The fearsome weapon that gives the NSA access to the heart of the internet

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President Barack Obama last week announced the introduction of curbs on the use made by US intelligence agencies of communications data they have collected from private individuals, government leaders and organisations around the world. Obama’s move was denounced by civil rights defenders as a weak and minimal response to the unbridled mass espionage practices of the National Security Agency (NSA), revealed to the media by its former contractor Edward Snowden. Among the most startling of these was the recent revelation that the NSA had successfully infiltrated a submarine civil communications cable that runs from France to the Far East, in which it planted a virtually undetectable parallel network to spy on the traffic that passes through it. French telecoms giant Orange, part of the consortium that uses the cable, has told Mediapart it will this month file legal action over the hacking, opening the path for a judicial investigation that could have major political and diplomatic consequences. As Jérôme Hourdeaux reports, the technique used by the NSA to attack the cable is one of the most fearsome mass espionage systems yet uncovered.

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Reporting on information supplied by whistleblower Edward Snowden, German magazine Der Spiegel last December revealed how the US National Security Agency (NSA) had successfully infiltrated an undersea telecommunications cable bundle linking Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Asia.  The revelation was one of the most disturbing of all the many disclosures from NSA documents supplied by Snowden, a former contractor for the agency now living in forced exile in Russia, and threatens to become the most politically controversial.