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Mid-1990's: NSA uses Robots to Spy on Undersea Communications

How do we know that the National Security Agency used submarine probes to eavesdrop on undersea cable communications during the 1990’s? According to PopSci: A LinkedIn Profile. 

LinkedIn is a business-oriented social network, sort of like Facebook but on a professional level. Those looking for work post resumes, those looking to hire browse resumes, and everyone else touts their professional connections and experience. 

They say your resume should be honest, but James Atkinson took it a bit too far. As part of his job experience, James Atkinson lists “SCARAB Remotely Operated Vehicle Design Work 1992-1996.” 

Normally a secret of this magnitude would be classified at the highest compartmented levels, even 20 years after the fact.

The PopSci article said SCARABs (submersible crafts assisting repair and burial) were initially designed to repair fiber optic cables and recover items lost at sea. But Atkinson confirms they can also tap into these cables (undetected) to intercept multi-gig-bit traffic. Atkinson’s work “focused on the software to control the raw fiber-to-fiber interfaces where glass-was-melting-into glass on live-in-use single mode, multi-wavelength fiber without the splice or other penetration creating a noticeable service outage.” 

This phrase is a little easier to understand: “Taking 70’s and 80’s era systems and creating a new generation of splicing and tapping that could be deployed from military submarines.” 

Atkinson’s work was done at submarine shipyards with the assistance of the US Special Collection Service, AT&T Bell Labs, and the US Navy. The Special Collection Service is a joint NSA/CIA organization responsible for gathering information on communication that passes through the US and other counties. 

According to his LinkedIn profile, Atkinson’s work during the mid 1990’s sought to transform nuclear-powered attack submarines into spy machines with ROVs locating and splicing into undersea cables. 

This means that in the mid-1990’s, the government had nuclear submarines with robots capable of cutting into communication cables so the NSA could listen in on what people were saying at home and abroad. 

Not surprisingly, there isn’t much information available on the SCARAB program. According to AT&T, the robots were “originally conceived as Bell’s version of the Navy’s CURV crafts, the series of remotely operated submersible vehicles designed to recover debris and artifacts in deep water. SCARAB was designed to attend to underwater cables that had been damaged. Designed to withstand water pressure at 6,700 feet, SCARAB was a busy little craft in the 1980’s.”

James Atkinson is currently the CEO of Granite Island Group, which describes itself as the “internationally recognized leader in the field of Technical Surveillance Counter Measures (TSCM), Bug Sweeps, Wiretap Detection, Communications Security, Technical Counter-Intelligence, and Spy Hunting.” 

This self-styled “spy hunter” has been arrested multiple times, had his license to carry suspended, and has been accused of fraud, illegal possession of weapons, obstruction of justice, grand theft, and drug possession. When police raided his house in 2009, they found dozens of weapons including a tear gas launcher, an Army rocket launcher, and more than 1,000 rounds of ammo. Police also found thousands of prescription pills for the treatment of several diseases including diabetes and epilepsy.

Editor’s Commentary: Not sure why this Atkinson guy hasn’t been arrested. And someone who so carelessly reveals intelligence sources and methods (which we can neither confirm nor deny, it could all be a lie after all), is a fool who should never be trusted in a security situation. What a buffoon…


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