Bahamas Ramps up Demands For Answers After NSA Spying Revelation

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Bahamas Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell
Bahamas Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell

NASSAU, Bahamas — A foreign service team will travel to Paraguay this week to address the Organization of American States and meet with a representative from the office of the U.S. assistant secretary of state on the controversial allegations that the National Security Agency of the United States is recording and storing audio from every cellphone conversation in The Bahamas, Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell said on Sunday.

During a press conference, Mitchell pointed out that it has been more than a week since U.S. officials indicated they would give a public response on the matter.

No such response has yet come, according to Mitchell.

Mitchell said his ministry is “kicking it up to an even higher level to get answers.”

He said it is imperative to get to the bottom of who, if anyone, authorized the alleged spying.

Only the ministry of national security, the Office of the Attorney General and the commissioner of police can authorize listening of private citizens’ phone conversations, according to the Listening Devices Act.

Mitchell said that everyone in the current and former administration, who would have had authority to sign off on access to the cellphones, with the “glaring exception” of the former prime minister Hubert Ingraham, has publicly denied knowledge of the matter.

Asked whether he felt Ingraham should provide a public response, Mitchell said, “I am not going to prescribe to him what his behavior ought to be.

“I only point out to you that everybody has spoken except him, and that is as far as I want to go.”

He added, “The fact is, the allegations are still out there and as the government of the day we have to get to the bottom of this and if there is unlawful activity, we have to make every effort to stop it.”

Mitchell said whatever the outcome of the matter is, the government will stand up for the rule of law, for the protection of the privacy of Bahamians, and will hold all The Bahamas’ international partners to their own moral standards.

When asked if there is any evidence to suggest the Bahamas Telecommunications Company was used to facilitate the recordings, Mitchell said there are many “straws in the wind at the moment, but no hard facts.”

The company has said neither BTC nor its parent company Cable and Wireless Communications is “complicit” in any breach of customer information.

Mitchell said he has assigned an officer to gather information on the history of the matter.

“Social media is alive with this, which means the Bahamian population is agitated over it,” he said.

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