Categorized | National News

Mitchell Takes Spy Talks To OAS

Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell said government officials will hold a second round of talks with the United States Government at a high level meeting, as the country continues its quest to get to the bottom of the US’ National Security Agency spying scandal.

The two sides first held talks over the details as to why the NSA was tapping all cellular calls to, from and within The Bahamas for years back in May, but to date no answers have been received.

On Sunday, Minister Mitchell announced that a Foreign Service team is expected to attend the annual general assemble meeting of the Organisation of American States (OAS) in Asuncion, Paraguay on June 3 where minsters of foreign affairs from across the hemisphere except Cuba, are scheduled to attend.

“This 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 unauthorised recording by the United States of mobile calls made to and from The Bahamas,” he said.

“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. You can rest assured that the various comments have been noted in the press and on social media about this matter including the denials of any knowledge of this by ministers of the Free National Movement with the glaring exception of the former prime minister. The government takes the matter seriously and will continue to uphold the laws of The Bahamas and the best interest of Bahamians in this matter.”

Minister Mitchell said the allegations are a matter of national concern and that the government will not remain silent on the issue.

He added that the government is also prepared to take discussions to another level as officials plan to have a one-on-one meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

“It is very important because it goes to the very essence of the rights of Bahamians and you don’t have to step very far to see the level of agitation over this,” he said.

“A society, a civilisation survives, our international relationships survive based on a rule of law and a code of conduct and understanding as to how we behave toward one another,” he added. “Some countries are rich, some countries are more powerful, and you can’t do anything about those things. We must hold everybody to the same moral and ethical standard regardless of their size, power or wealth at that’s the position of The Bahamas Government.”

Last month, an online article revealed that all cellphone calls were being secretly intercepted, recorded and archived by the NSA as a part of a top-secret system which is codenamed “SOMALGET.”

The article titled, “Data Pirates of the Caribbean: The NSA is recording every call in The Bahamas,” appears on the online site, The Intercept.

The report, which cites documents provided by US contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, further alleged that the programme was implemented without the consent or knowledge of the Bahamian government.

It is believed that the programme may have been in operation in The Bahamas since at least 2011.

According to the online report the NSA has also been monitoring calls in Kenya, Mexico, the Philippines and Afghanistan.

When asked if The Bahamas Telecommunications Company, (BTC) may have played a role with assisting the NSA, Mr. Mitchell said that there are not facts to verify such claims.

As government investigations continue, Mr. Mitchell said that an officer within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been tasked by the Permanent Secretary to gather all the pertinent information about the matter.

Mr. Mitchell leaves the country today and is scheduled to return to the country for the Labour Day holiday, he said that he will brief parliament on the matter during his contribution to the budget debate.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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