Top Secret Brief: Russian Threat to Undersea Cables Growing

Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin / AP

Russian aggression continues to pose a threat to a massive series of undersea cables that carry worldwide Internet communications, according to a leading senator who received a top-secret classified briefing on the matter on Wednesday.

Russian subs and spyships have been caught "aggressively operating" near these cables in the last month, prompting concern among lawmakers and others who have warned that Moscow could easily sever these cables and toss large portions of America and other nations off the web.

The matter was discussed on Wednesday in a closed-door top-secret briefing between senators, senior official from Naval Intelligence, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. European Command, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Senators have been pushing the Obama administration to take the matter more seriously and work to prevent Russia from sabotaging these cables.

"Undersea cables are critical to our economy, our communications, and our national security," Sen. Roger Wicker (R., Miss.) said in a statement following the briefing.

"The United States needs to take seriously the growing Russian threat to these cables," said Wicker, who serves as chairman of the Senate’s Seapower Subcommittee and chair of its subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet.

Reports from intelligence officials indicate that "the ultimate Russian hack on the United States could involve severing the fiber-optic cables at some of their hardest-to-access locations to halt the instant communications on which the West’s governments, economies and citizens have grown dependent," the New York Times reported in October.

Wicker maintains that these reports "are just the latest example of [Russian President] Vladimir Putin’s true intentions—a return to the Cold War."

"Moving forward, Congress has an obligation to assist the administration in protecting American interests from our adversaries," Wicker said. "In the coming weeks, I will be working with my colleagues to help provide our military and intelligence agencies with the tools they need to fulfill that mission."

Wicker, in a letter last month to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, requested that the administration provide lawmakers with a classified brief on the matter.