A series of bizarre coincidences has left several African countries experiencing significantly reduced Internet traffic. The Register reported 28 February that an undersea cable was cut off the coast of Kenya on 25 February, severely reducing Internet traffic along the Eastern side of the African continent. The East African Marine Systems (TEAMS) cable pipes Internet and telecommunications from its landing points in Fujairah in the UAE to Mombasa, Kenya. A ship had apparently "dropped anchor in a restricted area", though no further details, in particular the ship's name, were provided. But what had apparently gone unnoticed up until this incident, at least in Western media, was the severance of three other submarine communications cables further north in the Red Sea on 17 February. The three cables in question were the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy), the Europe India Gateway (EIG) and the South East Asia Middle East Western Europe-3 (SEA-ME-WE-3). EASSy issued a press release on 29 February stating that:

© submarinecablemap.comThe East African Marine System (TEAMS) cable from UAE to Kenya. (Click on image for clearer resolution)
  • The EASSy cable was cut on 17 February 2012 at 14:27
  • The cable cut is at a depth of 165m
  • The cut section of cable is located in the Red Sea between the EASSy landing stations at Port Sudan and Djibouti
  • The vessel believed to be responsible for the cable cut has been identified.
  • The cut is believed to have been caused by the anchor of this vessel, a cargo ship, being dragged more than 150km along the sea bed
Chris Wood, CEO of West Indian Ocean Cable, the largest shareholder of EASSy and a major owner of data-capacity rights on the two other submarine cables, told the Wall Street Journal that all three cables were "severed at the same time about 650 feet [200 metres] below the Red Sea." So three separate undersea communications cables were severed at three points in the same section of the Red Sea on 17 February. A week later, the TEAMS cable was severed somewhere off the coast of Mombasa, Kenya.

What are the odds?

While he believes them to be "accidental incidents", Wood conceded that "it's a very unusual situation." Repairs on all four cables are apparently underway and the companies involved say it will take three weeks to resume normal Internet and telecommunications services to millions of users. Repairs on the damaged cables in the Red Sea will be carried out by the same company, E-marine, part of Dubai-based telecommunications giant Etisalat, which laid down sections of all four damaged cables . I've looked for any corroborating evidence from reports of ships "dragging anchor" being caught up in these cable-cutting incidents, but nothing has turned up yet. Something tells me we'll never learn the identities of the ships allegedly involved, perhaps because they don't exist.

© submarinecablemap.comEastern Africa Submarine System (EASSy) submarine cable runs from Sudan to South Africa. (Click on image for clearer resolution)
Others have a different take on the cause of the damaged cables. An unnamed source from African Internet Service Provider Airtel told Ugandan newspaper the Daily Monitor that "the EASSy and TEAMS cables were cut by malicious people at the weekend and this is causing connection problems." This claim prompted me to do a bit of digging.

It turns out that there have been numerous incidents of severed undersea communications cables in recent years. Not only that, they tend to happen in clusters. In February 2008, three cables were severed in the space of three days. Two were situated off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt and the third off the coast of Dubai, again in 'restricted areas' - namely to prevent cargo ships from doing the very thing they are accused of here. Then a fourth cable 'snapped'. Some think the number reached as high as nine, with several of them occurring simultaneously.

Many Middle Eastern countries were affected at the time, notably Egypt and Iran. Israel and Iraq were not affected as they use alternative routes. Ships "dragging anchor" were blamed then too, but Egypt's communications ministry later ruled that out on the basis of footage recorded by onshore video cameras of the location of the cables, which showed no maritime traffic in the area when the cables were damaged. A UN agency, the International Telecommunication Union, said that deliberate sabotage was a likely cause.

© submarinecablemap.comSouth East Asia Middle East Western Europe-3 (SMW-3) cable from Europe to Australia and South Korea. (Click on image for clearer resolution)
Lightning never strikes twice, right? Well, actually, it did in December that year when up to 70 percent of Internet and mobile communications in Egypt and 60 percent in India were disrupted following the "incredibly rare experience [of] a dual-break where both cables [went] down simultaneously", again off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt. Luckily, Israel was again spared damage, but service in Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates was severely affected. By the time a fourth cable 'snapped' in the same month, people were beginning to realise something was seriously amiss.
Severed cable disrupts net access
BBC, 19 December 2008

"We've lost three out of four lines. If the fourth cable breaks, we're looking at a total blackout in the Middle East," said Jonathan Wright, director of wholesale products at Interoute which manages part of the optical fibre network.

"These three circuits account for 90% of the traffic and we're going to see more international phone calls dropping and a huge degradation in the quality of local internet," he added.

"Normally you would expect to see one major break per cable per year. With four you should have an insurance policy. For this to happen twice in one year, on the same cable, is a serious cause for concern."
For somebody to have deliberately sabotaged these cables, they would have to know where to locate the cables on the sea floor and have access to sophisticated technology capable of descending to the sea floor and severing the cables, so I think we can rule out Somali pirates. There are, of course, other kinds of pirates, like the Pirates of the Mediterranean. They have the means, the motive and the track record of generating chaos in everybody else's backyards. In December 2010, Tareq Abdul Razzaq Hassan, an Egyptian businessman accused of working for Israeli intelligence services, told Egyptian authorities that Israeli sabotage had been to blame for the December 2008 cable-snipping incidents.

Europe India Gateway (EIG) submarine cable from the UK to India. (Click on image for clearer resolution)
Following the first spate of damaged cables in January and February 2008, the issue was brought up in a session with the Cs on 21 March 2008:
Q:(J) Who or what cut the undersea cables recently?

A: Can you give us an "M"? Now an "O"?

Q: (S) That's kind of weird 'cause they cut them and what, they're just gonna go and repair them now?

A: And what fun things they can do with "repairs"!

Q:(S) So it's what we thought it was; that they cut them and then repair them and put in taps. (L) I don't know if it would necessarily just be taps, I would say it would probably be something more elaborate than that... (S) I suppose, yeah, if you wanted to insert traffic instead of actually having to have access to the equipment and then being able to be tracked, you just have the little device that sits... you know, you have equipment here and equipment here, and a line running between, and then you have a little gizmo and they can insert traffic to make it look like you were saying... to make it look like Iran is saying things... if there are backdoors in everything like on either end of the ocean, they could insert things... well I guess we'll have to wait and see what fun things they end up doing...
'Fun' stuff like... Manipulating elections? Inciting revolutions? Blocking governments from access to vital communications systems at critical junctures? Relaying false intelligence between governments and organisations? Stealing, planting or redirecting information for blackmail purposes? Assassinating opponents in broad daylight and getting away with it? The possibilities are endless for an entity bold enough to try it. If it is an information war they are engaged in, then what better tactic that to 'gain the higher ground' by controlling the physical fibre optic cables all the actors on the stage depend on for communications, trade and governance in the 21st Century?

It was suggested in 2008 that Iran was the ultimate target of the cable sabotage-and-repair operations. Ahmadinejad's government had recently announced the establishment of an Iranian oil bourse that would move away from trading oil in petrodollars. I think it's interesting that this time around, Iran has announced that it will begin accepting gold for all its international trade. Gaddafi made a similar announcement shortly before NATO bombed Libya.

It's the next (patho)logical step up in cyberwarfare. We know they have software capable of disabling whole countries, so access to the hardware provides an even more expansive platform from which to influence events through backdoors. Thinking about underwater vehicles and how they might have executed these cut-and-run jobs reminded me of the extensive arsenal at Israel's disposal.
Merkel 'donates' nuclear submarine to Netanyahu

Press TV
Monday, 18 January 2010

Ahead of an Israeli-German cabinet meeting in Berlin, media reports indicate that Israel intends to station one of its German-made Dolphin submarines in the waters of the Persian Gulf.

"Israel's use of the dolphin submarine in exercises in the Red Sea aroused fears that Israel may seek to maintain a continued presence in the Persian Gulf as soon as it receives its submarines form [sic] Germany in 2011-2012," the Tagesspiegel said on Sunday. [...]

Israel has previously received three submarines as a donation form the government of the then German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

The German newspaper Berliner Zeitung in 2003 revealed that Germany's leading shipyard company Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft was involved in negotiations with Israel to construct two additional Dolphin submarines.
Incidentally, one of these two additional Dolphin submarines is now ready for delivery:
Controversial Israeli sub surfaces in Kiel

Tuesday 21 February 2012

© thelocal.deThe answer to why anyone would gift Israel nuclear submarines capable of launching nuclear warheads lies beyond the bounds of normal human logic.
A controversial submarine soon to be delivered to Israel - the largest produced in Germany since World War II - has made an appearance at the northern port city of Kiel. [...]

Israel has already received three Dolphin-class submarines from Germany and is expected to get at least two more by the end of 2013.
They wouldn't even need submarines to do the job though. A remotely operated vehicle (ROV) fitted with a cutting arm could surely do the job in the shallower waters of the Red Sea.

Remember the Stuxnet worm? The 'super-cyber-virus' is credited with setting back the Iranian civilian nuclear programme several years. But rather than the fabled 'Iranian nuclear programme', I think its real purpose was its deployment against multiple administrative organs, part of Israel's relentless efforts to aggravate Iran into retaliation.

Speaking of malicious trojan worms, a nasty one going around at the moment has provided the FBI with a great opportunity to pull the plug on several crucial domain name servers, potentially leaving millions of Internet users in the dark (including, apparently, "half of all Fortune 500 firms, and 27 out of 55 major US government entities"). The virus has corrupted computers in more than 100 countries and has a script called DNSChanger Trojan that taps into fraudulent servers, redirecting users to illegal sites. In plain terms, it's designed to incriminate innocent people. Temporary measures put in place by the FBI last year to contain the spread of the virus are set to time out on 8 March.

While I suspect Israeli foul play behind the sabotaged submarine cables, I'm unsure whether we can limit state involvement to the Zionist regime. The mentality behind such 'fun and games' is matched by the US government in particular, as can plainly be seen in its counter-intelligence programme applied to cyberwarfare. Connecting the many undersea cut cable dots in 2008, Dr. Richard Sauder noted their obsession with controlling the Internet and all forms of communications, before citing an official US Department of Defense document to expose their shared strategic aims:
This would be completely in line with articulated American military doctrine, which frankly views the Internet as something to be fought. American Freedom Of Information researchers at George Washington University obtained a Department of Defense (Pentagon) document in 2006, entitled 'Information Operation Roadmap', which says forthrightly and explicitly that "the Department must be prepared to 'fight the net'".20 This is a direct quote. It goes on to say that, "We must improve network and electromagnetic attack capability. To prevail in an information-centric fight, it is increasingly important that our forces dominate the electromagnetic spectrum with attack capabilities."20 It also makes reference to the importance of employing a "robust offensive suite of capabilities to include full-range electronic and computer network attack."8,20