|Mitchell: Facts on drone testing will be made public|
Guardian Senior Reporter
Published: Jun 26, 2012
The revelation that the Ingraham administration allowed the United States to conduct secret surveillance flights over Bahamian waters for more than 18 months raises questions over what else the former government kept from the public, Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell said yesterday.
Mitchell told The Nassau Guardian that his ministry’s internal minutes and notes did not have details on the reported drone testing.
Referring to the explanation given by former National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest over the weekend about the testing, the minister said, “With the FNM anything is possible.
“We have to get to the facts, find out what happened, find out what the arrangements are, what the parameters of it are and then be able to better inform the public.
“We now have to find out what other secret things they did and didn’t tell us.”
Mitchell said he was not against drone surveillance as an avenue to track drug runners, but indicated he was suspicious about the reason given by the former national security minister for the drone testing.
“Obviously one wants to do whatever is necessary to prevent drug smuggling,” Mitchell said.
“But I can’t take anything that the (former) minister of national security says at face value. I have to check the facts and find out before I pronounce on what he says, or what his rationale was.”
Turnquest told The Nassau Guardian the matter was kept secret so drug traffickers are not up to speed on methods being used by authorities.
The government has launched an investigation into the surveillance testing and Mitchell said once that is complete the findings will be made public.
The revelations that the United States has quietly been testing unmanned surveillance flights over The Bahamas for more than 18 months were made by the Los Angeles Times in a recent article.
U.S. Embassy Spokesperson Erica Thibault released a statement on the matter late yesterday.
“The U.S. Government and the Commonwealth of The Bahamas share a longstanding commitment to combating the flow of illegal drugs and migrants through a variety of joint law enforcement efforts,” Thibault said.
“These joint efforts are all the more critical as drug traffickers and human smugglers seek new ways to evade authorities and move illegal contraband throughout our region.
“These joint efforts improve the security of both our countries and have been, and remain, a fundamental part of the excellent relations between our two countries.”
When asked on Sunday if the former administration knew about the drone testing, Turnquest said, “Nothing happens in The Bahamas unless the Government of The Bahamas knows about it.”
He added: “The Bahamas and the United States have a long lasting relationship in the fight against drugs and we’ve worked together over the years and utilized various methods. Much of what we have done, we don’t make public.”