New information leaked from Edward Snowden says the NSA used a legal wiretap to jumpstart a wiretapping effort in the Bahamas. A DEA tap was surreptitiously tapped by the NSA, which could record “over 00 million call events per day”, and store them up to one month.
The project, dubbed SOMALGET, was apparently an effort by the NSA to provide info to other federal departments. An internal NSA memo says their International Crime & Narcotics division used the info to hunt down “special interest drug smugglers”. The document also said SOMALGET had been deployed in the Bahamas and one other country, but The Intercept isn’t saying which country that is, noting they were holding back “in response to specific, credible concerns that doing so could lead to increased violence.”
Given the right circumstances, the NSA says they could store 5 billion SOMALGET intercepted call instances for a month. The project, a subset of the NSA’s MYSTIC tapping service, which was implemented with the help of telecom companies and other governments. MYSTIC also collects metadata, contrasting the specified data collected with SOMALGET. The MYSTIC program is still active in Mexico, Kenya, and the Philippines.
In response to the report, the NSA said “the implication that NSA's foreign intelligence collection is arbitrary and unconstrained is false”. They did not specifically acknowledge or address any specific program, though.
Source: The Intercept