A connected world - The Washington Post
Agreements with private companies protect U.S. access to cables’ data for surveillance
The security agreement for Global Crossing [qui appartient désormais à Level 3 Communications], whose fiber-optic network connected 27 nations and four continents, required the company to have a “Network Operations Center” on U.S. soil that could be visited by government officials with 30 minutes of warning. Surveillance requests, meanwhile, had to be handled by U.S. citizens screened by the government and sworn to secrecy — in many cases prohibiting information from being shared even with the company’s executives and directors.
One #NSA slide titled, “Two Types of Collection,” shows both #PRISM and a separate effort labeled “Upstream” and lists four code names: Fairview, Stormbrew, Blarney and Oakstar. A diagram superimposed on a crude map of undersea cable networks describes the Upstream program as collecting “communications on fiber #cables and #infrastructure as data flows past.”
Tapping undersea transmission cables had been a key U.S. surveillance tactic for decades, dating back to the era when copper lines carrying sensitive telephone communications could be accessed by listening devices divers could place on the outside of a cable’s housing, said naval historian Norman Polmar, author of “Spy Book: The Encyclopedia of Espionage.”
“The U.S. has had four submarines that have been outfitted for these special missions,” he said.
But the fiber-optic lines — each no thicker than a quarter — were far more difficult to tap successfully than earlier generations of undersea technology, and interception operations ran the risk of alerting cable operators that their network had been breached.
It’s much easier to collect information from any of dozens of cable landing stations around the world — where data transmissions are sorted into separate streams — or in some cases from network operations centers that oversee the entire system, say those familiar with the technology who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence matters.