Bahamas Hires Law Firm for 'Surveillance and Privacy Matters' after NSA Revelations

Last month, a report based on documents obtained by Edward Snowden uncovered an elaborate National Security Agency surveillance program that monitors every call made in the Bahamas. The island nation appears to have responded to those charges by retaining attorneys to work on "surveillance and privacy" issues.

According to disclosure documents obtained by The Hill, the government of the Bahamas has hired American law firm Hogan Lovells to represent it in a variety of cases. While the Bahamas has worked with the firm before, it added new responsibilities to their agreement. The firm will represent the nation on issues “that may affect or relate to [its] activities and interests ... including but not limited to surveillance and privacy matters."

That agreement followed a revelation from the website The Intercept that the NSA had been "secretly intercepting, recording, and archiving the audio of virtually every cell phone conversation on the island nation of the Bahamas." Authors Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Ryan Devereaux explain that the surveillance program, known as SOMALGET, was "implemented without the knowledge or consent of the Bahamian government."

Unlike many NSA programs, SOMALGET did not appear to target terrorism, but the drug trade, attempting to record communications by those involved in drug trafficking to prevent the spread of drug cartels. 

The Bahamas revelation received less media attention than another revelation made in the story: that the NSA had implemented the same type of all-terrain surveillance and recording in another country. Greenwald, Poitras, and Devereaux did not reveal the name of the country, citing concerns that lives would be put in danger by the revelation. Wikileaks objected to the selective refusal to name the country, calling Greenwald "racist" for suggesting that the information could possibly harm some on the ground. In response to Greenwald's self-censorship, Wikileaks revealed that the second country where all phone calls are being monitored is Afghanistan.

The government of the Bahamas has not yet taken any action, aside from hiring attorneys, though this recent news could indicate that the nation is preparing to take legal action against the United States.


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