MYSTIC (surveillance program)

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MYSTIC is a voice interception program used by the National Security Agency. The program recorded every phone call made within a non-specified country for thirty days. According to former NSA Deputy Director John C. Inglis, the country is Iraq.[1] According to information later published by The Intercept, the country is the Bahamas.[2] After thirty days, the recorded phone calls are overridden by newer phone calls, although concern was raised that the NSA may start storing collected phone calls indefinitely.[3][4] Wikileaks later claimed that Afghanistan was being monitored by the NSA in a similar fashion.[5]


The MYSTIC program was first created in 2009, but was not implemented until 2011. In 2014, the existence of the program was revealed by documents leaked by Edward Snowden. After the Mystic program was revealed, The Washington Post argued that the surveillance program could be extended to other countries.[6] A representative of the American Civil Liberties Union criticized the program, stating that the NSA now has the ability to record anything it wants to.[7] It was also noted that MYSTIC is the first revealed NSA surveillance operation capable of monitoring and recording an entire nation's telecommunication system.[8]



Wikileaks has reported that Afghanistan was one of the programmes main targets [9] This has resulted in the United States government being criticised for repeatedly violating Afghanistan's sovereignty, especially after the unlawful[10][11] Afghanistan war that the US government waged in order to allegedly combat illegal organisations that the US had itself helped to start.[12][13][14] The combined impact of these violations of Afghanistan's sovereignty could be negative for US-Afghanistan relations.

North America[edit]

The NSA is actively recording and archiving "virtually every" cellphone call in the Bahamas and one other country under a program called SOMALGET, a sub-programme of MYSTIC. The NSA documents purport that unlawful mass surveillance of the Bahamas resulted in the apprehension of narcotics trafickers,[15] which has been criticised as ironic since the Central Intelligence Agency, a major colleague of the NSA, has been known to collaborate with narcotics dealers. The US government has also not yet shared information with the Bahamas, which it indicated that it would.[16]

The programme is also reportedly utilised to collect phonecall metadata in Mexico.[17]


The programme has also collected metadata from the Phillipines and Kenya.

See also[edit]