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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Undersea cables and the NSA

I'd like to offer a follow-up to yesterday's must-read super-post (not written by me; it came from this blog). One section that did not find its way into yesterday's Cannonfire reads as follows...
The NSA not only accesses data directly from the largest internet companies, it also sucks up huge amounts of data straight from undersea cables providing telephone and Internet service to the United States.
We've discussed this matter before. Does anyone else recall the "cable cut" mystery of 2008? In fairly rapid order, five undersea cables were mysteriously severed in the Middle East, leading to lots of theories as to why these mutilations occurred. My own humble offering ran thus:
My instincts tell me that the purpose of inflicting this kind of damage would be to have the "right" people conduct the repair operations. The NSA may find it a whole lot easier to tap into the data stream once the patch job is complete.
With that bit of history in mind, let's take another look at a small mystery which this blog mentioned a couple of days ago...
Differing slide syndrome. This catch by Cryptome gets more interesting the closer one looks at it. Both the WP and the Guardian published the same "liberated" slide concerning Prism. But it's not really the same -- there are slight differences. See for yourself.

Are the differences significant? You tell me.
It seems that the two papers worked from two different pdfs, which purported show the same report. Here are the two versions of that slide:

I think you can spot the most important difference: The Guardian focused on undersea cables around the world -- including cables in the area affected by the 2008 mystery -- while the WP version (the "revised" version?) shows cables off the coast of the United States.

I'm still not sure what to make of all this. But I think there is something to this line of investigation. If you have any further data or useful speculations -- or even a critique -- please share.

By the way: Now the NYT wants us to believe that Ed Snowden was a scary hacker, even though the things he revealed had nothing to do with hacking.

Also, just in case you haven't seen it yet, you should read this article about the instantly-infamous Walter Pincus hit on Greenwald and Snowden. Pincus falsely claimed that Snowden worked for the NSA for only three months.
Obama called him a "hacker" first, on 27 June.

That was when he said he wasn't scrambling jets to grab a "29-year-old hacker", implying (lyingly in my opinion, supported by so many subsquent events that few would now disagree with me) that he would allow a civilian Aeroflot flight carrying Snowden to go through US airspace on its way to Cuba.

So he's become a "scary" hacker now, has he, for the NYT?

Obama also said in the same statement that he had not called Putin personally. "And the reason is because, number one, I shouldn't have to. This is something that routinely is dealt with between law enforcement officials in various countries. And this is not exceptional from a legal perspective".

Since then, he has called Putin.
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