Published On: Wed, May 21st, 2014

The NSA collects every call record and information transmitted via cell phone in Mexico

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Secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden and published by the digital magazine The Intercept reveal that The National Security Agency of the United States (NSA), collects every call record and information transmitted via cell phone in Mexico, as part of a program sponsored by the CIA.
The program, known as “MYSTIC”, is used to collect a cellphone’s metadata, specifically the origin of the call, destination, duration, location and related numbers, in five countries. Mexico is one of those countries, according to the report made by journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras (who received the massive archive of classified documents leaked by Snowden and whose stories won the Pulitzer Prize for The Guardian) along with Ryan Devereaux from The Intercept.
NSA "Mystic"

NSA “Mystic”

It is not known whether or not MYSTIC has been implemented with the Government’s or telecommunications companies’ permission.
Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald receive an award for national security reporting for their stories on the spy programmes. (Photo: Reuters)

Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald receive an award for national security reporting for their stories on the spy programmes. (Photo: Reuters)

According to the leaked documents, MYSTIC focuses on calls and other data transmitted through Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), the main structure used for cellular calls worldwide. In addition to Mexico, the other countries where the program has operated since 2013 or earlier (it started in 2009), are the Philippines, Kenya, the Bahamas and one more unnamed country (The Intercept explains that there is an agreement to suppress the name of the fifth country so as to not to trigger further violence there).
NSA surveillance program revelations continue to surface

NSA surveillance program revelations continue to surface (Photo:

The Intercept says that the NSA uses MYSTIC to collect personal data on cell phone calls made in countries with a combined population of over 250 million people and according to the documents, the NSA has sought to extend this capability to several more countries. The Embassy of Mexico in the U.S. and other embassies did not respond to phone calls or emails from The Intercept requesting comments about this program. For the Bahamas and the unidentified country, MYSTIC includes a secret system called “Somalget” that not only collects the metadata, but records and stores the contents of the calls. According to the documents, this was implemented without the knowledge or authorization of the government of the Bahamas, and was achieved through previous permits issued to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to access the communications network in that country.
Somalget is a technological tool that allows the NSA to intercept and store the content of any conversation in an entire country, declared The Intercept, which suspects that the Bahamas was used as a laboratory for Somalget before it was introduced to other countries. The DEA provides access to these communication systems in other countries through their international cooperation agreements, and according to the documents, these host countries are not aware of the NSA intelligence collection of communications.
Finn Selander, former DEA special agent, told The Intercept about the agency that is dedicated not only to combat drug traffickers, but is in effect one of the biggest espionage operations in the world. “Those countries allow us to enter because they do not see us as a spy organization” declared Selander. According to documents, the cooperation between the NSA and DEA is extensive. In the case of Mexico, the documents say that MYSTIC used the services of private companies specializing in the implementation of telecommunication systems.
Phone records data
The Original Report Several months ago
The Washington Post revealed the existence of MYSTIC, based on documents leaked by Snowden, but did not identify the countries where it had been implemented, by request of the American authorities (something that is revealed today for the first time by The Intercept). The Post reported that the debate continues on how much should be disclosed, not only between authorities and journalists, but among the promoters of transparency.
Yes we can

Yes we can

It was reported that Wikileaks has “condemned” the decision of The Intercept to censor the identity of the fifth country, and demanded that it be revealed within 72 hours. Meanwhile, the NSA again expressed concern about the risks to human life and national security that could result from these leaks, and reaffirmed that its mission is to ensure the protection of the national security of the United States with strictly legal efforts and appropriate protection of privacy rights.
It is not yet clear whether Washington has offered explanations of the NSA operations in Mexico as demanded by the Mexican Government when they were revealed in October 2013.

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