SingTel, S'pore govt reportedly linked to undersea cable spying

The telco has been helping local and Australian intelligence agencies tap communications on SEA-ME-WE-3, a major undersea cable carrying Internet traffic between Singapore and Perth, according to Sydney Morning Herald.
Written by Ryan Huang, Contributor

SingTel has reportedly been facilitating access for intelligence agencies to the traffic carried on a major undersea telecommunications cable, that includes much of Australia's phone and Internet traffic.
This is part of a partnership between the countries' intelligence agencies, which extends to British and American counterparts, to tap the submarine fiber optic cables linking Asia, the Middle East and Europe, according to the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) on Thursday.


What's SEA-ME-WE-3?

• Undersea telecoms fiber optic cable completed in 2000
• Short for South-East Asia - Mid East - Western Europe 3

• Links above regions, longest in the world at 39,000km
• Owned by international consortium of telco players

The newspaper cited sources from Australian intelligence that Singapore cooperates in accessing and sharing communications carried by the SEA-ME-WE-3 cable, which lands at Tuas on the western side of the island. The SMH added access was faciliated through SingTel, which is publicly-listed but majority-owned by government investment firm Temasek Holdings.
According to the SMH, its national electronic espionage agency, Australian Signals Directorate, also accesses the SEA-ME-WE-3 cable traffic from its landing in Perth.
In response to ZDNet's queries, an Australia Department of Defence spokesperson said: "As a matter of principle and long standing practice, Defence does not comment on intelligence matters."

SingTel and Singapore's Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) have not responded to queries sent.

Scrutiny following Snowden leaks

The news follows the recent disclosure of top secret government documents by United States intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden, which revealed an interception program by the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) code named Tempora. This allegedly involved harvesting of data, e-mails, instant messages, calls, passwords and etc, entering and exiting Britain via undersea fiber optic cables.
Snowden had reportedly also claimed the U.S.'s National Security Agency (NSA) had hacked major Chinese telcos and Internet submarine cable giant Pacnet.

Fairfax Media, which owns the SMH, also published a controversial report in 2010 on U.S. cables released by WikiLeaks, part of which questioned Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's political performance.

Undersea cables are reportedly being tapped as part of global intelligence partnership. (source: SMH)
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