to this parking lot, wait for this truck to come in, and when it comes in and parks over there, go arrest them. Bring the drug dogs in and go find the drugs."
The political persecutions and frame-ups are a given we have already seen what the government is willing to do with COINTELPRO. What remains to be disclosed is the probable involvement of the NSA in rigging the system for those with the juice by facilitating money laundering - the monitoring of financial transactions works both ways and the profits can be enormous. This is after all a gangster state anymore.

Finally in "Data Pirates of the Caribbean" there is a reference to that giant elephant in the living room of what exactly gives the NSA the authorization to go rogue in such a manner to avoid oversight and that is President Ronald Reagan's Executive Order 12333:

SOMALGET operates under Executive Order 12333, a Reagan-era rule establishing wide latitude for the NSA and other intelligence agencies to spy on other countries, as long as the attorney general is convinced the efforts are aimed at gathering foreign intelligence. In 2000, the NSA assured Congress that all electronic surveillance performed under 12333 "must be conducted in a manner that minimizes the acquisition, retention, and dissemination of information about unconsenting U.S. persons." In reality, many legal experts point out, the lack of judicial oversight or criminal penalties for violating the order render the guidelines meaningless.

The biggest missing piece to all of the NSA revelations of the past year as well as the ongoing dismantling of the US Constitution to strip citizens of protections and protect a corrupt political and financial elite is HOW LONG has such activity been taking place? If you use Executive Order 12333 as a marker then such activities would have had to have been on the radar since at least December of 1981. That would oddly coincide with a sordid affair that has been flushed down the memory hole which was the Reagan administration's involvement in the theft and alteration
of INSLAW Corporation's highly advanced PROMIS software, a precursor of the programs in use today.

But that is a story for another time, as for now we just wait for the other shoe to drop on the Snowden revelations.