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Russia Probes Undersea Cables

Walter Russell Mead

Putin is looking for vulnerabilities in the global system and, thanks to a pervasive culture of indifference to national defense, he is finding them. The New York Times has the must-read story today:

Russian submarines and spy ships are aggressively operating near the vital undersea cables that carry almost all global Internet communications, raising concerns among some American military and intelligence officials that the Russians might be planning to attack those lines in times of tension or conflict.

The issue goes beyond old worries during the Cold War that the Russians would tap into the cables — a task American intelligence agencies also mastered decades ago. The alarm today is deeper: 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.

How many other vulnerabilities have the Russians and others found? What kind of priority do a President and Congress, who seem content to let the sequester determine their defense budget priorities, place on keeping this country and its allies safe?

The internet has become an indispensable tool for private business, government, academia, journalism and ordinary Americans. And it is also a major vulnerability—a gap in our system of national defense and protection against crime that is growing daily. The lack of urgency about this issue may one day look as bad, or worse, as the poor attention to security in the months and years leading up to 9/11.

The warning bells keep ringing, and the politicians don’t wake up.

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