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Fibre-optic cable to New Jersey called ‘critical’

Bermuda's submarine fibre-optic link to New Jersey was one of hundred of international assets the US considers critical to national security.

Whistleblowing website WikiLeaks released a classified internal US State Department cable yesterday outlining assets around the world it considers “critical infrastructure”.

A State Department spokesman told CNN the disclosure “gives a group like al Qaeda a targeting list”.

Bermuda's GlobeNet cable, owned by Brasil Telecom, was listed as a critical asset for the US in a lengthy cable sent by the State Department in February 2009.

The cable is part of a huge submarine cable ring linking Bermuda, New Jersey, Brazil and Venezuela. It carries most of the Island's overseas telephone calls and internet traffic. It is estimated to be worth $1.1 billion.

The cable covered hundreds of facilities around the world “whose loss could critically impact the public health, economic security, and/or national and homeland security of the United States”.

In addition to fibre-optic cables the list included facilities such as mines in Congo, insulin and small pox vaccine manufacturers in Denmark, chemical plants in Germany and hydropower dams in Canada.

Bermuda's US Consul Grace Shelton would not comment on the contents of the cable, but did say: “As a matter of policy we don't comment on documents that purport to contain classified information. We condemn in the strongest terms the deliberate and unauthorised disclosure of information represented as classified materials by individuals and organisations which puts lives at risk and jeopardises our national security.”

The cable stated the loss of the assets listed could “critically impact the public health, economic security, and/or national and homeland security of the United States”.

Yesterday's leak was the second of 68 which refer to Bermuda. WikiLeaks, a website dedicated to enabling anonymous sources to leak secret documents, has published more than 300 classified cables in the last two weeks.

In total it plans to release 251,287 cables.

Since it started publishing the cables, WikiLeaks, and its founder Julian Assange, have come under intense scrutiny around the world. Some have claimed Mr Assange's acts are treasonous, although he is an Australian citizen with no ties to the US.

The website has been plagued with denial-of-service attacks, meaning it cannot be viewed. Its server, Amazon, also pulled its account, as did a French server, forcing it to base the website on a smaller server in Switzerland which is banned in the United Arab Emirates and China. In order to combat this, hundreds of other websites around the world have “mirrored” the site so the information will still be available if WikiLeaks is completely shut down.

The company has also been financially hit. PayPal suspended its WikiLeaks account. Donations through the account were the primary way the foundation funded its operations. Mr Assange's Swiss bank account was also closed yesterday.

Legal pressure is also mounting. The UK's Guardian newspaper yesterday reported US attorney general Eric Holder has authorised “significant” actions aimed at prosecuting Mr Assange.

Speaking at a press conference in Washington Mr Holder said: “The lives of people who work for the American people have been put at risk. The American people themselves have been put at risk by these actions that I believe are arrogant, misguided and ultimately not helpful in any way. We are doing everything that we can.”

Mr Assange is also under investigation in Australia. Interpol issued an arrest warrant based on a charge of “sex by surprise” an offense in Sweden relating to whether or not a condom was worn during sexual intercourse. It carries a $700 fine.

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Published December 07, 2010 at 1:00 am (Updated December 10, 2010 at 3:30 am)

Fibre-optic cable to New Jersey called ‘critical’

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