GCHQ Cable Radioactivity Chart

Dec 5, 2014

By Paul Dietrich

I have done analysis of the published documents relating to GCHQ's bulk cable tapping and have come up with a a little chart scoring the cables by "radioactivity," in other words, how much bad GCHQ juju is going on with them.

I scored one point for each of the following factors:
* A secret codename mentioned in connection with a cable

* One additional point for "the codename is all we know"

* References to "egress"

* Connections in Bude, Porthcurno or Goonilly

* Connections to Cyprus, where there is a GCHQ Spy base [1] associated with TEMPORA

* Connections to Oman, where there is an additional base. [2]

* The presence of an SRT, (Sensitive Relationship Team), associated with the cable.
I subtracted one point for each of the following factors:
* Its presence in the "no current access" table.

* It was low capacity cable.
The hottest cable turned out to be SeaMeWe-3, since it connects UK to both Cyprus and Oman, has multiple codenames associated with it (NUMDAH 2 and NUMDAH 3).

It is with some trepidation that I publish this chart. It comes with a long list of caveats, and is by no means to be interpreted as a list of "safe" cables.

The data covers only the GCHQ's access from the period of 2009, and forecasts to 2011, and a slide dated August of 2012 states that access to "light" has increased 7000% in the last five years. It is old data and getting older, many of the "safe" cables are likely tapped, and possibly even some of the "hot" cables are no longer so. Even in 2009 the GCHQ still had the NSA, the remaining Five Eyes and other partners to give it cables it otherwise would not have had access to. It is entirely possible that some of the MOST important cables never made even the classified version of the list, and that still-unpublished documents will change the calculus.

I chose not to include the information from the "partner cables" [3] document. It was simply a list of which of the GCHQ's partners had access to which cables. Not necessarily that they in turn provided data to GCHQ for each of the specific cables identified. Further, this list does not include "End Point CNE" [4] similar in nature to PFENNING ALPHA, as the data have not been published.

In addition, there are two cables of interest that do not make it to the chart: FLAG Falcon (which connects to Seeb, Oman) and NorSea Com 1 (otherwise known as Tampnet, which connects UK to Norway via 5 offshore oil platforms). I simply do not have the data on them, but they should be assumed to be monitored. The former because of the connection directly to the GCHQ's spy base, and the latter, because of the offshore platforms.

Special thanks to Henrik Moltke, Laura Poitras and the staffs of NDR, WDR, and Channel 4, for publishing the source documents [5] and without whom this would have been impossible, and an extra special thanks to Edward Snowden for all that he has given.

Without further ado: here is the chart