US intelligence agencies along with their British counterparts allegedly wiretap undersea cables, particularly those passing through the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian/Arabian Gulf.
The cables are used by telecommunication companies like Vodafone and tapped to conduct mass surveillance programs, according to new secret documents leaked by hacker Edward Snowden.
Documents published by news website The Register reveal the existence of a secret British spy base located at Seeb on the northern coast of Oman, a strategic position that allows the GCHQ to tap several undersea cables passing through the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian/Arabian Gulf.
Other document also detail operations conducted in other major spy base located in Bude in Cornwall, in this plant the British intelligence access network feeds Internet data from more than 18 undersea cables coming into different parts of Britain either direct to GCHQ in Cheltenham.
“The majority of large cables come ashore in Cornwall, and have been connected directly to Bude. These include major connections such as FLAG (Fibre optic Link Around the Globe), two of whose cables have been intercepted. Because the FLAG interceptions had to be kept secret from the cables’ owners, one report states, the tapping connections were installed in an undisclosed UK location and “backhauled” to Bude, in the technical language of the communications industry,” the Register says in its report.
The report also says “British telecommunications firms supported GCHQ in collectiong large volume of internet data from undersea cables, the overall amount of information from 2007 to 2012 registered a 7,000-fold increase, meanwhile the spying system monitored nearly 46 billion private communications “events” every day.”
The data collected by the undersea cable would include content from online messages, browsing sessions, VOIP calls and emails.
The documents also reveal that the spying operation extended to a rival foreign communications company:
“According to the reports, Cable & Wireless also appears to have helped GCHQ obtain data from a rival foreign communications company, India’s Reliance Communications, enabling the spies to sweep up communications sent by millions of internet users worldwide through a Reliance-owned cable that stretches from England across Asia and the Middle East. This so-called “access point” for GCHQ was named Nigella and located near an agency surveillance base in Bude, Cornwall. Reliance did not respond to a request for comment.” states The Intercept in a blog post.