Brazil, EU Take Pride In Temporarily Avoiding The NSA With New Joint Undersea Cable Run

from the undersea-blowback dept

Long before there was Edward Snowden (or even an NSA), there have, unsurprisingly, been government intelligence operatives gifted at tapping communications networks, be they via satellite dish or undersea cables. In fact, before Snowden, back when most people (including most of the press) treated total surveillance as the incoherent ramblings of paranoids, there was Echelon. The highly-confidential program, jointly operated by the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada and New Zealand, truly took off in the 1960s, and focused on using any means necessary to gather communications intelligence. The program started with a focus on intercepting satellite lines, then shifted to undersea cable taps, microwave transmission intercepts, and other options.

Currently, Brazil (justly none too happy with our voracious surveillance appetites) relies on U.S. undersea cables to carry almost all of its communications to Europe. That should change soon with a joint announcement that Brazil and the EU are building an undersea communications cable from Lisbon to Fortaleza to further reduce Brazil’s reliance on the United States:

“At a summit in Brussels, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said the $185 million cable project was central to “guarantee the neutrality” of the Internet, signaling her desire to shield Brazil’s Internet traffic from U.S. surveillance. “We have to respect privacy, human rights and the sovereignty of nations. We don’t want businesses to be spied upon,” Rousseff told a joint news conference with the presidents of the European Commission and the European Council. “The Internet is one of the best things man has ever invented. So we agreed for the need to guarantee … the neutrality of the network, a democratic area where we can protect freedom of expression,” Rousseff said.”

To pretend the NSA lacks the ability to simply tap this new cable run, nab that same data at any of a million interconnection points, or just get it handed to them by other intelligence agencies is perhaps either naive, a bit of political salesmanship for the project, or both. Still, it’s another instance of how the NSA revelations have significantly tarnished international/U.S. relations, resulting in a large number of countries making it a point of pride to avoid using U.S. technology. That’s not going to be particularly great for U.S. industry, and we’re likely only just seeing the tip of the iceberg.

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Comments on “Brazil, EU Take Pride In Temporarily Avoiding The NSA With New Joint Undersea Cable Run”

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I am a brazilian and i agree with you.

I also hate playing any online games with other brazilians. Most of us (not everyone, just the majority) are both annoying AND tend to hack/cheat/exploit the game.

Most of the time, even if there is a server in Brazil, i will go to either North America or Europe to play, even if i get worse latency.

I really pity you guys.


Your point was one of the first things I thought of when I heard of a new undersea cable being planned. I think the biggest reason they are planning this is that from what I’ve read the old cable has degraded and now they can only use it for phone communications.

The second thought was that Brazil’s first thought of a run was to Sweden. Crap they just as well run it straight to the US as to go to Sweden for all the difference it would make.

The US is very capable of putting a tap deep enough that Brazil isn’t going to be able to reach it if they could find it.

I’ve said for a good while here that the repercussions coming off the Snowden revelations would be a while in coming but come they would. You have Brazil talking a new undersea cable, you have Germany and France talking new net connections that totally route out the US for email and probably eventually all EU net connections and this is just the start of those determined to do something about it. More governments and corporations with secrets to keep will be looking at doing something about it. The end result could be a fragmenting of the net globally.

These yoyos had to know this would come at some point. That sooner or later, no matter how tight your security it is going to get out. That day is dawning.



Well, the real problem is the traceability. If a few packets get rerouted to a ranch in Idaho by mistake, you will be possible to find for NSA. No, this is about leveling the playing field for cladestine services, by reducing the advantages of PRISM. A bit of routing and cable tracing cannot in any way change the fundamental situation.

Now, don’t be naive and think that EU will close all data-traffic with USA. What is on the table is better shielding from unwanted packet tracing and some smaller routing changes.

Going further would require too much surveillance. Surveillance to stop surveillance. Recipe for too blatant hypocricy for people to ignore!



I think the biggest reason they are planning this is that
> from what I’ve read the old cable has degraded and now they
> can only use it for phone communications.

Do taps on undersea cables cause degradation?

> The US is very capable of putting a tap deep enough that
> Brazil isn’t going to be able to reach it if they could find it.

That is what cryptography is for. This may presently be impractical on such a large scale, but it won’t be forever. Suppose all packets on the wire were encrypted from well within the borders of both the sending and receiving country.

> The end result could be a fragmenting of the net globally.

Having more routes is not necessarily fragmenting of the net. It could be a good thing that most of the world’s traffic doesn’t have to flow through the US.

Having more email servers is not fragmenting the net either.

However you make a good point that the repercussions of the Snowden revelations would result in other countries taking measures to make parts of the net more independent of the US.

> no matter how tight your security it is going to get out.

And that is a very good point. The clowns at the NSA should have known this. None of this could remain secret forever. What would happen once it goes public? Furthermore, knowing it would not be forever secret should have been an incentive to not go too far. But instead, the short term secrecy seemed to make them think they could spy on everyone with impunity.

John Fendersonsays:

Re: Re:

“Do taps on undersea cables cause degradation?”

They certainly can. Tapping an undersea cable involves physically damaging the cable to install the tap. Improperly done, this could indeed cause premature failure.

“This may presently be impractical on such a large scale, but it won’t be forever”

This is not impractical on a large scale at all.

“Having more routes is not necessarily fragmenting of the net.”

Precisely so. More routes == greater redundancy == more reliable internet.


Don't fixate on the cable

The effect of a direct Brazil-Europe cable is deeper than simply making the USA government spend a few more million dollars tapping yet another cable.

A direct Brazil-Europe cable reduces the latency between Brazilian users and European datacenters. This makes European datacenters more attractive to Brazilian companies.

No matter what you think about how easy it is for the USA government to hack into European servers, there is one important difference: in the USA, it’s illegal to refuse to cooperate with these intruders. Outside the USA, it’s illegal to cooperate with these intruders.



Yes, but where do you go with that?

I’ve read “Blind Man’s Bluff”; it describes dedicated Navy submarines whose whole purpose was to tap underseas cables. It would be naive to believe we no longer have those subs. Presumably, with a new, pristine line and current technology Brazil could detect a tap if they were expecting it.

So THEN what? Call out the USA publicly? Ask us nicely to disconnect? Declare war?


It would be naive to believe we no longer have those subs.

The USS Jimmy Carter should be or have finished it’s shake down run. It’s main purpose? To return to the tap to gather the data and to install undersea taps. The Jimmy Carter was lengthened over the rest of the same class submarines. Supposedly it has it’s own section for cable taps.



Those scumbags at the brazilian government do spend money, but it’s usually on themselves and not to the benefit of the people.

The only reason i can fathom to see such investment is that the NSA is also spying on the president herself and some of the high lackeys she has with her. If it were anyone else, nothing would be done at all.

Anonymous Cowardsays:

NSA’ll have that thing tapped before the ribbon cutting ceremony

You think all the traffic will be unencrypted? I am 30 year veteran in the IT industry in Europe. I have never known a time when so many are looking for alternatives to using American IT services. There’s a message I’d like to send the Americans who are happy with what the NSA is doing but I suspect it would be censored here.

Besides the legality, constitutionality etc. at home, America has basically lost the trust of everyone, friends and allies included. It has become the evil empire.

Coyne Tibbetssays:


Do you think NSA-subverted swiss-cheese encryption matters?

Okay, let’s assume it does.

Then the NSA will simply use one of its TAO exploits to turn the servers into swiss cheese. Or the feeds to the servers. Or hire a spy into the admin corp to give them the encryption keys. Or listen to the machine chips running encryption keys and break them that way.

Given their demonstrated capabilities, you really think this is out of reach? Get real.

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