Cables, Confirmed

I’ve long traced the severance and disconnection of various parts of the world from telecommunication cables on this blog, most recently in the wake of Syria losing Toobz access after it purportedly mixed some chemical weapons.

Danger Room’s sources aren’t even asserting that both events–the mixing of the CW on Wednesday and the Intertoobz blackout on Thursday–are both signs of Bashar al-Assad’s panic.

Which would sort of be the default unless intelligence sources had reason to know that the Intertoobz blackout had nothing to do with the CW mixing.

We’ve long traced interesting Intertoobz blackouts caused by cut cables on this blog: the recent blackout in Djibouti. to a cable in the Bay Area, to a number of cut cables in the Middle East back in 2008.

It appears to be an increasingly common tactic, one difficult to attribute to a specific actor.

But if one of those actors comes out a few days after an outage and says they have no reason to find that outage as suspicious as the mixing of CW, maybe it’s not so hard to attribute after all.

One of the interesting revelations in this profile on the guy who shot Osama bin Laden is that sending Seal Team Six to do something with underwater cables is apparently routine enough that’s what they were told the mission would be before they were read into the real target.

There was so much going on — the Libya thing, the Arab Spring. We knew something good was going to go down. We didn’t know how good.

The first day’s briefing, they actually kind of lied to us, being very vague. They mentioned underwater cables because of the earthquake in Japan or some craziness.

Consider me thoroughly unsurprised.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

10 replies
  1. PeasantParty says:

    Ahh.

    Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum for the mighty mariners of swashbuckling adventure!

    The more things change, the more they stay the same. Not only are we being presented with grand underwater tales, we have notice of our next head of the Treasurey being a PIRATE! Only we have found the island where he buries his stolen wealth.

    Say, hey, ho, Pirate Jack!

  2. SpanishInquisition says:

    “One of the interesting revelations in this profile on the guy who shot Osama bin Laden is that sending Seal Team Six to do something with underwater cables is apparently routine enough that’s what they were told the mission would be before they were read into the real target.”

    Messing with underwater cables of foreign governments has gone on for decades. I think a family friend of mine was involved in Operation Ivy Bells or other similar covert ops with underwater cables.

  3. scribe says:

    Not for nothing, but going a little off-topic, the whole Esquire article sounded on the one hand like an extended job application/interview for this guy, named “Shooter”. On the other hand, you have to question the quality of his judgment. Here he is, separated from his wife but living under the same roof to save on expenses, wondering how to replace his $60k/yr income after having left the Navy within a year of this great triumph. On the one hand not exploiting his adventures like Bissionette in his book, on the other hand going to DC dinner parties with female lobbyists and contractors and reporters and sharing war stories (sanitized of classified details, of course).

    You don’t just “retire” out of the military, particularly SpecialOps of any kind, at 16 years of service. For one thing, after your initial enlistment your successive enlistments are (almost always) for 6 years, such that you wind up completing your last enlistment at year 20, 21 or 22 (if you don’t retire at 20). For another, unless you screwed up royally or inherited a million dollars, after 16 years in you do whatever you can to stay in to make your 20 so you can get your half-pay for life. (OTOH, the military does whatever they can to put hurdles in the prospective retiree’s way, to keep him from collecting. Not a few guys have gotten put out just short of year 18 1/2, which is when you’re pretty much locked in on your retirement path.) Even if you have to swallow your pride and sit behind a desk or something, you do it so you can make your 20. Hell, a lot of guys would be quite happy to be parked pushing papers and making coffee for the last 4 years of their service.

    Moreover, if half the stories of his heroism are true, he’s been decorated time and again. If he received at least the Silver Star, and he probably did, regulations provide he cannot be involuntarily separated through a simple administrative process. It would have to be either “voluntary” or through a military justice proceeding, i.e., as a result of a court-martial judgment. The Word to get him out would have to have come from a very high level – multiple stars or higher.

    Back to the money front, if his marital separation goes to the full route of divorce, he’s going to have a huge permanent alimony obligation to the loyal missus who kept the home fires burning, and a huge imputed income problem. His military pension would have been subject to giving her half, more or less, and he voluntarily quit.

    In other words, it’s quite clear [to this observer that] leaving was not his idea. If it was, he’s got lousy judgment because he’s throwing away half-pay for life and some coverage for his coming alimony in return for … what?

    What his situation smells like is that he got caught doing something out of line – probably with his fellow SEALs and probably involving disclosure of classified material or business – and he worked out a deal wherein he left the service at midnight Friday with no benefits (and likely no future chance at getting back in) and in return he was not charged with anything for his [possible] wrongdoing, the case probably being of the dead-bang go-to-jail-for-a-long-time variety.

    So, while it seems we’re supposed to feel sympathy for Jobless Shooter and his unemployed buddies (and in the mine run of them, I do), in his specific case I think there’s a hell of a lot more out there that resulted in his being on the beach, in the cold and out of a job, and not much of it any good.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    SEALs and tapping/interfering with underwater cables go together like Cocoa Puffs and chocolate milk. They have been doing it since it was doable: ask the Soviets. Only the purposes and the technology used seem to change.

  5. Kathleen says:

    ot but really interesting. Most of us know that Lorne Micheals of SNL has successfully kept off any criticism of Israel or the I lobby on SNL for decades. But there is movement this is a skit that was canceled and a boring skit about the blackout at the SuperBowl made the opening. But on the web. A skit about the Hagel hearing and all of the Israel ass kissing. Classic. A must watch
    SNL on Hagel: ‘It is vital to Israel’s security for you to go on national television and perform oral sex on a donkey… Would you do THAT for Israel?’
    http://mondoweiss.net/2013/02/security-national-television.html

  6. emptywheel says:

    @scribe: Well, and as a million people have pointed out, OIF/OEF veterans get 5 years of health care in any case. So something is flukey about his story.

  7. scribe says:

    @emptywheel: Remember, too, his wife’s comment about how The Community used to be there for them and no longer is. Someone who did what he’s done would have had sinecure upon sinecure set up for him by The Community to make his 20.

    They got turned out in the cold. That doesn’t happen other than for good reason.

  8. DonS says:

    @scribe:
    Thanks for your reading and interpretation of the Esquire story. I read the whole damn thing. The more I read the less I liked or had respect for “shooter”. I know we’re supposed revere these guys to the point of worship.

    I don’t. I hate the whole fucking culture.

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