Documents published last week by the Australian web site Crikey revealed that the US government “compelled Telstra and Hong Kong-based PCCW to give it access to their undersea cables for spying on communications traffic entering and leaving the US.”
The significance of the disclosure is obvious; today, more than 99 percent of the world’s internet and telephone traffic is now carried by undersea fiber optic cables. An interactive submarine cable map published by the Global Bandwidth Research Service is illustrative in this regard.
Since the late 1960s as part of its ECHELON spy project, the United States has been tapping undersea cables to extract communications and signals intelligence. In fact, projects such as Operation Ivy Bells, a joint Navy-NSA secret intelligence program directed against the former Soviet Union was designed to do just that.
Prefiguring the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping scandal which broke in 2005, the Associated Press reported that a $3.2 billion Navy Seawolf class submarine, a 453-foot behemoth called the USS Jimmy Carter, “has a special capability: it is able to tap undersea cables and eavesdrop on the communications passing through them.”
A year later, AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein told Wired Magazinethat NSA was tapping directly into the world’s internet backbone, and was doing so from domestic listening posts the telecommunications’ giant jointly built with the agency at corporate switching stations.
Whatever submarine operations NSA still carry out with the US Navy and “Five Eyes” surveillance partners (Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the US), access to information flowing through undersea cables mean that the US government is well-positioned to scoop-up virtually all global communications.
Since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden began spilling the beans last month, it should be clear that the American government’s capabilities in amassing unprecedented volumes of information from cable traffic, also potentially hands the US and their corporate collaborators a treasure trove of sensitive economic secrets from competitors.
daily alternative | alternative news – Documents Show Undersea Cable Firms Provide Surveillance Access to US Secret State