Irish underwater internet cables tapped by UK intelligence

Irish underwater internet cables tapped by UK intelligence

New leaked files from Edward Snowden seem to show that UK authorities have tapped the underwater cables that carry data from Ireland to the UK and beyond.

A Channel 4 investigation last week showed that Cable & Wireless, one of the UK's largest communication companies, cooperated in handing over traffic to the Government Communications Headquarters intelligence agency.

German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung then published the original documents last week, which apparently demonstrated "close cooperation" between the UK intelligence agency GCHQ and telecoms companies.

Among the 63 cables listed in documents purportedly showing which cables the agency has access to and to what extent are two major cables with Irish landings: the Hibernia and Solas.

The Solas cable runs 200km from Kilmore Quay in Ireland to Oxwich Bay in the UK, and is owned jointly by Eircom and Vodafone.

The Hibernia line, meanwhile, runs from Dublin to Southport, but also extra 12,200km, across the Atlantic to Nova Scotia and Massachusetts. It is listed by the spy agency under "cables we do not currently have good access".

Other cables with Irish landings include ESAT 1 and 2, both listed under the poor access document, and a cable marked UK-Ireland GX.

Several other cables carrying data are not included on the list. It is not clear what type or quantity of data intelligence employees actually had access to.

The UK company Cable & Wireless was bought by Vodafone, who told Channel 4 investigators that GCHQ had no direct access and could only acquire data with a warrant.

— Dave Molloy


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