Britain’s GCHQ monitored Irish internet traffic
Britain’s surveillance body, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), could be tapping underwater cables connecting Ireland to the global web, according to a new document leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and released by German media.
The document, titled ‘Partner Cables,’ identifies the cables that GCHQ has tried to gain access to, and names their owners by codename.
Vodafone subsidiary Cable & Wireless apparently cooperated closely with the British intelligence agency and provided them with details, German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) reported as it published the leak.
A total of 63 submarine cables are listed – among which are 29 Cable & Wireless lines under the alias GERONTIC, which are mentioned as potential helpers. The Solas undersea cable – which links Ireland’s County Wexford to Wales – is included in the list.
The method of access is described as being “DCO,” which stands for “direct cable ownership.”
According to the document, Cable & Wireless “actively shaped and provided the most data to GCHQ mass surveillance programmes, and received millions of pounds in compensation.” It added that Cable & Wireless apparently played a key role “in the establishment of one of the Government Communications Headquarters’ (GCHQ) most controversial surveillance programs.”
Irish telecommunications company Eircom, which has a 50 percent share in Solas cable, told the Irish Times on Friday that it has “no knowledge of any activity of that nature.”
Vodafone also told the newspaper that “we have no knowledge of any activity of that nature.”
However, the document indicates that large sums of money – reportedly “millions of pounds” – may have been granted to Cable & Wireless as compensation for the surveillance.
The document also showed how the Hibernia cable – which connects Ireland to both the US and Canada – was tapped. The document labels it as a cable that GCHQ does not currently “have good access” to.
However, at least some access to the Hibernia cable is apparent – providers helping GCHQ go by the names ‘VITREOUS’ and ‘LITTLE.’ They are alleged to have provided “Indefeasible Rights of Use / Lit Capacity” access, according to the Irish Times.
A spokesperson for a VITREOUS-linked company denied their involvement in the spying practices to the Times.
Former NSA contractor and CIA employee Snowden stirred controversy in June 2013 after passing to journalists large portions of top secret NSA materials, exposing the total American surveillance network worldwide.
He currently resides in an undisclosed location in Moscow, Russia.