Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham gave approval for the United States to monitor and record cell phone calls in The Bahamas in 2009 while former Commissioner of Police Reginald Ferguson assisted American surveillance officials with setting up the phone tapping system, a top Christie Administration official confirmed to the Bahama Journal yesterday.
The official, who spoke to the Journal on the condition of anonymity, said the former prime minister approved the programme to assist with Operations Bahamas and Turks and Caicos (OPBAT), which is a combined effort by The Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States to crackdown on drug trafficking and conduct investigations.
According to the official, the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF), at the time headed by former Commissioner Ferguson, allowed and facilitated the phone bugging through its Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU) offices on Thompson Boulevard.
“This has been going on for a long time and there is no question as to whether the former administration knew that phone calls were being tapped,” the official said.
The official’s revelation echoes US judge and Fox News analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano’s assertion that in order for such a programme to be in existence, The Government of The Bahamas would have had to approve it.
On Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis confirmed that the United States had completed its preliminary investigation into the matter after the Bahamian government last week, demanded a full explanation about why the programme was being used.
He said the report shows that then Ingraham Administration was aware of the programme and accommodated the United States with its surveillance.
The Free National Movement (FNM) initially denied any suggestion that the previous administration had knowledge of the spying programme, but in recent times, the party’s leader Dr. Hubert Minnis, who served in the Ingraham Cabinet, has changed his tone somewhat and has since asked the government to produce proof if they have it, to demonstrate whether the former administration approved the phone bugging.
Last week, it was revealed through leaked documents from former US National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden that the agency had been recording all cell phone calls to, from and within The Bahamas.
The spying was a part of a top secret surveillance programme codenamed Somalget.
The documents allege that the programme was carried out without the knowledge or consent of the Bahamian government.
Further it claims that the NSA is conducting similar monitoring programmes in Mexico, Kenya, the Philipines and Afghanistan.
The US report is expected to be turned over to the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.