Russian GRU agents prowl undersea internet cables off Irish coast in the Times’ latest spy thriller

Sitting at the western edge of Europe, Ireland is the landing point for thirteen undersea fiber-optic cables. These cables carry internet traffic from the US to Ireland’s west coast, then on to the UK and mainland Europe from the east and south. The world’s economy depends on the integrity of these cables.


But the data arteries are under threat, according to a report in the Times, as teams of Russian agents from the GRU – Russia’s military intelligence agency – have been sent to Ireland to map their locations. The Times cites unnamed sources within An Garda Síochána – the Irish police service – and “military sources,” who also claim that the Russians have been seen photographing infrastructure at Dublin port.

A retired CIA agent told the Times that Russia has two intentions: “spying, and cutting communications in time of conflict.”

There are no further details of the sinister operation, except that the Russians are supposed to “use technology” to do the spying.

From the 1980s Hollywood premise you would almost believe the Russian agents would hoist a red flag atop one of these cables and dance the Troika along the Irish shore, but apparently they didn’t, leaving the Times without evidence of this supposed Russian meddling. Instead, the paper cites US claims of Russian submarine activity in the region back in 2015 to lend the story come credence.

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As such, the story joins the long shelf of ‘Russian spying’ fiction, alongside bestsellers like the weaponized giant squid, “sonic warfare”attacks on US diplomats, and pee tape Kompromat, hocus pocus printed by a media that sees Russian fingerprints wherever it looks.

Oh, and should Moscow wish to “map the precise location” of the cables, as the Times claims, its agents needn’t even leave Mother Russia. Ireland’s Department of Planning makes this information publicly available. Maps with precise coordinates, overhead photos, oceanographic survey data, planning documents and archaeological assessments are all viewable on the department’s website.

Whatever about mapping, actually spying on the cable traffic is another thing, requiring agents on the ground. As it turns out, Russia has done this before, and was snooping on web traffic in and out of Ireland back in 2009, according to documents revealed in 2014 by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Oh wait, never mind, that was British intelligence. Oops!

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