This article is more than 1 year old

Snowden doc leak lists submarine'd cables tapped by spooks

El Reg's CIRCUIT, REMEDY and GERONTIC scoop verified in list of 62 popped pipes

Edward Snowden's latest document dump has confirmed the extensive list of submarine cables tapped by the NSA, GCHQ and others.

A list of cables errily reminiscent to that The Register revealed in June has been made public by German broadsheet Süddeutsche Zeitung in a Google Drive dump here.

As The Register's Duncan Campbell revealed at the time, access to cables under the programs called “CIRCUIT” (intercepting cables landing at Seeb in Oman), “REMEDY” (access to BT cable facilities) and “GERONTIC” (Vodafone) delivered up a huge amount of communications to GCHQ and NSA spooks.

Other cable owners whose identities remain a secret are referred to in the new documents: “DACRON”, “LITTLE”, “PINNAGE”, “STREETCAR” and “VITREOUS”. All up, the partner carriers provided access to a total of 62 international submarine cables in around 2009, the date of the document.

The documents also confirm the cooperation of Cable & Wireless (acquired by Vodafone in 2012) with the programs.

The cables claimed as “tapped” in the document aren't just giant international systems: even apparently minor links such as from Guam to the Philippines, from Cayman to Jamaica, Latvia to Sweden, and Italy to Malta are included in the dragnet.

The Australia-Japan Cable and the Southern Cross Cable Network are both listed, along with the SEA-ME-WE 3 and SEA-ME-WE 4 networks. Telstra Endeavour, which went live in 2008, is not listed, and the PIPE Networks PPC cable was not in service at the time the document seems to have been compiled.

SZ also notes that the new leak details payments – in one case more than £20 million – to C&W and Vodafone for the cable access. The leaks confirm reports earlier this week that FLAG, owned by Global Cloud eXchange (formerly Reliance Globalcom) was also tapped.

One curious note in the SZ report makes El Reg wonder whether the spooks' access may have been less comprehensive than they would want: “Through NIGELLA, the document suggests, GCHQ could also see so-called performance statistics and obtain “weekly automated pulls of FLAG router monitoring webpages”.

The document dump also includes detailed descriptions of the world's submarine cable system at around 2011, apparently a compilation from the famous Telegeography submarine cable map, amusingly with the field “Latest Telegeography Page” given as “REDACTED” apparently because whoever compiled the database didn't want to be cross-checked by a partner. ®

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like