New revelations about the U.S. spying programs show officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and several U.S. government departments have been interfering with commercial agreements in order to secure access to fiber-optic networks.
The Washington Post reported on Sunday that lawyers form the FBI and the departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security demanded an operator of fiber-optic networks to maintain an internal corporate cell of American citizens with government clearances after selling those cables to an Asian firm.
Fiber-optic networks transmit huge amounts of data from one place to another at the speed of light.
When a U.S. operator of those networks decided to sell the cables to an Asian firm in 2003, U.S. officials interfered by requiring the company to have a “Network Operations Center” on U.S. soil. The operator’s fiber-optic network connected 27 countries and four continents.
Ensuring that surveillance requests from the U.S. government got fulfilled quickly and confidentially was among the jobs of the center. Moreover, the center could be visited by U.S. officials with 30 minutes of warning.
According to the Washington Post, the full scale of the U.S. National Security Agency’s access to fiber-optic networks remains classified.
“Our telecommunications companies have no real independence in standing up to the requests of government or in revealing data,” said Susan Crawford, a former Obama administration official.
Documents disclosed by American whistleblower Edward Snowden to the Guardian and the Washington Post revealed massive surveillance by the NSA including two major spying programs, one for gathering U.S. phone records and another, called PRISM, for tracking the use of U.S.-based web servers by American citizens and other nationals.
Other documents have also shown that the U.S. government spied on European Union offices and Brazilian companies and individuals.