Up until now, whenever the NSA's spying programs were brought up, defenders would claim that it wasn't a big deal. The reason is that the NSA was only collecting "metadata."
In other words, it wasn't listening to phone calls or reading email, just seeing the parties involved and when the conversation happened. Or so it claimed.
That claim turns out to be untrue, at least in the case of the Bahamas. Allegedly, the NSA cooperated with the DEA to get access to the Bahamas' mobile phone network. Then it ran a program called SOMALGET.
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.
According to leaked documents, the NSA can record full audio of every conversation taking place on the network and keep it for up to a month. In the case of the Bahamas, this means phone calls taking place inside the country and with people outside the country.
The NSA refused to comment on the program, but said in a statement that “the implication that NSA’s foreign intelligence collection is arbitrary and unconstrained is false.” The agency also insisted that it follows procedures to “protect the privacy of U.S. persons” whose communications are “incidentally collected.”
Do you believe the NSA? Will this revelation change how you use the phone? Tell me your thoughts in the comments.