Categorized | National News

Bahamas Asks US To Explain Cell Phone Tapping

The Bahamian government has demanded a full explanation from the United States amid allegations that the US has been secretly monitoring and recording the cellular phone calls of people in The Bahamas, Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell said yesterday.

In what has quickly become a public embarrassment for the government, an online report released Monday, alleged that the US through its National Security Agency (NSA), has accessed the country’s telephone network allowing it to covertly record all mobile calls made to, from and within The Bahamas.

Through documents allegedly obtained from former NSA contractor and now infamous whistleblower Edward Snowden, the report claimed the operation was carried out without the knowledge or consent of the Bahamian government.

“The news that there is spying and the collecting of the audio of mobile phone calls of Bahamians by agencies of another country is clearly startling,” Mr. Mitchell told reporters at a press conference at the Lynden Pindling International Airport. “The facts must be determined.

“Otherwise, the behaviour described would be clearly illegal and on the face of it an abuse of powers. It would also represent a great moral failing on the part of its perpetrators, in addition to illegality which challenges the founding principles of the rule of law. It would also be an invasion of the privacy of the individual, a cherished democratic value and a legal right. Some explanation is required formally to confirm or deny the truth and authenticity of these allegations.”

Mr. Mitchell acknowledged that he had been advised by US Embassy officials of the possibility of a story being released based on the leaks of Snowden, but still the minister insist that the Bahamian government is owed an explanation.

He refused to speak prematurely about what actions the government is prepared to take against the US if the allegations prove to be true, but Mr. Mitchell stressed that the right to privacy is a fundamental principal that must be preserved.

“There has to be a balanced reaction to this,” Mr. Mitchell said. “I think you can’t throw the baby out with the bath water, although you have to be sure that our values and principles we stand up for them and we will not shrink in the face of any challenge to those values and principles.”

The minister said that a meeting was expected to take place between Bahamian Ambassador to the US Eugene Newry and the US Foreign Office in Washington DC.

Mr. Mitchell, who spoke to reporters ahead of boarding a flight to Guyana where he will attend a Caricom meeting of Foreign Ministers, said he will brief his Caricom counterparts about this situation and seek their advice on how to proceed.

Though The Bahamas was the only country in the region named where this illegal wiring is happening, the report alleged that monitoring of cellular phone calls by the NSA is also happening in Kenya, Mexico and the Philippines.

In all, the report said that a combined population of 250 million people is being monitored as a part of this covert and potentially illegal programme.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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