British Telecom's dual use

Mark Ballard in

The UK’s telecommunications infrastructure is being used as part of a global defence intelligence network that the US government uses for controversial drone operations and other military purposes.[...]. A Computer Weekly investigation has revealed that the UK plays a crucial role in supporting the US military network by providing part of the core communications backbone used by drone operations.[...] The UK connection is a high-security communications line that forms part of the Defence Information Systems Network (DISN), which provides vital support to drone operations. The key information revealing the role of the UK connection went unnoticed among various technical acronyms in a contract specification unearthed by Reprieve last year. In the specification, the US Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) outlined instructions for a fibre-optic connection it had contracted BT to provide between a US military communications hub at RAF Croughton, Northamptonshire and Camp Lemonnier, the regional headquarters for US operations on the Horn of Africa.

According to reports by the BBC and the Washington Post, Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti is the base for US drone operations against suspected terrorists in Yemen and Somalia – operations that have accidentally killed civilians. The base has also conducted other military operations in support of states in the region, as well as extensive humanitarian, infrastructure and state-building missions.[...] DISN has been at the heart of this strategy as the backbone of the Global Information Grid (GIG), a dedicated military internet that spans more than 3,500 US facilities in at least 88 countries. The US has an ongoing strategy to connect all its communications, forces, commanders, vehicles, weapons, surveillance sensors, satellites, radios, computer systems, intelligence agencies and allies into one seamless network.

The US Department of Defense (DoD) 2013-2036 Unmanned Systems Roadmap said last December that drones use DISN to disseminate mission data and for long-range command and control. Its 2005-2030 Roadmap named Reaper and Global Hawk as specific drones that use DISN. The DoD’s ongoing work seeks to make drones a more closely integrated part of GIG, which is the foundation of net-centric warfare.[...] DISN conducts top-secret communications for the Secure Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNET), the classified system where Wikileaks whistle-blower Bradley Manning got his intelligence leaks. It carries communications for the other major command and control, intelligence and communications systems used by US forces. It carries presidential telephone communications over the Red Switch Network, as well as the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications system (JWICS) and the DoD’s Non-classified Internet Protocol Router Network (NIPRNET).[...] BT's 2012 contract to make the UK connection coincided with Camp Lemonnier being upgraded from an operations outpost for US Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) – what used to be known as the war on terror – to an officially designated military base.

DISA specified the BT line would be terminated with "DISN" connectors and a specific sort of encryption device called a KG-340. KG-340 encryptors would make the UK connection operate at the top-secret level of classified communications needed for these purposes. The KG-340 was built to specifications of the US National Security Agency (NSA) and uses NSA algorithms, according to details published by SafeNET, which manufactures the device.[...] A BT spokesman said: "The details of this contract [between BT and the US Defense Information Systems Agency] are nothing new. They have been publicly available on the internet since August 2012. It makes clear the locations, as well as the technology they required."

He [BT spokesperson] added: "BT can categorically state that the communications system mentioned in Reprieve’s complaint is a general purpose fibre-optic system. It has not been specifically designed or adapted by BT for military purposes. BT has no knowledge of the reported US drone strikes and has no involvement in any such activity." BT said it could not be held responsible for what anybody did with the communications infrastructure it supplied.[...]
Computer Weekly, 2 May 2014

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