Who's Cutting the Cables?

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Uh oh, folks! Maybe it is time to be more concerned about terrorists cutting those undersea cables in the Middle East.

CNN and the International Herald Tribune both report that, early today (Friday) local time, another cable was cut, this time in the Persian Gulf, about 35 miles off Dubai.

The abiguity in previous news reporting about whether one or two fiber optic cables were cut in the Med on Tuesday, and whether they were cut in the same place 8 miles off Alexandria or at opposite ends of the Med at the same time, has been replaced by a much worse conundrum. Its not at all ambiguous now that at least two distinct cables were cut about 250 miles apart, on opposite sides of the huge Arabian Peninsula landmass.

What could possibly account for such sudden and nearly crippling impairment of Internet access, e-mail, and phone lines? Granted its still early hours as of this writing, but a Dubai telecom executive told AP that the cause hadnt yet been identified, and this latest service outage was very unusual. Congestion in the Middle East and parts of India has gotten severe, following so quickly after the break(s) on Tuesday. (If you think the U.S. is immune to these problems, remember how dependent American businesses and consumers are on support outsourced to India.)

Id rule out seismic activity for sure: Any tectonic event so widespread would have turned up on scientific instruments.

A sheer coincidence is at this point pretty hard to swallow: Major trunk cables seldom go out individually, let alone in widely dispersed pairs or triplets like this. (The last such serious problem, in 2006 off Taiwan, was indeed caused by an earthquake - but the cause was understood immediately, exactly because of seismograph readings.) OK, dragged anchors by ships near Alexandria may well be what happened there. But dragged anchors within the same week in totally different bodies of water? For storms plus stupidity to strike twice in three days seems pretty odd, even if the same weather system was involved.

So once again, we need to ponder the possibility that these cable cuts were intentional malicious acts. And even if the first incident was just an innocent but damaging accident, the second, off Dubai, could well be a terrorist copy cat event.

Regardless of specific causes, international Internet service already impaired by the cable break earlier in the week is now even more disrupted in the volatile Middle East, with effects being felt on continents far from the site of the cable breaks. Which is scary.

-- Joe Buff Show Full Article

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