Senators get classified briefing on threats to undersea Internet cables

Military, Intelligence and Homeland Security officials briefed a group of senators Wednesday on reports of Russia’s potential threat to underseas fiberoptic cables that make up the backbone of the world’s Internet. 

The classified briefing came at the request of Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand FAA nominee advances to full Senate vote Senate GOP raises concerns about White House stopgap plan to avoid shutdown MORE (R-Miss.) after the New York Times reported last month that U.S. officials were worried that Russia could be planning to sever some of the cables that run along the ocean’s floor. 

The Times said there is no evidence any of the cables had been intentionally cut, but it reported Russian ships and submarines are operating near the cables with increased intensity. While the U.S. has figured out ways to tap the cables to glean data flowing across them, the worry is that Russia could cut them to sabatoge communications flow. 

Those officials who briefed senators were from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Naval Intelligence, the Department of Homeland Security and the Joint Operations Division for U.S. European Command. 

Wicker provided no details from the top-secret briefing but said he would work “in the coming weeks” to provide military and intelligence agencies with tools they need to protect American interests. 

“Undersea cables are critical to our economy, our communications, and our national security,” he said in a statement. “The United States needs to take seriously the growing Russian threat to these cables.”

The Mississippi senator had requested a classified briefing from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper last month.

Wicker has overlapping oversight roles over the issue. He leads the Armed Services subcommittee on seapower as well as the Commerce subcommittee on Communications and Technology.